Now that the All-Star Game is over and regular play resumes on Friday with the Philadelphia Phillies taking on division-rival Atlanta Braves, everyone will be watching what the Phillies and Ruben Amaro Jr. do as the trade deadline gets ever closer.
The latest reports seem to indicate the Phillies are ready to ship Cliff Lee and his enormous contract out of town if the right offer comes along. Of course, Lee is coming off an elbow strain that has laid him up for the past two months, so his trade stock is pretty much at an all-time low. At most he will have two starts before the trade deadline arrives, so any team that takes him and his overvalued contract on would be taking a huge risk, which would likely result in the Phillies not getting anywhere near what they want in return.
On the other side of the coin is Cole Hamels, who has been healthy and is a proven quantity that any team would love to have at their disposal for a postseason run. The issue there is that the Phillies have indicated they would be less than thrilled about the idea of losing Hamels’ services, so the price would be pretty steep for any team that wanted to add him to their rotation.
The result is that many fans are thinking in terms of either-or; should we trade Lee or Hamels? Which one should the Phillies hold on to for the duration?
The simple answer is neither.
Amaro Jr. has said over and over that he does not want a long, protracted rebuild, even thought that’s exactly what the Phillies need. He prefers the term “retooling” and sees the organization being able to be competitive again in only a few years.
If that’s going to have any chance of happening, it’s going to take money and space on the payroll so that the team doesn’t go over $189 million luxury tax threshold. The Phillies are going to need to free up some cash to bring in free agents, acquire prospects and have the flexibility to make roster moves as they need to. Having so much of their money tied up in two pitchers that the Phillies could easily move to other teams makes no sense. If Amaro Jr. is serious about a quick “retooling”, then he should be ready to trade both Lee and Hamels for nothing else than getting their contracts off the books.
The New York Yankees, who are desperate for competent pitching in the wake of their rotation being decimated by injuries, would be a perfect place to send either Lee or Hamels, or both. Who knows, maybe Amaro Jr. can work out a two-for-one deal and send both to New York in one massive deal.