Phillies’ Cliff Lee Answers Questions Using Magic 8 Ball During Press Conference

February 20, 2015 by Arman Walia  
Filed under Fan News

Baseball season is finally underway, and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee has already run out of answers for the media.

Following the pitchers' and catchers' first workout of the season, Lee used a Magic 8 Ball to field questions from reporters. 

Teammate Cole Hamels recently voiced his displeasure with the way the Phillies are headed into the 2015 season, so maybe Lee used the Magic 8 Ball to distract from the sticky situation.

[CSN Philly, h/t Next Impulse Sports]

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These Teams Give Cole Hamels a Chance to Win Now

February 18, 2015 by Anthony Witrado  
Filed under Fan News

Cole Hamels has spoken.

And while he is demanding nothing, he made it unequivocally clear that he wants to win, that winning cannot and will not happen in Philadelphia and that he would like to be traded to a team with a chance to do that.

Speaking to the media for the first time since last season, Hamels told all of this to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Really, who can blame him for feeling this way?

“I just want to win,” Hamels said. “That's all. That's all any competitor wants.

“And I know it's not going to happen here.

“This isn't what I expected. It's not what the Phillies expected, either.

“But it's reality."

Hamels was careful to praise the only organization he has ever known, the Phillies, and the city where they play. But he also understands that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. so botched the franchise’s rebuild—not Hamels’ words, by the way—that the Phillies absolutely will not win in 2015, and that it could be difficult for the team to win for the duration of his six-year, $144 million contract signed in 2012.

Including this summer, there are four guaranteed years remaining on the deal at $96 million, which includes a $6 million buyout. There is also a club option for $20 million that would take the contract to five years and $110 million.

About a month ago, once it became fairly clear Hamels would be traded only if a suitor became desperate and caved to Amaro’s demands, the GM made his thoughts about Opening Day clear to Jake Kaplan of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I think Cole Hamels is going to be in our uniform, frankly,” Amaro said. “I don’t really foresee him being moved.”

However, now that Hamels has made it clear he wants to win and that it won’t happen in Philadelphia, maybe the Phillies will be more willing to appease their ace. The question now is what team will pay the high asking price.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

MLB Trade Rumors: Buzz Surrounding Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and More

February 9, 2015 by Scott Polacek  
Filed under Fan News

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a matter of days, so most of the free-agency and trade rumors have settled down as MLB teams are focused on what they have on their rosters. After all, position battles are about to take center stage.

However, there are still loose ends to tie up before the season begins, including some potential trades. The Philadelphia Phillies in particular could make some moves, especially since they may be in for something of a rebuilding season.

With that in mind, here is a look at some of the latest trade rumors circulating around baseball before spring training officially begins.

 

Cole Hamels

Bob Nightengale of USA Today passed along an update on Cole Hamels:

From Philadelphia’s perspective, it makes sense to ask for someone as talented as Blake Swihart, especially if this season is truly going to be a rebuilding effort. He is only 22 years old and widely regarded as one of the best catching prospects in all of baseball. Swihart has the chance to develop into a superstar who hits for average and power and effectively manages a pitching staff.

As for Boston, this is an interesting tight rope to walk.

The Red Sox could use an ace like Hamels atop the rotation (who couldn’t?), and he just posted an impressive 2.46 ERA and 1.15 WHIP last season. Hamels has also pitched more than 200 innings in each of the last five seasons. Adding a durable, left-handed ace to the top of a rotation is a sure-fire way to bolster a team’s World Series chances, and that opportunity is there for Boston.

What’s more, there is never a guarantee that a prospect will pan out at the major league level, even if he seems like a complete lock to put up impressive numbers.

On the other hand, Hamels is 31 years old, and his best years could very well be behind him. Swihart may not be as valuable as Hamels in 2015, but there is a real possibility that the catcher will be the better long-term option. 

That is something the Red Sox will have to decide upon before pulling the trigger on any trade.

 

Jonathan Papelbon

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports noted that Jonathan Papelbon could be on his way to the Milwaukee Brewers, but it is not a sure thing yet:

The Brewers and Phillies are still considering a deal involving star closer Jonathan Papelbon, though there appears to be a bit of work yet to do.

Milwaukee is said to be the favorite to land Papelbon, but one person suggested early Wednesday the sides may be in a bit of a “holding pattern.” The holdup appears to be related to a gap in thoughts about player compensation going back to Philadelphia.

Papelbon turned in a formidable season in 2014 and finished with 39 saves and a 2.04 ERA even though he didn’t have the pop on his fastball like he did in years past. Those numbers should help the Phillies in any potential trade negotiations with Milwaukee. 

Still, the Phillies’ hopes of landing a deep package from Milwaukee in return for Papelbon took a hit recently, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel pointed out:

If nothing else, the Brewers now have some leverage in these discussions, which is not great news for the Phillies. Of course, Chris Perez had a 4.27 ERA this past season, so how much leverage the Brewers actually have depends on how much value they put in Perez as compared to what they would get from Papelbon.

Based on last year’s numbers, Milwaukee may want to keep this dialogue open with the Phillies before spring training.

 

Cliff Lee 

Jayson Stark of ESPN passed along an update on Cliff Lee:

It is interesting that Lee appears to be on the trade block given the comments this offseason from general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., via Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly.

"I think he wants to win and I think he wants to be on a club that wants to win," Amaro Jr. said. "Much like others I’ve spoken to he’d rather be in that position here, but we’re in a different stage. But just like anyone else, Cliff will pitch and I expect him to pitch like a champion. Our minds are open on everything."

