Ruben Amaro is in Atlanta with a handful of assistants, and he’s keeping a close eye on his stable of players. The latest word is that the results of the Phils’ three-game set against the Braves will go a long way in determining what course of action the Phillies will take leading up to Tuesday’s trade deadline. In the simplest terms, winning the series will probably sway him to stand-pat and losing will encourage him to deal to build for next year.
Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino are two of the most likely options to be dealt, but Jimmy Rollins and even Cliff Lee are two other names that have been floated.
I initially dismissed the reports of the team shopping Lee as sports-talk radio-caller talk. What motivation would Ruben have to deal the player that he was absolutely roasted for trading the first time, and then universally praised for re-signing? I couldn’t believe it, absolutely couldn’t believe it, when I asked around and found out that, yes, the team had in fact made some inquires if anybody would be willing to take Cliff off their hands.
On one hand, it actually makes some sense. Looking forward, there will be a lot of holes to patch this coming offseason. Shane Victorino will become a free agent. So will Joe Blanton. Hunter Pence is looking at about a $14 million payday in arbitration. The team will almost certainly pay Placido Polanco to go away instead of picking up the option year on his deal. And, of course, the bullpen is going to need to be overhauled. That’s a lot of question marks to deal with, and it’s not known exactly how much money the team is willing to spend to deal with them. Cliff Lee, who is still in the first-third of the contract he signed last off-season, would bring in at least a few players that could be used to fill the holes and getting his contract off the books would allow the team some breathing room when it comes to pursuing free-agents to fill the others.
But at the same time, Rube’s willingness to deal a player that passed up bigger paydays for the privilege of returning to this city, sends an ominous message: “I am not to be trusted.”
When Amaro traded Cliff to Seattle in December of ’09, Lee was blindsided:
“At first, I didn’t believe it. I thought we were working out an extension with the Phillies. I was under the impression they wanted to keep me there for a long time.”
In his 2010 press conference, Cliff talked about the reasons that he chose to come back to Philadelphia even though he could have made more in Texas or New York. Tellingly, he also revealed that he ”never wanted to leave this place in the first place”. Basically, he liked it here and chose his happiness over wealth. Well, more wealth, at least.
I’m concerned that if Ruben deals Cliff, who chose to return even after being unceremoniously dumped once by the GM, Amaro will be admitting to potential free-agents that a contract in Philly doesn’t really mean the stability you thought it would. And I’m concerned that message would make it tougher to lure talent to a city who, until recently, had a reputation for not being player friendly.
In his press conference this week, Cole Hamels detailed the reasons he decided to re-sign with the Phillies instead of testing the free agent waters. Among others, he cited that he was happy here:
“I really do feel this is the place I call home and the place I want to call home for a really long time. I grew up watching Tony Gwynn play and he made San Diego his home for his entire career. And that’s ultimately what I want to make here in Philadelphia.”
But if Lee is dealt, what’s to say that Cole would still even be able to make that home in Philadelphia? If 2013 is another disappointing campaign, what’s to stop Ruben from shopping the lefty to a team willing to part with some high-profile building blocks for a sure-fire ace? Sure, he has a limited no-trade clause in his new deal, but it’s the same one Cliff has in his.
Had Cliff been traded before Cole signed his new contract, I can’t see Cole making those same comments in a press conference. Sure, maybe he’d still praise the fans or the team. But I bet he wouldn’t talk about stability, or making a home. He probably wouldn’t even say “a really long time.” He’d probably be thinking “I’ll be here until the GM gets antsy and wants to make some headlines.”