The Philadelphia Phillies find themselves in the uncomfortable situation of trying to decide if they want to buy or sell at the trade deadline. The Phils were 42-45 heading into Saturday’s action but at 7.5 games out of first place, the possibility remains that they could still make a run at the division. The final buy/sell decision could be decided by their showing during a current 10-game homestand and general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. has already said as much.
But if Amaro decides Philadelphia is too far out of contention (and with Ryan Howard headed to the 15-day disabled list, that could be a reality sooner rather than later), plenty of teams will be in pursuit of their stars.
Howard is one name not heavily bandied about, but CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman says that while Amaro is pretty undecided on what he wants to do, no one on the Phillies is untouchable. Word is that Philadelphia isn’t in a hurry to move pitchers Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon, but there is a lot of speculation that both could be involved in deals for the right price. That price, though, could be way too steep as Heyman went as far to say that the cost would be ‘astronomical.’
Philadelphia seems as though they’re not all that interested in trading either but for what it’s worth, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News expects Papelbon to be heavily shopped. In the end, Philly could see what’s available, but may trade him only for a deal simply too good to refuse.
Perhaps the biggest name being rumored right now is second baseman Chase Utley. I’ve covered this recently, but Utley is apparently on the Dodgers’ radar. It’s not just them that would be interested – Heyman notes that the Royals, A’s, and Orioles could use him, too.
To me, Utley is one player that Philadelphia will really hesitate to move. Several players are certainly more valuable to the Phillies, but it’s always difficult to trade away a player who has spent his entire career with a franchise. While his offensive production has dipped as he’s past his prime, at 34, he still should have a few years of productivity left.
Martino also says Michael Young is a player who will draw a lot of interest. Not only that, but he says rival executives expect Young will be gone. Martino himself speculates that the Yankees may be a potential fit and while Utley might stay put, at 36, Young doesn’t really fit into the long-term plans of the team.
Also, catcher Carlos Ruiz isn’t a player who has been mentioned all that much in trade deals, but he could actually be a good candidate to go. He hasn’t produced much offense this season (see his zero home runs and six RBI in limited action) and while backup Erik Kratz would certainly be a downgrade overall, the Phillies could get by with him if they decide the season is a bust. Philly.com identifies the Tigers and Reds as two contenders that could use catching help and plenty of teams are always looking for catchers, so there would certainly be options.
Philadelphia has some difficult decisions to make. The team has a roster full of stars, but they haven’t yet met expectations. Coming to the realization that you need to become a seller can’t be easy for a team expected to contend for a World Series. But with the Howard injury and sitting significantly behind first-place Atlanta, at some point the Phillies will have to cut their losses and move some players if things don’t improve.