Lee only made 13 starts in 2014 because of lingering elbow problems and will likely have to prove his health to any interested team before a trade happens. He is 36 years old and owed $25 million in 2015, so teams may not be lining up to trade for him as of now. 

However, if he was to return and turn in an impressive start of the season, the Phillies could get a solid package back in a move at the trade deadline. That may be the best-case scenario from Philadelphia's perspective when it comes to potentially moving Lee and accelerating the rebuilding process with some young assets in return.

 

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Ruben Amaro Jr. Must Pay for What the Phillies Have Become

February 5, 2015 by Anthony Witrado  
Filed under Fan News

The losses are on Ruben Amaro Jr.’s hands.

The ones in the past, the ones for 2015 and ones that could come beyond this upcoming season, whether he is in office or not, are all on Amaro. This offseason provided a clear shot to be progressive by making his team younger with an eye toward the future.

Instead, the Philadelphia Phillies general manager is hanging onto the past as he completes the team’s transformation from championship contender to a case study in how to decimate a franchise. This is why Amaro must pay for his transgressions with his job.

For the sake of the Phillies franchise, the sooner he does, the better.

That tweet came at the July 31 trade deadline, but it’s not just last summer’s flubbed deadline that should write Amaro’s GM obituary. It is his entire six-year tenure, with the latest debacle coming this offseason when he was unwilling—not unable—to trade ace Cole Hamels.

It certainly was not for a lack of interest in the left-hander with four years and $96 million remaining on his contract. The problem was Amaro, who other executives described as asking for unreasonable packages in return for Hamels. It was the same problem tagged on Amaro at the last trade deadline.

This comes at a time when younger, more analytical GMs lean toward trading away a player too soon rather than too late. Amaro clearly does not subscribe to this thinking.

And now that the rush of phone calls had calmed and teams have gone elsewhere for pitching needs, Hamels is destined to be a Phillie on Opening Day despite an aggressive push to take him away.

“Not aggressive enough, obviously, because we haven’t done anything,” Amaro told Jake Kaplan of The Philadelphia Inquirer a couple weeks ago. 

“If I was going to handicap it, I would probably say that he’d be in our pinstripes on opening day and pitching against Boston.”

With that, the Phillies are looking quite similar to the teams that lost 89 games each of the last two seasons, even with the trades of Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd. As the rest of the National League East improves, Amaro keeps locking the cellar door behind him.

The Phillies still have Hamels, their one trade chip that could change the franchise’s future fortunes. They still have Cliff Lee, who is 36, hurting and went from a 7.3 WAR (Baseball-Reference.com) in 2013 to 0.8 last year. They still have Ryan Howard, a man Amaro publicly said the team would be better off without. They still have Jonathan Papelbon, a personality not so conducive to living quietly in a losing clubhouse.

Between those four, Amaro has committed $85.5 million for this season. Throw in Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Miguel Gonzalez, and Amaro has committed $107.7 million to seven players. Only Gonzalez, a 28-year-old minor league reliever, is younger than 30. All of those deals were signed under Amaro’s reign.

No wonder Sporting News dubbed him the worst GM in baseball last year.

For now, Amaro has the backing of his bosses. When Pat Gillick was hired as the team’s GM in 2005, the franchise did so with the underlying idea that Gillick would be something of a mentor to Amaro, then the assistant GM. That thought was reaffirmed during Gillick’s tenure when Amaro became the public face of the front office as Gillick worked away from the spotlight.

Because of the history there, it came as no shock when Gillick “absolutely” backed Amaro after he was brought back into the mix as the team’s interim president in September.

“Right now there’s no thought whatsoever of replacing [Amaro Jr.],” Gillick said via The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb.

It is understandable that Gillick made these comments. He did not want to come in and damn his current GM and one-time mentee as his first order of business. But Gillick must see that Amaro buried the franchise to the point that it will take a complete rebuild, not a retool, to come out from under the soil.

For a fair chunk of the overall debacle, things looked great. The Phillies were a contender for Amaro’s first three years at the controls, and he also deserves some credit for the 2008 World Series and the 2007 NL East title as he was the assistant GM when those clubs were being constructed.

When he took over, Amaro lived in the moment. He ignored the future to build historically good teams and sign expensive players. The goal was to win as many World Series titles as he could in the window allotted.

The problem is he won zero and handed out what can be argued as the worst contract in baseball history (for now, while Albert Pujols is still productive) when he signed Howard to a five-year, $125 million extension, a deal that didn’t even start until he turned 32. Amaro also agreed to several other questionable deals with aging players.

The real payment for those fun times has been due for the last two seasons, and the bill collectors will keep calling in 2015.

Amaro took over a franchise with money and World Series expectations when he landed his current job after the 2008 championship season. He chased the dream by spending recklessly, ignoring warning signs and the club’s future. The intentions were somewhat understandable with the exception of Howard’s deal, which was panned immediately and led to Amaro trying to cover it up with more bad deals (i.e. Cliff Lee).

The problem is that in trying to sustain a winner, Amaro was setting dynamite to a franchise that had drafted well and spent wisely under its previous GMs. The fuse was set years ago, and the bombs have been going off for three seasons now, with Amaro trying to hide the disaster by pouring cups of water on an inferno.

Amaro cannot stop what he set in motion. And because he refused to blow it up himself when he should have, the Phillies have to make him part of the wreckage when failing to move Hamels is the final stick of dynamite to blow.

Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent he previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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