Phillies looking for a bargain
The Phillies are telling rival clubs that they can add about $2 million in salary. The amount makes sense, considering that the Phils’ payroll reportedly is within $3 million of the $178 million luxury-tax threshold. But the relatively modest sum doesn’t mean the team will be unable to address its needs.
The Phils, for example, could add Padres reliever Mike Adams and Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur with payroll room to spare — Adams and Francoeur combined are earning slightly more than $5 million, which means they will be owed about $1.7 million on July 31.
Again, that’s just an example — the Phils have serious interest in Adams, but so do the Yankees, Rangers and other clubs, major league sources say. Francoeur, meanwhile, might not even be traded; the Royals instead are pushing another of their outfielders, Melky Cabrera.
The point is that no deal is impossible, even for a team that is limited financially. The Phillies could even make a deal work for Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran. All it would take is the Phils giving better prospects in exchange for the Mets paying the bulk of the approximately $6 million left on Beltran’s contract.
But therein lies a problem, sources say.
For the Phillies, rentals such as Beltran and Padres closer Heath Bell are less appealing. The Phils parted with numerous prospects in trades for pitchers Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt over the past two years. They would prefer to expend additional young talent on players they can control through at least 2012, sources say.
Adams, in particular, would be an ideal addition; the Phillies could retain him for one more season by offering him arbitration. That way, they would be protected against the possible loss of Phillies closer Ryan Madson as a free agent.
Madson, represented by Scott Boras, almost certainly will seek the best market deal this winter. And that deal might not come from the Phillies, particularly if they can close with Adams for about $5 million in ’12.
The Phils will do something; their GM, Ruben Amaro, is constitutionally incapable of sitting still. Never mind that Amaro has been talking about his limited flexibility since signing Lee to a five-year, $120 million free-agent last offseason. Rival clubs believe that the Phillies’ ownership will be tempted to add.
"They look at their model — if they don’t keep their foot on the pedal, it might go away," one GM says. "They’ve got a full house every night. They don’t want the spigot to get turned off. There is always that question — do you have the discipline to say, ‘This is our team?’"
The Phillies have yet to answer "yes" to that question. But they’re on track for their fifth straight division title – and possibly their third World Series appearance in the past four years.
ON THE OTHER HAND . . .
Even for high-revenue teams, budgetary restrictions often are quite real. Go back to 2009, when the Red Sox claimed Jose Bautista on trade waivers in August — but backed out of a deal with the Blue Jays in part due to payroll limitations.
Bautista earned only $2.4 million that season, so he would have been owed in the range of $600,000 to $900,000, depending upon when he was claimed. The Red Sox wanted to use him against lefties down the stretch, but weren’t sure they could find him enough at-bats. Why go over budget for someone who might not play?
Well, maybe the Sox should have talked themselves out of it — Bautista hit nine home runs for the Jays that September, and leads the majors with 85 the past two seasons.
The Jays actually shopped Bautista early in the 2009-10 offseason before re-signing him for the same $2.4 million; they probably would have non-tendered him if he had insisted upon a higher salary.
The Red Sox, who also tried to trade for Bautista last winter before signing free-agent left fielder Carl Crawford, can only wonder what might have been. And over the next two weeks, they might find themselves facing making difficult choices again.
The Sox, like the Phillies, spent big in the offseason, signing Crawford and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for a combined $296 million. They also traded three of their top prospects for Gonzalez, leaving their farm system thinner.
So, while the Sox would love to get Beltran, they fear that other clubs can offer the Mets a better exchange of prospects and dollars. The Sox could run into the same problem if they go hard after a starting pitcher. But their ownership — like the Phillies’ — has made exceptions before.
METS TRIED RESTRUCTURING K-ROD, TOO
No doubt the Brewers were smart to restructure Francisco Rodriguez’s contract and eliminate his $17.5 million vesting option. But the Mets actually tried to do the same thing before trading K-Rod, sources say.
The Mets, prior to Rodriguez’s switch to Scott Boras, held numerous conversations about ditching the option with Arn Tellem, one of the pitcher’s previous agents at the Wasserman Media Group.
Ultimately, the Mets viewed a trade of K-Rod as a "cleaner" solution, according to one source. The Mets saved approximately $2.5 million in the deal and received two players to be named.
PARNELL: THE METS’ FUTURE CLOSER?
Mets manager Terry Collins isn’t ready to commit to right-hander Bobby Parnell as his closer, but points to a sequence on June 29 in Detroit as evidence that the reliever can handle the role.
Parnell, who turns 27 on Sept. 8, entered the game with one out and the seventh inning. Andy Dirks had just hit a two-run homer to reduce the Mets’ lead to 10-8, and the Tigers’ middle of the order was coming up.
