There has been plenty of buzz lately about retooling the Phillies, including a piece today in the Daily News from Dave Murphy. The Phillies have gotten older, are less productive than their glory days, and as a team no longer work. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Michael Young, Delmon Young (ha!), Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, and Domonic Brown are all fair game to be moved.
First, why not? There are two reasons not to: the team as assembled is good enough to win, or, personal emotional attachment.
We have seen in the Phillies' first six weeks that they are not good enough to win using the same formula they have used since 2006. The team that lived and died by the home run (and generally lived) in 2007 and 2008 still does. The only difference is that there are fewer of them and fewer people on base. Counting Jimmy Rollins; leadoff home run last night, the Phillies' last 14 home runs have been solo home runs.
Complimentary parts that made it work like outfielders Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino are gone while the Phillies fielded an outfield last night batting .244, .224, and .232, respectively. When Delmon Young plays he is hitting .185, and productive pinch-hitter Laynce Nix is hitting .179 as a starter. I am not saying that re-signing Werth to megabucks would have been the right deal, but his on-base percentage is sorely missed. Shane Victorino's glory years are over, and while he is a nice piece for the Red Sox, re-signing him was not necessarily the right move either.
For the Phillies to re-tool, they will have to make some "uncomfortable trades", as former General Manager Jim Bowden likes to say. Individually, some players on the roster have more value in a trade than they do on the team. And the Phillies must recognize that.
The second reason, personal attachment, is not fair to the fans. Holding on to the past at the expense of a bright future is a disservice to the fans. It would not be the first time that the Phillies had to let go.
In June, 1986, Steve Carlton sat at 4-7 with a 5.89 ERA. Even in his wins Carlton was giving up five and six runs. Phillies then-President Bill Giles tried to convince Carlton to retire. Carlton talked the Phillies into giving him one more start and Carlton gave up six runs and took the loss. That was it. Giles had to make the decision to simply release Carlton.
While crying, Giles announced to the media,
"The greatest lefthanded pitcher in Phillies history and one of the greatest pitchers of all time will no longer be pitching in Philadelphia. And this is easily the toughest thing I've had to do since becoming president of the club. I apologize for my emotions. You build up great attachments to someone who is with a club for 14 years. He's probably had more impact than any pitcher in this club's history.
I was much more emotional than he. There were so many factors to consider. But we had to keep coming back to what was best for the team."
What's best for the team. The Phillies are lucky that they are not in a position where they will have to simply release one of the 2007-2011 core. The Phillies have an opportunity to restock before it is too late. (Note: how did the 1987-1992 Phillies do after that old core fell apart?) It easily could be too late.
Eating $15 million a year to trade Ryan Howard for a piece that can help the club is better than eating $25 million a year if Ryan Howard is hitting .170 and has to be released. If the Phillies re-commit to Chase Utley and his knees can no longer handle second base, what do they do? Imagine a team where both scenarios occur and shortstop Jimmy Rollins no longer can hit above .200. Consider that the team is tying up most of their money on these guys, and it could be 2012 all over again every year.
If you want to hold on to something from the past, keep one of those three, but no more. Maybe it would be decided for the Phillies by what they could get. Here is what I would do with the Phillies current roster:
- Ryan Howard - Either eat substantial money to get a nice prospect, or package him with another commodity like the Red Sox did last year. They are sitting pretty now, having turned over the team. Hopefully get an outfield or infield (2b, 3b) that could make an impact soon. He will still have value to a team with a need at first base.
- Jimmy Rollins - I tend to think that his glove and history with the Phillies make him a candidate to stick around for the next wave. If the Phillies get the right pieces, Rollins can bat elsewhere in the order and still be a productive shortstop. However, I would not rule out trading him to say, the Dodgers, who are in need of a shortstop.
- Chase Utley - Exercise extreme caution. He may have a good amount of trade value because the acquiring team would not have to make a long-term commitment, and he can play a position that does not usually get much offense. I would not re-sign Utley unless he had first base available to fall back on, but that would be contingent on a Howard trade.
- Michael Young - Young is still getting hits and getting on base at a high rate. Plus, he has been okay (though not stellar) at third base. Some team would love to have him down the stretch for his leadership skills and on-base ability.
