We’re just four days away from yet another deadline in Major League Baseball, this one the August 31st waiver deadline.
Any players on the Phillies 40-man roster who have successfully cleared through the waiver process during August without being claimed can be traded by that deadline.
Players may indeed still be traded after this August 31st waiver deadline. However, any such players acquired during September, while they can help their new team reach the postseason, cannot participate in the postseason itself.
Frankly, it is unknown whether any current Phillies meet the standard of having successfully passed through the process. It was reported early in the month by MLB Trade Rumors that Chase Utley had cleared, which turned out to be true. As we all know, Utley was dealt to the Dodgers last week.
Any player on the 40-man roster could still be dealt. That includes outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who is reported to have been placed on waivers, claimed by some unnamed team, and pulled back by the Phillies.
Players such as the popular “Frenchy” can indeed be placed on waivers a 2nd time during the month. However, at that point the waiver is non-revocable, meaning should any team make a claim, they would receive Francoeur, and there would be no recourse for the Phillies.
The issue has more relevance with a handful of aging players who obviously have no place in the Phillies rebuilding plans. In particular, I am talking about the last two remaining 2008 World Series heroes, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, and starting pitchers Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams.
It is unknown whether any or all have passed through the waiver process, or even been placed on waivers in the first place. However, it would seem to make little sense for the Phillies to not have done so with the longtime organizational stalwarts.
Howard’s issues for a potentially acquiring team are obvious. If someone claims him, they are on the hook for the $25 million salary that he is owed for the 2016 season, the $10 million buyout for 2017, and any monies still owed him for the rest of this year.
Even with Howard having regained a semblance of his power stroke, at least against right-handed pitchers, no team is going to take on that level of salary exposure for the limited production offered by the former feared slugger.
Ruiz has a similar situation restricting his attractiveness. The 36-year old is now, for all intents and purposes, a backup catcher, one hitting .219 with no power or speed. He is also guaranteed an $8.5 million salary in 2016, with a half-million dollar buyout for 2017.
The fact of the matter for Phillies fans when considering these former heroes is that they will either simply be released, retire, or return in 2016 in pretty much the exact roles that you are seeing them fill this season.
It’s possible that both might have some trade value next year, should they prove healthy and productive in the early months of the 2016 season. But neither will ever fetch anything of real long-term value in return.
Harang and Williams could be a bit more interesting in the short-term. Experienced pitching is always a valuable commodity in Major League Baseball.
After missing most of July with a foot condition, the 37-year old Harang has come back healthy. In fact, his last outing this past weekend against Miami was his best since May. He has a $5 million contract this season, most of which the Phils have already paid out, with no commitment beyond 2015.
The 33-year old Williams also missed a stretch with injury, from mid-June through late-July, but has come back healthy to make 7 starts, only two of which could be considered sub par. His contract is half the cost of Harang’s, and similarly has been mostly paid out already by the Phillies.
The Phillies would lose nothing by placing both Harang and Williams on waivers, other than the veteran arms to finish eating up the month of September.
Sure, they would buy the club some more time to let the younger arms develop. But the Phillies could get through with a rotation of Aaron Nola, Adam Morgan, Jerad Eickhoff, Severino Gonzalez, and David Buchanan.
If the club wanted or needed a 6th arm, they could always call up any from among Jesse Biddle, Ben Lively, or Alec Asher. They could even give Sean O’Sullivan a few more starts just to help finish out the balance of the season.
Like it or not, I think that Phillies fans are looking at a 2016 Opening Day lineup that may include both Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. But everything around those final two old-timers is changing, and will continue to change.