Even after the trading deadline passed without Michael Young in a new uniform, the Philadelphia Phillies still can deal the third baseman through a waiver transaction in August.
It’s easy to publish opinions and predictions before the event; however, this piece was my writing sample on July 22 (more in welcome section), when the Phils had a shot to win the division. How close was my assessment to reality?
This article represents the thinking of a baseball man in my opinion. Most fans do not consider the budget, prospects on the radar, the organization’s weaknesses, the track record, the competition and the other intangibles.
This is an introduction to a baseball-angled–not a fan’s–approach to coverage. I am currently submitting writing samples to major outlets to establish greater visibility for my reviews. During this period, there will be at least one article per week–and two maximum–at this site for the time being.
For the red pinstripes, trading elite players is more hype than reality.
This season is the ultimate exercise in futility for three franchises, not just one. The Braves are a club yo-yoing above .500 after a 12-1 start (The loss was to Cliff Lee.). The Nationals, on the other hand, have straddled the .500 mark consistently during this entire campaign.
Atlanta has an inconsistent attack, homer or strikeout, with three regulars recently averaging below .230, and they lack a solid leadoff hitter. They lost Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty–their top southpaw relievers–earlier this summer, which benefits the Phils with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Ben Revere and Domonic Brown.
Washington did not re-sign the three left-handed members of their 2012 relief corps: Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny. Also, against lefty hurlers, the Nationals have had scoring problems. They are at or near the bottom against them in key NL offensive categories (RBI, runs and average).
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports on July 22 (updated), Phillies fans would welcome a total rebuilding, but keeping favorite stars is management’s only stated reasoning. However, business considerations involve more than only one factor. No fire sale is a more studied evaluation.
Per Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, Amaro claimed he would buy if it was July 31 on that morning (July 21). In other words, 6 1/2 games out is now only the first possible boundary.
The decision-maker faces three choices for the approaching deadline: He could acquire a bullpen arm or two, pick up minor league talent for veterans, or stand pat. Adding experienced relievers, the general manager would stoke the competitive fires of the unproven youngsters. The parent club would go with the best three from this crop: Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, Phillippe Aumont, JC Ramirez, Joe Savery and Luis Garcia.
Amaro cannot even partially rebuild this squad because of massive contracts he cannot move; in other words, he can only retool. From Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the 2014 payroll for the AAV (average annual value) includes Howard’s $25 million, Cole Hamels’ $24 million and Mike Adams’ $6 million for $55 million total. Management did not re-sign Hamels a year ago to front a staff of Kyle Kendrick, Jesse Biddle and Jonathan Pettibone for 2014. Next summer, the organization will require a horse and a closer: Lee and Jonathan Papelbon are under contract at $24 million and $12.5 million respectively.
Most general managers are unwilling to absorb big contracts and part with top-shelf prospects, but Amaro has to command both. The predictable result is a list of expensive keepers: Jimmy Rollins ($11 million), Howard, Hamels, Utley, Lee, Papelbon, Carlos Ruiz and Adams. That comes to a guaranteed total of $102.5 million for six athletes. Utley and Ruiz will be free agents after this campaign.
Rollins, Utley, Howard and Hamels are the core of the glory days. Looking ahead, Amaro will be reluctant to move these cornerstones and will keep them in the fold. He doesn’t have a catcher to replace Ruiz either and would prefer keeping David Montgomery’s favorite player. He can, however, add a right fielder or a five-slot starter and tap the farm for Freddy Galvis or Cody Asche at third base.
If the club falters now, 3B Young, Delmon Young and John Lannan are on the block; and Galvis would man the hot corner for two months. The Phils are loath to carry empty payroll. An example is their approach to the penalty for exceeding the competitive-balance tax. Likewise, paying their former stars even half of their pricey contracts to play for competitors is unthinkable during a rebuilding process. That’s a discouraging $18.25 million for Lee and Papelbon during 2014 alone.
I recently heard a baseball lifer’s opinion of the sport as 40 percent luck, which crystallizes when a play or call alters the outcome. It also shows the NL East race is far from a foregone conclusion.
If Atlanta continues to play .500 ball, they will finish the season at 87-75. If Washington does not solve their hitting and pitching shortcomings, they will suffer the fate of unfulfilled expectations.
Erik Kratz rejoined the squad after only a five-week absence due to a left knee operation, and it is not unreasonable to consider Howard’s downtime similarly with the same left knee surgery and the same original recovery time. (Early reports indicate the best possible news.) If the first basemen can return to a reasonable semblance of his homer-launching self, he will be a difference-maker in September.
Darin Ruf will seize his opportunity at first base because he doesn’t have the worry of hitting and fielding (left field) he had in March. Hamels will dominate during the final three months: the law of averages.
The opinion here is Amaro is deciding from series to series, and that will shortly be game to game.
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According to John Finger of CSNPhilly.com on Tuesday, Charlie Manuel hinted that Delmon’s time in Philly may end shortly. This possibility is relevant to the above article.