In an interview with Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro had a startling revelation: that the team actaully could be sellers at the trade deadline this year.
“July is so far ahead,” Amaro said. “We just have to get on track. But if July comes and we’re playing like this, we’ll be sellers. How we play now will determine whether we’ll be buyers or sellers in July.”
This is a startling statement from the GM of a team who last year, set a franchise record for wins. A team that has won the NL East for five consecutive seasons. A team that has been the class of the National League over the last five years. And they could possibly be selling in two months?
Amaro does make some good points in the interview, namely that the Phillies aren’t playing well right now. Their offense has a league-low 5.7% walk rate, and their .299 wOBA is in the league’s bottom ten. With just 22 homers, the Phillies are also in the bottom ten in the league, but they’re actually better than division rivals New York and Washington. Philadelphia’s rotation has been dominant so far, with a 3.06 ERA that is in the top five in the league, and a 2.96 FIP that is second best in the game, behind just the Nationals.
But the bullpen? Oh god, the bullpen. The Phillies bullpen has a 5.59 ERA, worst in the league, nearly a run worse than the next-worst team in the league, the Brewers. Their 6.78 strikeout rate is third worst in the league, and they’ve also got the worst groundball rate in the league at 37.9%. Only two relievers have a positive fWAR: the injured David Herndon, and the erratic Antonio Bastardo. Everyone else is either neutral (including Jonathan Papelbon, who got shelled on Monday), or has negative value.
Who would the Phillies sell off? Shane Victorino and Cole Hamels are both free agents this offseason, and could command significant value. I wouldn’t expect BOTH to be dealt, but one of them would be a possibility. Victorino has just a .703 OPS this year (including a horrifying .298 OPS), and if he continues to struggles, might not command a lot in return. He’ll likely improve though, as he’s got five homers, nine steals, and just a .245 BABIP. Hamels on the other hand, has been dominant. He’s striking out nearly ten batters per nine innings, has a team-leading 2.33 FIP (and is second in ERA at 2.45), and he’s looking like he’ll be getting a huge contract this offseason.
As for other pieces to deal…there really isn’t much. Nobody is going to want Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, or Chase Utley, due to their contracts and injury history. Third baseman Placido Polanco is washed up. Hunter Pence could be worth something, given that he’s under team control for next year as well, but he’s got a .299 OBP right now and is showing his hacking tendencies in full.
An interesting name that the Phillies could look to deal is catcher Carlos Ruiz. Ruiz has gained a cult following in Philly, and has a .916 OPS so far this season. He leads the team with 1.3 fWAR. But at the same time, he’s 33 years-old, and isn’t a guy that should be locked up long-term, and has a reasonable option for next season. He’s not a part of the Phillies’ long-term plans, but could provide a great boost to a team looking for a good hitting catcher in this day and age, where strong hitting catchers are coveted.
While you can say that it’s still early and that the Phillies have plenty of time to make up ground in the NL East, they have to jump ahead of four teams, with the Nationals being fantastic on the mound and the Braves being dominant with the stick. It’s too early to wave the white flag, but keep an eye on this situation.
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