Phillies have 'good dialogue' with teams; Amaro optimistic
Club looking to deal veterans, but might have to wait until some free agents are off the board
SAN DIEGO -- Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he had three or four trades he could make Monday, if he wanted. He won't.
Amaro said those deals do not help the organization. Maybe one of these days one of them will. The Phillies have announced they plan to make significant changes to their aging and expensive roster before Spring Training 2015, but so far they have been quiet. In fact, their roster remains essentially unchanged from the one that lost 89 games and finished last in the National League East, despite a franchise-record payroll.
Amaro said at the Winter Meetings that he expects that to change.
"We've had good dialogue with some teams," he said. "I'm optimistic that we'll do some things."
He would not say when.
But if the day finally comes when Amaro pulls the trigger on a trade, what kind of return can he expect? After the Phillies didn't trade any of their players in July, he indicated teams did not value his players enough. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Teams might like some of their players, but not the money they are owed.
"I think we have the opportunity to have decent returns," Amaro said. "We have pretty good players. Everybody kind of thinks we don't have good players."
There have been multiple reports that Amaro's asking price for his players is out of line. Naturally, he disputes that.
"That's a bunch of malarkey as far as I'm concerned," he said. "Frankly, we've done very little asking. We've done a lot of listening. That's why that strikes me as interesting that people would say that."
The organization's best trade chip is left-hander Cole Hamels, but the baseball world is waiting for free agent lefty Jon Lester to sign with a team. Once that happens -- multiple reports said it could come Tuesday -- other pieces are expected to fall.
"He seems to be a little bit of a linchpin for the industry," Amaro said.
"They're going to work their way through the Lester, [James] Shields, [Max] Scherzer guys," Phillies interim president Pat Gillick said. "They're going to work their way through those guys. They don't have to give up any players. All they have to do is give up money. I think things change a little bit once one of these guys or two of these guys fall. There's some clubs that are in contention that we know are looking for pitching. If they don't get one or two of these guys, then there will be two or three clubs or four clubs out there looking for pitching. They'll maybe go into another direction of thinking trade, as opposed to free agency."
Amaro reiterated again that everybody on the Phillies' roster is available to trade. That includes Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, both of whom have 10-and-5 no-trade rights. Amaro said both players have told him that they are not willing to waive those rights.
"That's a challenge," Amaro said.
So what happens if the Phillies are unable to trade some of their veteran players? Would they move forward with their youth movement and cut the playing time of their veterans?
"Maybe," Amaro said. "That would be a discussion for [manager] Ryne [Sandberg] and I. I think those are decisions we'd make. But we're looking more long term than short term. Anything that will help our organization move forward, getting younger and more athletic, building a new core, finding out if young players are ready to take that step to being Major League players or a part of that core, it's all part of the process."
But in the case of Rollins and Utley, Amaro said. "I don't know that their playing time is necessarily blocking anybody else's. A lot of it depends on what we might acquire in other trades."
The Phillies, who are searching the free-agent market for starting rotation help, have been talking about multi-team trades and others ways to accomplish their offseason goals. They remain willing to eat money to move a player, but it is unclear how much.
"It depends on who that player is and how we value the player," Amaro said. "We're trying to make baseball deals. It's not about moving money. If moving the money will help us long term, we have to consider that, but you have to look at those things in their entirety, in their totality. We're open to anything, so we have to look at that in its totality, whether freeing up the money to do other things with it makes more sense.
"But I think ultimately what our ownership group and what Pat and I have discussed and what our baseball ops people have discussed, is trying to make the right baseball move."