Tuesday, Jim Bowden of The GM's Office writes that the Philadelphia Phillies need a lot of things to go right for them to contend this season. That suggests there's a decent chance the club ends up sellers at the trade deadline, especially considering they share a division with the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, two of the best teams in baseball. If the Phillies do struggle and limp into the all-star break, they could be selling off veterans.
Cliff Lee, LHP
Lee is signed through 2015 with a $27.5 million club option for 2016 but he's still really good at age 34 and if put on the trade block contenders would inquire with serious intent. The Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers would almost certainly have interest if in contention in July.
Lee's contract may be somewhat of a hurdle -- $87.5 million of a potential $102.5 million is guaranteed -- but he could be the difference maker those clubs need. The Phillies may prefer to know more about their future with Roy Halladay before trading Lee, but by the time the deadline arrives the club should have an idea about Halladay's abilities going forward and whether or not he fits into the future plans.
Ryan Howard, 1B
Howard may be among the most untradeable players in the game due to his injury history and contract. He's coming off a serious leg injury and is guaranteed another $105 million over the next four seasons, including a hefty $10 million buyout of his 2016 club option.
It's difficult to imagine Howard being dealt as a result of such a large financial commitment, but it doesn't mean GM Ruben Amaro won't try.
Chase Utley, 2B
Utley's health and performance will dictate his potential trade value, and he should be fairly easy to move since there is no big contract attached. Utley, 34, will be a free agent after the season.
Papelbon might be the first to go if the Phillies struggle through the first 2-3 months. It may not be easy for Amaro, however, as the closer has three years and $39 million left on his contract and his 2016 options vests for another $13 million with 100 games finished in 2014-2015 or 55 games finished in 2015 alone --very attainable levels for even a league-average closer.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Rollins is owed $22 million through 2014 and might be among the better values on the roster among proven veterans, considering the dearth of good shortstops in baseball. He may also be that much more valuable in trade, especially to a contender with such a need -- Dodgers? Giants? -- though Rollins does possess 10-5 no-trade rights.
Carlos Ruiz, C
Ruiz is suspended for the first 25 games of the season but still could have trade value by July 31 and his contract is up at season's end. Ruiz could be a fit in several places, potentially including Boston or New York, where the current catchers aren't exactly first-division options.
If the Phillies want to get a jump start on their rebuild, they'll be busy in June and July and could send off several proven vets for young talent and payroll relief. They are also just talented enough to expect some level of contention, too, in which case all bets are off and the race will be on for what could be one last push for the World Series in Philly, at least with the current core.
"The 35-year-old Halladay has gone from their No. 1 starter to their No. 3 behind Hamels and Cliff Lee after a mediocre 11-8, 4.49 ERA campaign in 2012. After logging more than 230 innings pitched every year from 2008 to 2011, I don’t expect Halladay to bounce all the way back from the shoulder woes that plagued him in 2012, but he should still be a double-digit winner. Howard, 33, hit at least 30 home runs every season from 2006 to 2011, but still was recovering from Achilles tendon surgery. Nothing is preventing him from bouncing back this year for a 30-home run, 100-RBI season."