As July 31 creeps closer and closer into the rearview mirror, ready to spring on us like a… well… on second thought, the trade deadline doesn’t really spring on anybody does it? It’s more like a mind-numbing, eye-crossing, aneurysm-inducing two weeks of obsessively logging onto Twitter and checking out MLBTradeRumors.com to see if the Phillies are any closer to trading Placido Polanco to anyone.
Usually at this time of year, Phillies fans have their eyes peeled to see who Ruben Amaro is going to scoop in and bring to the masses like some baseball Santa Claus. In 2009, it was Cliff Lee. In 2010, it was Roy Oswalt. Last year it was Hunter Pence.
This year, the process is going the other way. Even though the Phillies went 4-2 on their recent road trip to Colorado and Los Angeles to open the unofficial second half of the season, the chances of making the playoffs are still slim and none. More than likely, the Phils are going to be sellers, although perhaps a bit lighter than most people think.
I mentioned in an article earlier this week that you can’t believe anything you read by baseball writers this time of year. It’s all crap.
One day Cole Hamels is getting offered a five-year deal for $120 million. The next day it’s a six-year deal for $130. Then someone says it’s for $140. Then it’s a seven-year deal. Then it’s a 20-year deal with an option to buy Bull’s BBQ.
Teams are feeding everyone misinformation, and unless you have Ruben Amaro Jr. or Scott Profrock’s phones bugged, chances are you really don’t have any idea what’s going on inside any of these organizations.
So, with that knowledge and the understanding that I have absolutely no insider information whatsoever, here are my predictions on who’s staying… and who’s going.
Cole Hamels: (STAYING)
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. The Cole Hamels situation, until a deal is completed between Hamels and the Phillies, is going to dominate every trade rumor out there. Every contending team with a pitching need is linked to the 28-year-old left-hander, including the Yankees, Angels, Rangers, Tigers, and probably about 10-15 “mystery teams” that always seem to come out of the woodwork.
My “mystery team” for Hamels is Cincinnati, by the way. But that’s just between you, me and the half-dozen or so people who read my columns.
I’ve got to admit, part of me really wants to see what kind of haul Ruben could get back for Hamels. Could they possibly swing a deal for the Rangers’ Mike Olt? Is there a deal to be had around some of the Angels’ top prospects and young outfielder Peter Bourjos?
The other part of me wants the Phils to re-sign Hamels to a long-term deal for two reasons. One, he’s awesome. Two, I bought a Hamels jersey after the World Series in 2008 and I’d like to continue to wear it for a few more years.
I think a deal gets done. I think Ruben goes six years and close to $135-140 million. I think that kind of an offer is one that Hamels would take, although I obviously don’t know that for sure. Might the Dodgers offer him seven years in the offseason? It’s possible. But I think the Phillies are serious about keeping him, and when Ruben wants something, he usually gets it.
Jimmy Rollins: (STAYING)
The Dodgers are rumored to be interested in J-Roll, although they’re also reported to be interested in pretty much anyone who’s ever held a bat in a Major League game. With two and a half years left on a $33 million deal and an easily reachable fourth year vesting option, Rollins is slated to be around for quite a while. However, his play to start the season had many in the organization down on the long-time heartbeat of the franchise and worrying about overpaying for a player past his prime.
In his first 46 games this year, Rollins hit .224/.282/.276 with 1 HR, 8 extra-base hits, and 23 runs scored. However, in his last 43 games, Rollins is hitting .294/.349/.567 with 8 HRs, 26 RBIs, and 28 extra-base hits, including 5 triples. As the Daily News’ David Murphy pointed out this week, Jimmy is still one of the better offensive shortstops in the game.
Rollins’ close ties to the franchise, his improved play, and the fact he’s still owed about $27 million on his contract, makes him an unlikely candidate to get traded. And even if he were, unless the Dodgers are sending Dee Gordon over in the deal (which would be a ridiculous move on their part) it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a Phillies team that expects to contend in 2013.
Hunter Pence (STAYING):
ESPN’s Jayson Stark said on Friday that Pence is the Phillie that is drawing the most attention from rival teams, perhaps even more than Hamels, now that the Phils appear to be making a full push to sign him. Pence is still just 29 years old and is signed through next year, which makes him more valuable than a rental like Shane Victorino. And while Pence isn’t hitting like he was last year and his defense has been brutal at various points this season, offensively he’s having a season right in line with his career numbers.
The Phillies aren’t making the playoffs, so of course they’ll listen to any and all offers for Pence. And if some team blows them away with young talent that is close to Major League ready, Amaro will have to think about pulling the trigger. However, it’s highly unlikely the Phils will unload two of their three outfielders, forcing them to go into the 2013 season needing to fill all three outfield spots. So, expect Pence to stay.
Shane Victorino: (GOING)
Shane is a free agent after the season. He’s having an extremely unproductive season at the plate and there haven’t even been whispers of contract extension talks. And there are a few teams that still think he can jumpstart the top of their order, specifically the Dodgers and maybe even the Nationals. The Phillies will have their pick of a number of quality center fielders in the free agent market this offseason, so at this point, it doesn’t seem to matter what the Phillies will receive in exchange for Victorino, the team seems willing to take their best offer and bid their long-time center fielder adieu.
Juan Pierre: (GOING)
Pierre has astonished everyone by having a very productive season at the plate, hitting .312 with an on base percentage of .349 and 21 SBs with only 4 caught stealings. His defense is terrible, but for a team looking for a veteran presence and a top of the order bat, Pierre is a cheap option who won’t cost much. Unfortunately for the Phils, he won’t bring much in a trade either. But he’s not a building block for the future, and perhaps the Phils could snag a bullpen arm they can control through next season in exchange for the frenchman.
Placido Polanco: (STAYING)
The Giants have been rumored to have a slight interest in Polanco for reasons passing understanding. Polanco still plays good defense and will get the occasional base hit, but is only hitting .251 this year with absolutely no power. He’s also a broken hip waiting to happen. Seriously, Polanco is about three months away from starring in his own Life Alert commercial. Despite rumors that Polanco may be on San Francisco’s radar, I don’t see him going anywhere.
Cliff Lee: (STAYING)
Is it possible the Texas Rangers may be considering going down the Cliff Lee road once again? Reports had Rangers scouts in attendance at Lee’s last game, even though the veteran left-hander is owed over $100 million over the next three seasons and will enter 2013 at 34 years old. Lee is still a very good pitcher, and will probably remain an elite pitcher for another one or two years. Hopefully three. And maybe the Rangers will be desperate enough to shell out big time prospects for Lee. But I doubt it. If there is a team that is willing to shell out major prospects for Lee, the Phils may pull the trigger, but I don’t see it happening.
Joe Blanton/Kyle Kendrick: (STAYING)
Would you trade for either of them? I thought not.
So, that’s one man’s uneducated guess as to who will be a Phillie after July 31. It’s highly likely I’m going to be wrong about all of it.
Which would make me absolutely no different from every other baseball writer with Ruben Amaro’s number on speed dial.