Jon Heyman has been
stexting with Ruben Amaro, and he gets the sense that the Phillies are more likely to trade dreamboat Chase Utley and Michael Young than Cliff Lee or Jonathan Papelbon: [CBS Sports]
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro last week responded to a text seeking an interview with six very direct words.
“Yes. But I’m not trading anyone.”
Word among folks in the know is that the two players Amaro is least inclined to trade are, no surprise, the very two players who will garner the most interest on the trade market. Star starter Cliff Lee and star closer Jonathan Papelbon are deemed by Phillies people as vital, though no one’s quite untouchable in the Phillies’ world.
The reason for their value to the Phillies goes beyond the fact that both are still on top of their game. Just as big a factor is that both pitchers are under contract through at least 2015, so even if the veteran Phillies team can’t get it together this year, there’s always next year or the year after. The Phillies aim to win year after year, so while it’s plausible to see them taking a step back in a year they are struggling to play .500 ball, it’s much less so for a season that hasn’t even been played.
This is what I’ve been saying all along, at least with regard to Lee. He’s under contract for at least two more seasons (with an option in 2016) and, unlike Roy Halladay, he’s shown no signs of slowing down. Quite literally. Here’s his velocity since 2007:
via Brooks Baseball
His fastball and sinker (two-seam) are just a hair below their peak (still harder on the fastball than in his Cy Young year in 2008), and his cutter has actually increased in speed. Compare that with Halladay:
via Brooks Baseball
If the Phillies are serious about being contenders in 2014 and or 2015, trading Lee wouldn’t make much sense. He’s shown no signs of the type of rapid decline that we saw with Halladay, and he doesn’t rely as much on stuff as he does on location, tempo and the ability to whip up an excellent stream… all things that don’t depend as much on age.
Papelbon? You can make the same argument regarding his contract and effectiveness… but closers are less reliable and, I’d argue, less important than an ace like Lee. Paps is more tradable, in my opinion.
Much more likely to be dealt if the Phillies ultimately decide to trade would be veteran positional stars Chase Utley and Michael Young, who are in the last year of their long-term deals. Young has just over $8 million left on his $16 million 2013 salary, and Utley has about $8 million to go on his $15 million salary.
As hard as it would be – and believe me, I’d spend days in my underwear sobbing and watching this (so, no change) – trading Utley and Young would make much more sense. Young is a one-year rental anyway. And too many injuries for Utley– it’s obvious that he’s never going to be the same player, for prolonged periods, ever again. That hurts you, and it hurts me, but it’s true.
Meanwhile, Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors put together his trade candidate leaderboards for both hitters and pitchers. He rates Lee as the number one most valuable pitcher, and Utley and Jimmy Rollins as the sixth and seventh most valuable hitters, respectively.