- Freddy Galvis - No need to trade him, but despite Ryne Sandberg calling Galvis a "starter without a position", I am not sure he is a starter. He's a good piece to have around to play whatever position opens up when one of the Phillies' starters is traded away. Also, get him out in center field.
- Kevin Frandsen - Cheap utlity piece; if a contender really wants him and can give the Phillies something, go for it. Otherwise, same plan as Freddy Galvis: fill some gaps.
- John Mayberry - Right-handed bats are hard to find. Someone could want him at the deadline.
- Domonic Brown - I would decide how long he has to have to find out if he is productive enough and stick to it. A team with a surplus of similar potential bats in the infield that wants to swap, go for it.
- Delmon Young - He will be lucky if he's not released in the next few weeks.
- Laynce Nix - Decent pinch-hitter. Could have some minor value to a team, but I say stock up on A prospects if you can.
- Ben Revere - You must see what he can do so keep putting him out there. Plus, it's unfortunate for the Phillies that Adam Jones signed an extension with the Orioles. He could have been a free agent after this season.
- Carlos Ruiz - The job will be Tommy Joseph's. A contender who loses their catcher would love someone like Chooch. But, should he hit like he has thus far after his return, there may be no trade or free agent market. I'd take him as a backup/mentor to Joseph, but his stock has to fall.
- Erik Kratz - Standard AAAA inventory. Plenty of guys around to do this.
- Cole Hamels - Hamels stays. They signed him to the extension they did to be part of the next round. Keep him and build the next rotation around him.
- Cliff Lee - This one is tricky. Many teams would love to have Lee, but do not want to pay for Lee. They have him for two more seasons. If they think he will be effective, keep him. But, if they can package Lee with a Ryan Howard and find a team to take them off of their hands, go for it. But few teams can take on $50 million a year in payroll. He probably stays by default.
- Roy Halladay - If Lee is dealt and if Halladay shows some life of being decent and can be had for a lower price, fine. Otherwise, let him return to Toronto as a free agent for a farewell tour.
- Kyle Kendrick - Kendrick feels like he has been around forever, but is just 28 years old. He has one more year left of Phillies control. I would try to sign him to a three-year deal to help Hamels deal with the up and coming young pitchers.
- John Lannan - If we ever happen to see him again, sure, someone can have him.
- Jonathan Papelbon - The Red Sox just lost their closer for the year. Option B, Andrew Bailey - also injured. The rest of the team looks too good to waste. Papelbon got some critcism for leaving as a free agent, but endeared himself back to the Boston fans in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. He could command a decent return.
- Mike Adams - He is still not fully back to his old self after surgery. He has two years after this one. Keep him - you'll need a veteran.
- Antonio Bastardo - Yes, he gave up the losing run last night. But, he may end up being closer if Papelbon is traded. He still has some good stuff.
- Phillippe Aumont - The next option to close, should he get his stuff under control. If he can get better control, Aumont will be a great reliever.
- Justin De Fratus - Also has a chance to be a great reliever. All they can do now is let him pitch.
- Jeremy Horst - Probably sticks around because he is a lefty. After a rocky start, he has been better as of late.
- Raul Valdes, Chad Durbin - There is no need for two mop-up relievers. Cut one, let the young guys pitch.
Down on the Farm:
- Darin Ruf - Let him play. If defense is the reason he is not in the major leagues, then why do we have Delmon Young?
- Tommy Joseph - Bring him up. He's the catcher of the future right now, but could end up at first base with Cameron Rupp close behind.
- Jake Diekman - Diekman throws really had but has control problems. He reminds me of a young Ryan Madson, only from the other side. In a retooling, there is no reason he cannot come up.
- Cesar Hernandez - The switch-hitter has hits in his last eight games and has an .850 OPS. Once there is room, see if he can hit big-league pitching. AAA pitching does not seem to do anything to stop him.
- Cody Asche - He had three hits last night. The real third base prospect in the system is Maikel Franco, but we might as well look at Asche first.
- Jesse Biddle - Could help anchor the Phillies rotation as soon as next year.
- Jonathan Pettibone/Adam Morgan/Ethan Martin - See who rises to the top and let him start.