Posted by Mike Frohwirth
The internets have been rife with talk about the Phillies organization's recent decision to "give up on the 2012 season." Many "Phillies fans" seem rather eager to bury the team, and to proceed to dance on their metaphorical graves. But has the Phillies' organization really "given up?" Let's look at the Phillies' recent personnel-related decisions, which have prompted many to arrive at the "white flag" conclusion.
The Phillies trade DH/PH Jim Thome to the Baltimore Orioles, in exchange for minor leaguers Kyle Simon and Gabriel Lino.
In the recent stretch of interleague play, Thome showed he still has a little bit left in his bat. Unfortunately, as he is no longer able to play the field, a National League team is not able to provide the future Hall of Famer with regular at-bats. The Phillies are better off utilizing the roster spot for a more versatile player, and Thome is better off (finishing?) his career in the AL, where he can still contribute on a regular basis. This move wasn't about the Phillies "giving up", or about the Phillies acquiring top prospects for the veteran DH. (Spoiler Alert: They didn't.) This move was about accommodating one of MLB Greats. The Phillies "did Thome a solid."
Chad Qualls is traded to the New York Yankees, for cash considerations (or a player to be named later).
The Phillies had designated the erratic northpaw for assignment, and were hopeful that they could dump the remainder of his contract. The Phillies didn't believe the veteran was part of their immediate future (or their not-immediate future, as he has a one-year contract), so they cut ties with him. Qualls has struggled mightily in 2012, and the Phillies (believe they) have better options. Qualls would likely have been jettisoned for performance reasons, even if the Phillies had been at the top of the standings.
The Phillies are "gauging trade interest in Cole Hamels."
First, let's talk semantics for a moment. "Gauging trade interest" and "putting a player on the trading block" are two different things entirely, though many in the Phillies' Blogosphere/Twitterverse seem to believe they are one and the same. Teams regularly attempt to determine how other organizations value their players. It doesn't necessarily mean they are actively trying to trades them. (Well, unless they determine that another organization really overvalues one of their players.)
Cole Hamels' Phillies' career is reaching a potential turning point. The ace southpaw is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season, unless he reaches a prior agreement with the Phillies. We do not currently have enough information to know if the Phillies have been "lowballing Hamels" with their contract offer(s), if any, or if "Hamels only cares about maximizing the value of his next contract."
We do know that if the Phillies' organization determines that Hamels is unlikely to come to an agreement, they have a difficult decision to make. They can keep Hamels for the remainder of the season (and postseason?), and lose him for draft picks. Or, they can trade him this month, theoretically acquiring more value. The final decision doesn't need to be made for several weeks, but General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. needs to start gathering potential trade information now. (Plus, leaking the "gauging of trade interest" to the press may well provide the Hamels Camp with a little more urgency to come to terms with the Phillies, if that is what Hamels really wants.)
The first half of the 2012 season has not gone well for the Phillies. Even with an extra playoff spot available this season, the Phillies will likely need to play better than .620 ball, in order to qualify for the postseason. However, the 2012 Phillies currently boast an elite starting rotation, a slightly-above-average offense, and have elite starter Roy Halladay poised to return soon. (Not to mention good-against-RHP 1B Ryan Howard, who appears even closer to a return than Halladay.) The 2012 Phillies have the capacity to play above .620 ball, especially in only a half-season.
If the Phillies don't achieve good results in the next few weeks, it might very well be in the organization's best interests to trade pending free agents Hamels and/or Shane Victorino. But we are not there yet, and the Phillies haven't actually done anything that signals this intention. All they have done, at least so far, is their due diligence.