Not a problem.
Parnell retired Magglio Ordonez on a groundout throwing 97 to 99 mph. He then issued a two-out walk to Miguel Cabrera throwing 100 to 103 before retiring Victor Martinez on a groundout throwing 100-101.
You wouldn’t know it from those radar-gun readings, but Parnell is a relaxed sort, seemingly without worry. The K-Rod trade was announced shortly after the All-Star Game ended, but Parnell didn’t learn about it until his father told him the next day. As the pitcher recalls, he was home in Salisbury, N.C., "just lazing around."
Parnell says K-Rod was a good teammate who taught him a lot about reading hitters, pitch sequences, the art of pitching in general.
UTLEY TO THE UTMOST
None other than Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee says second baseman Chase Utley is the Roy Halladay of position players — same preparation, same toughness.
Utley barely could move at the start of spring training due to his injured right knee; he would sit on a stool fielding grounders hit to him by Phillies coach Sam Perlozzo.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins says Utley sometimes dives for balls that are 15 feet away from him, far out of reach.
"That’s just how he plays," Rollins said. "Sometimes I just laugh and tell him, ‘Dude, you WANT to dive.’"
SOMEONE ALERT BORAS!
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard returned home to St. Louis for the All-Star break to watch his 10-year-old son, Darian, play in a baseball tournament.
Guess who was in the same tournament?
A.J. Pujols, the 11-year-old son of Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.
A.J. plays on a team coached by his father’s former teammate, Mike Matheny. Placido Polanco’s brother, Armando, is a hitting coach for many kids in that area.
Alas, Darian Howard’s team did not face A.J. Pujols’ team in the tournament.
SHOULD HE STAY OR SHOULD HE GO?
White Sox right-hander Edwin Jackson looms even larger as a trade chip after shutting out the Tigers on Saturday; the Sox again will have six starters once lefty John Danks comes off the DL on Wednesday.
A team that acquired Jackson would get two months of a pitcher with above-average stuff, stuff that would play even bigger in the National League.
The problem with trading Jackson is that right-hander Jake Peavy is in uncharted waters physically. The Sox would suddenly be thin if they moved Jackson and then lost Peavy.
The Cardinals, Brewers and Red Sox were among the teams that scouted Jackson’s start on Saturday, according to the Chicago Tribune.
AROUND THE HORN
• The Phillies weren’t upset that right-hander Roy Halladay and lefty Cliff Lee threw multiple innings in the All-Star Game, but here’s a point worth considering:
If a pitcher who starts on Sunday is ineligible for the game, then it stands to reason that Lee, who threw 103 pitches Saturday, should not have been asked to work multiple innings on Tuesday.
• Would the Mets trade Beltran within the NL East?
"It would be a factor," one club official says, "but not prohibitive."
Beltran would be perfect for the Braves in center, but the Braves fear the price will be too high.
• The ascents of right-hander Alex Cobb and Double A lefty Matt Moore could make the Rays more comfortable trading a starting pitcher. But such a move probably is more likely in the offseason than in the next two weeks.
• Check the respective OBPs over the past three seasons: The Astros’ Michael Bourn (.348) would be a better fit leading off for the Nationals than the Rays’ B.J. Upton (.319).
• The Orioles wanted to add a club option to their three-year, $22.25 million deal with shortstop J.J. Hardy, but Hardy declined. He will be a free agent again at 32.
• Speaking of the O’s, they’re open to trading right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, but would need to bring back pitching in return. Guthrie, earning $5.75 million, is under club control through ’12.
• The Athletics’ available players include outfielders Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus, first baseman/outfielder Conor Jackson and reliever Michael Wuertz.
The A’s will not trade a top young starter such as lefty Gio Gonzalez or righty Trevor Cahill. And while the Rangers have called on Andrew Bailey, according to the Dallas Morning News, the Athletics’ position is that they would move their closer only if they received an overwhelming offer.
• The Indians want to add a right-handed hitter, but their bigger need actually might be a starting pitcher; they’ve got two questionable spots in the rotation after right-handers Josh Tomlin, Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco.
• One reason the Pirates aren’t all that keen on Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena: Garrett Jones, who plays right field and first base, has an .806 OPS against right-handers. Pena is at .888 against righties, but his strikeout rate is the fourth-highest in the NL.
• By the way, both the Indians and Pirates are generating more revenue than they anticipated, increasing their respective home attendances by nearly 4,000 per game.
The Pirates ranked 27th in attendance last season, the Indians 30th. But the Pirates have jumped their average from 19,918 to 23,577 while the Indians have gone from 17,435 to 21,106.
The Rays, on the other hand, have dropped from 22,758 to 19,918.