The GM's Office: Philadelphia Phillies

Five GMs under pressure to make a deal 

July, 29, 2014
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Ruben Amaro Jr. AP Images/Matt SlocumThe Phillies must start the rebuilding process; Ruben Amaro Jr. has until 4 p.m. Thursday to begin it.
It's go time for major league general managers. This is the time they shine and broker deals that could make or break a team's season, or set in motion its offseason. But certain GMs are under more pressure to make deals than others. Who's under the most pressure? Let's take the temperature of the following GMs and see just how critical it will be for them to get something done.

1. Ruben Amaro Jr. | Philadelphia Phillies

There hasn't been a GM under this much pressure to make multiple deadline deals in a decade.

Mike Rizzo and Frank WrenAP PhotoWashington GM Mike Rizzo and Atlanta GM Frank Wren don't need to pull off a blockbuster this season.
Deadline objectives: NL East | NL Central | NL West | AL East | AL Central | AL West

The National League East has become a two-team race between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, with the second-place team still having a good chance to reel in one of the two wild-card berths. Neither team is expected to make a blockbuster deal by the trade deadline, but both are looking for the same thing: left-handed relief help and bench upgrades. Sometimes improving a team by inches rather than feet or yards can be the difference between making the postseason or going home.

The rest of the division should be sellers. The Marlins are hoping for enough wins between now and the deadline to become buyers, but realistically, they should be in sell mode. The Mets have Bartolo Colon and Daniel Murphy to offer in deals, while the Phillies should be open to trading every veteran on their roster.

In fact, the Phillies should be the center of attention between now and July 31 because there is not a "seller" in baseball with more talented difference-makers to trade. The difficult part for teams getting deals done with them will be dealing with all of the bad contracts, no-trade provisions and high return the Phillies are asking for in return.

With that in mind, let's take a look at where each team stands and who they should be looking to either acquire or trade away:


1. Washington Nationals: Buyers

Needs: Left-handed reliever and a bat off the bench.

Lefty reliever targets: Antonio Bastardo, Phillies; Neal Cotts, Rangers; Andrew Miller, Red Sox; James Russell, Cubs; Oliver Perez, Diamondbacks; Tony Sipp, Astros; Mike Dunn, Marlins.

Bench targets: Chris Carter, Astros; Chris Denorfia, Padres; Alejandro De Aza, White Sox; Jonny Gomes, Red Sox; Dayan Viciedo, White Sox; Jake Smolinski, Rangers; Mike Olt, Cubs; Drew Stubbs, Rockies.

What to expect: The Nationals don't need to make a move; they are the team to beat in the NL East and should be considered a legitimate World Series contender. They could stand to improve the two areas above, and I expect GM Mike Rizzo to upgrade one or the other by the trade deadline.

Trade I'd like to see happen: Right-handed pitching prospect Austin Voth to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for lefty reliever James Russell.

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Trades the Phillies should make now 

July, 20, 2014
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Ruben Amaro Jr. AP Images/Matt SlocumPhillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has a multitude of options at the MLB trade deadline.
The time has come for the Philadelphia Phillies to realize that it’s too late to retool. It’s time for them to put denial behind them and embrace the realities of a complete rebuild.

The Phillies have everything going for them in terms of a marketplace in their favor. There are very few teams that are pure “sellers” at this deadline, and many of them should be have already acted (like the Chicago Cubs) or don’t have the pieces to sell (like the Houston Astros). As a result, the Phillies are sitting in a perfect position for a rebuild.

Need a top-of-the-rotation starter with postseason success? Philadelphia has two in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Need an impact closer with an ERA closer to one than two? They have Jonathan Papelbon. Need a lefty reliever? They have Antonio Bastardo. Need a middle infielder with postseason success? They have second baseman Chase Utley and shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Need an outfielder with power? They have Marlon Byrd.

Now, wheeling and dealing all of these players over the next two weeks will not be as easy as making some standard trades. Many of these players have no-trade provisions or overvalued contracts with long-term exposure, and some are longtime Phillies who simply don’t want to get traded. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will have to get creative by being open to eating contracts or paying significant parts of contracts, convincing players to waive no-trade clauses as well as convincing other teams that some of the players are healthy. Furthermore, he'll have to get the fan base prepared for the loss of many of their favorite players. It’s not an easy task.

