I think we all have to temper our expectations though. This is not the NBA, you can't deal bad players to teams who just waive them or take the salary cap space. MLB guarantees contracts, and that means the money committed to the players on this team will be paid somewhere, even as they get older. No one is riding in to take our garbage off of our hands, and the Phillies therefore are stuck with a lot of it, at least for another season or two.
Ryan Howard has very little, if any, value at this point. I doubt we can trade him and get anything at all of value. Dom Brown had six good weeks in the big leagues, and nobody believes he'll ever replicate them again. I'd love to move Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins, who have value, but they have 10-and-5 rights that they earned here, and they don't feel like going. Papelbon might have value on the field, but people don't want to deal with him off the field, even with just a year or two left on his deal. So, this won't be easy. Not at all. The Phillies aren't going to be able to dump everybody. Given that most of the contracts on the books run through 2015 or 2016, we're probably two tough years away.
So what can you realistically hope for? Here's a few ideas:
- Maikel Franco is in the every day line-up- I prefer Franco at third base (and Asche moved to second or the outfield), but the Phillies could also just insert him at first base. Franco played better as the season went on in Lehigh Valley last year, and is ready to be on the team in 2015. Sure, we'll have to live with struggles, but so what? There's nothing stopping the Phillies from giving him regular at-bats.
- Ryan Howard is out of here somehow- I admire that the team is trying to not release one of the best players in team history, but he is clogging up both the fourth spot in the order and first base. Maikel Franco could play there. Darin Ruf could play there. Chase Utley could play there. He's just in the way right now. While his RBI numbers look good, they really aren't that impressive, and you won't miss them that much, if at all. The team can simply cut him a $60 million check and wave goodbye. Sure, it takes them out of some free agency markets, but if you're not high on 2015 now, why not?
- Sign Tomas- Yasmany Tomas would instantly improve the long-term outlook of this team, and the Phillies have the financial ability to do it. Money is certainly not a problem for this team, and signing a young power bat like this would improve the future outlook by light-years.
- End the marriage to Dom Brown- I know, he's cheap in arbitration coming off of such a bad year, but who cares? Dom hasn't lived up to the hype. He had a great May and some of June in 2013, but really is otherwise a .250 hitter with home run power in the teens, in the best case of scenarios. Oh, and his defense has been bad. He's not just clogging space, he's clogging it badly. The Phillies should virtually give him away, or just part ways, or whatever else works. I mean, it won't hurt anything if they offer him arbitration, but it also won't help anything.
- Only trade Cole Hamels for a king's ransom- Ok, so honestly here, Cole has a legitimate argument to be the second best lefty in club history. You don't just give away ace left-handers to "change" things. If the Phillies do trade Hamels, they should demand a big return. I'm not talking about three or four "good" prospects. The Cardinals just moved an unaccomplished but talented arm for a starting outfielder and a set-up man. There is no reason for the Phillies to not get back both a pair to three A-List prospects and a major league ready player who will be in this line-up. With Boston making an offer to Lester, I don't see Hamels being traded there, but even if it's possible, I don't see enough there.
- Trade Marlon Byrd for decent value- Marlon Byrd did a good job for the Phillies in 2014. He's still a plus outfielder and he hit 25 homers. He did strike out a lot, but that was a small price to pay for this team. Byrd isn't young, but he has one year on his deal, and an option, and there are plenty of teams who could use 25 homers from a righty outfielder on their team. If you get back one top ten prospect from a team and a fringier second prospect, that's fine. It should be doable.
- Give Darin Ruf an actual look- Opinions vary, and admittedly I was underwhelmed in 2014 by Darin Ruf, but it is time to get him 450-600 plate appearances in one season and see what he can do. Sure, Ruf might explode and be a total bust, in which case the Phillies can end their $515,000 marriage to a formerly fringe prospect that showed prodigious power in the minors. He also might show he can give you 30 homer power and .265, with the good eye for a walk that we've already seen. The point is that the only reason we've not given him a chance yet is Ryan Howard and Dom Brown, neither of which should be back. Give him a look, it's literally zero risk.
- Check the worth on Ben Revere- Revere was one of the only players to have a good year on a bad team, but here's the truth: Revere has limited abilities. He'll never have a good arm in the outfield and he'll never hit for actual power. His stock might never be higher than now. The Phillies should see what his worth is on the market, and if they can get something, move him. Besides, if Roman Quinn can show his Arizona Fall League performance was real, he's the future in center.
- Trade Ruiz, if the value is good- If Russell Martin is worth five years and $82 million, Chooch is a steal. If you can get top value for him, it's worth a look. I'm thinking of the Cubs here, as they were in on Martin and didn't get him, and have a nice system. If the value isn't there though, no rush.
- Trade Bastardo- I mean, he wasn't terrible in 2014, but he wasn't as good as 2013. If there really is such a market for him out there, go cash in. We have other guys who are left-handed.
- Just move Papelbon- His numbers indicate he should get us a big return, but no one wants $12.5 million of his mouth. This is a prime situation to dump though. Giles and Diekman are ready to audition for the real job, and the Phillies should let them. Moving Papelbon helps that.