Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Ruben? You want to do what? WHAT? WHAT?!?!

Desperate times call for desperate measures.
The problem is, when the desperation is coming in flailing fits from the general manager of a franchise with one of the biggest payrolls in baseball, it makes you wonder if there’s a plan in place.
The second full day of the MLB Winter Meetings got off to an interesting start with rumors that Ruben Amaro Jr. has been asking around for teams interested in acquiring either Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels in a trade to make the Phillies younger.
There are a few problems with this fanciful thought.
 If what Amaro wants in return is a big-league ready, controllable, young player, that isn’t going to happen because teams do not accept contracts with $62.5 million over two years (which is what is remaining on Lee’s) or $112.5 million over five years (which is what remains on Hamels’) and offer anything generous in return. Sure, the Phillies could cough over $30 million to a team interested in Lee or $40 million to one interested in Hamels to make it work … but why would you spend $17 million in 2014 on Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz, then dump that much money to unload an established starting pitcher and wreck an already thin starting rotation?
The only logical reason the Phillies could have for even tossing those names out there is to get a temperature check in case they want to deal either southpaw at the trade deadline. Lee was discussed in each of the last two Julys and Augusts, but teams weren’t buying what they were selling.
However, once another $15 million has evaporated from Lee’s contract in the first half of 2014 … now the price is starting to get to a manageable place for a contender.
At least it seems the Phillies have learned from the last time Lee was traded and are more focused on getting one solid young  big-leaguer or near-ready prospect, as opposed to the trio of raw, B-graders they got from Seattle (Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez).

The most frightening thing about the Lee/Hamels talk is that it speaks to a general lack of a plan for the Phillies this winter. When they re-upped Chase Utley (who turns 35 next week) and signed Ruiz (turns 35 next month) and Byrd (36), they closed the door on making a push for a younger team. This will be an old, rickety Phillies team in 2014. There is no way around it. All Amaro can do at this point is try to add enough depth to cover for the inevitable physical breakdowns waiting to happen.

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