Achy Lee clouds Phils' deadline plans

BY foxsports • July 26, 2013

Remember how we said the Philadelphia Phillies’ games against St. Louis and Detroit this week should determine their approach to the trade deadline?

Well, the Phillies are 0-4 on the road trip. They have lost six straight overall. They are nine games out in the National League East, 10 back in the second wild card.

Logic says the Phillies should reboot an aging roster by trading some veterans. It remains to be seen if general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will do it.

One thing became clear Friday: Even if Amaro sells, it will be difficult to trade Cliff Lee before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver deadline. Lee was scratched from Saturday’s start against the Tigers because of neck stiffness. He expects to see a doctor once the Phillies return home.

At that point, the Phillies will have only one game left before the deadline. So, Lee probably won’t have enough time to prove to suitors that he’s healthy. It’s possible that Lee could be traded in August, since his contract — with at least $62.5 million remaining after this season — is likely to clear trade waivers.

For now, infielders Chase Utley and Michael Young are the most interesting names to watch. Both are eligible for free agency after the season.

Utley told me Friday that he’s had a lot of conversations recently with Amaro, in which he has made clear how he feels about the city and organization. It’s believed that a contract extension remains possible — but so is a trade, in the event a new deal can’t be reached. Oakland, which could benefit from an offensive upgrade at second base, is one potential suitor.

When asked if he’ll still be wearing a Philadelphia uniform on Aug. 1, Utley said, “We’ll see.”

Young, meanwhile, said Friday that he hasn’t spoken with Amaro about the possibility of a trade. That’s significant, because he has a no-trade clause. The Boston Red Sox — who had a scout at the Phillies’ game Friday — would have interest in Young if he’s available.

The Texas Rangers — Young’s former team — have interest, as well, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Young hasn’t ruled out a return, despite an occasionally contentious relationship with the front office there. (Young still makes his permanent home in the Dallas area.) While emphasizing his loyalty to the Phillies, Young also said, “I want to win.”

As the Phillies’ losses mount, it becomes likelier that their roster will have at least a different look by this time next week. Manager Charlie Manuel said after Friday’s 2-1 loss to Detroit that the uncertainty associated with the trade deadline has affected his team’s play lately.

“Moving forward, I still like a lot of the guys, but I think it could change, and that will definitely make things a little bit interesting,” said Cole Hamels, who signed a six-year, $144 million extension almost exactly one year ago. “I don’t make the decisions, so I wouldn’t know what sort of direction that’s going to entail.”

— Friday night crystallized why the defending world champions may need to sell: The Dodgers won a close game against a good team. The Giants lost a close game to a bad team. And it wasn’t the first time either of those things happened.

San Francisco is eight games back in the National League West. The way the Giants have fallen behind the Dodgers in recent days should make it easier for the team to shift focus toward rebuilding the once-dominant rotation for 2014.

The Giants have intriguing players to market, including right fielder Hunter Pence and relievers Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez. The Rangers have interest in Pence, while the Tigers are among the teams that have shown interest in the Giants’ relievers.

— After missing out on Matt Garza, the Red Sox are scouting virtually all available (and potentially available) starting pitchers.

Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana, Bud Norris, Yovani Gallardo and Edinson Volquez are among the starters their scouts have seen recently. The odds seem to favor Boston acquiring a starting pitcher between now and Wednesday, in part because the Red Sox farm system is deep enough to make it happen.

— One mildly surprising name on the Rangers’ wish list of right-handed bats: Paul Konerko of the White Sox. It’s not clear if Konerko is available, as the White Sox would be reluctant to trade a franchise icon unless Konerko fully embraced the move. Konerko also has full no-trade protection.

— Executives with teams around the majors have said consistently that they don’t expect the Miami Marlins to trade outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Perhaps more surprisingly, the Marlins have told clubs — so far — that they won’t move closer Steve Cishek, either.