Why The Phillies May Stand Pat At Trade Deadline


Chase Utley is likely not on the market right now. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As the unofficial start of the second half of the season begins tonight with a crucial road trip in New York, the Phillies are more buyers than sellers.

I’ve argued the Phillies should sell, and that would probably be the best long-term solution for the franchise. However, at just 5 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, there is no way Ruben Amaro is going to sell on anybody. Chase Utley, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon aren’t going anywhere right now.

However, even if the Phils do go into the tank in their upcoming series this week against the Mets, Cardinals and Tigers (all on the road) and become full-on sellers, it’s important to remember that there is a possibility Amaro will stand pat at the deadline on some of his players, even ones with expiring contracts like Chase Utley.

Yesterday on Sirius/XM Radio, former general manager Jim Bowden was talking about the decisions he faced at the 2006 trade deadline when he was running the Washington Nationals. That was the year Alfonso Soriano was enjoying the best year of his career, one in which he would join the 40/40 club, hitting .277 with a .911 OPS with 46 HRs and 41 stolen bases.

Soriano was going to be a free agent at the end of the year and Bowden knew there was no way he’d be able to afford the slugger’s asking price. So, he made it known to every team in baseball that Soriano was available.

However, even though Soriano wasn’t going to be re-signed and the Nats were going to lose him after the season, Bowden did not pull the trigger. Soriano then finished out the year and signed with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent after the season.

At the time, Nats fans couldn’t understand what the heck Bowden was doing. Why didn’t he trade Soriano? Why was he keeping him? Just trade him for SOMETHING, screamed Nats fans.

Bowden yesterday explained his motivation for standing pat, reiterating that the best players he was offered in exchange for Soriano were Kevin Slowey and Jason Kubel. Bowden felt that was not a fair return and that he would rather take the compensatory draft pick he would receive from losing Soriano as a free agent instead. He decided that the draft pick was more valuable than either of the players he was being offered.

The Nats then took that pick and drafted Jordan Zimmerman, who is kinda good.

Now, did the Nationals get fortunate in drafting a future ace with that pick? Certainly. Bowden just as easily could have selected a player who would never pan out and be left with nothing for Soriano. But he decided not to make a bad deal just for the sake of making a deal, knowing that he at least would get a very high draft pick as compensation.

Ruben Amaro could be in a similar situation with a player like Utley. Chase still has a lot of value to the Phils even if they’re not contending this year. By making him a qualifying offer after the season, Utley could net the Phils a quality player with a draft pick if no team offers the Phils a fair deal before the deadline.

Now, it’s difficult to imagine Amaro wouldn’t get some kind of fair offer for Michael Young or Carlos Ruiz, if only because they don’t have the same kind of value that Utley has or Soriano had back in 2006. But understand, general managers don’t make moves just for the sake of making moves. If they don’t get a good offer, they’re not making a trade.

It’s as simple as that.

Sometimes there is a reason general managers stand pat at the deadline, even when it seems obvious to everyone else that he should make a move. Consider that if and when Amaro ends up holding onto players it seems like he should be shoving out the door for peanuts.