Amaro has had a lot of success over the years in Philadelphia since joining their front office back in 1998 as an assistant GM. He was promoted to GM in 2009 and has been there ever since. He’s overseen three first-place finishes in the NL East, followed by a third-, fourth- and, in all likelihood, fifth-place spot this year. His early success included the help of former GMs like Pat Gillick, and Ed Wade's previous work, but that shouldn’t take anything away from his accomplishments. However, the last few years have not been kind to him, and his popularity in Philadelphia and around baseball is at an all-time low.

However, he has a chance to change all of that -- and his legacy -- over the next two weeks. With some massive blockbusters and wheeling and dealing, he can make the future bright once again, but it can only happen with some serious and painful moves for everyone. The time has come to rebuild in the City of Brotherly Love, and here are seven trade suggestions that could start the process.

1. Hamels to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for center fielder Joc Pederson and left-handed pitcher Julio Urias

Joc Pederson
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsDodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson has All-Star potential.
The Dodgers have been linked to both David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays and Hamels. According to sources, the Dodgers are willing to part with one of their top-tier prospects but not two. But the reality is that with the real chance of the Dodgers winning a World Series either this year or next -- and the benefits that a pitcher of Hamels ilk would provide to that cause -- it’s hard to envision the Dodgers letting a teenager stand in the way of a deal.

In return, the Phillies will get their long-term solution in center field with Pederson. Pederson profiles out to a 25-homer, 25-steals type of player who has the potential of joining the 30/30 club, especially if he plays half of his games at Citizens Bank Park. He has a lifetime .305/.404/.515 slash line in five minor league seasons and is major league ready.

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Cole HamelsRich Schultz/Getty ImagesCole Hamels has just a 3-5 record, but his peripheral numbers are solid.
Throughout July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire each player.

Player: Cole Hamels | SP | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays

Before we dive into potential fits for Hamels, let's look at his unique contract situation and some recent history of big-name starting pitcher trades.

Contract: $22.5 million per year through 2018, with team option for $20 million or $24 million vesting option for 2019. He also has a limited no-trade provision, which will make it difficult to trade him if the Phillies' best deal is a team on that list.

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What would it take to get Marlon Byrd? 

July, 18, 2014
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Marlon ByrdJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesMarlon Byrd would bring solid outfield defense, decent pop and a veteran presence in the clubhouse.
Throughout July, Jim Bowden will look at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire each player.

Player: Marlon Byrd | OF | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals


Seattle Mariners

Why? The Mariners are second in the American League in team ERA behind only the NL West-leading Oakland Athletics. However, they are last in on-base percentage and 11th in runs scored. GM Jack Zduriencik knows his team has a decent shot at reaching the postseason, but he must acquire a bat or two by the trade deadline to improve its chances. Byrd is moderately priced, with the length of his contract (two years plus a third-year option for 2016) being the only drawback. Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Byrd down the stretch, and he helped them reach the postseason. He has a strong makeup and would fit in well in the Mariners' clubhouse.

Who? For Gabriel Guerrero in a straight-up one-for-one deal.

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David Price trade timeline in doubt 

July, 16, 2014
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David PriceAP Photo/Carlos OsorioThere are doubts David Price will be traded prior to the deadline, and the cost might be too high.

Many contending teams interested in David Price now aren't sure the Tampa Bay Rays will actually trade him before the trade deadline.

The impression teams are getting is that if the Rays manage to get back in the playoff chase, they will hang on to Price, and if they don't, they will trade him only if they get a better package than what the Chicago Cubs got for Jeff Samardzija, which eliminates a number of possible suitors.

The Rays would be looking for

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What would it take to get Papelbon? 

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
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Jonathan PapelbonRick Yeatts/Getty ImagesJonathan Papelbon is holding opposing hitters to a .177 batting average this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: Jonathan Papelbon | RP | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers


Los Angeles Angels

Why? Angels GM Jerry Dipoto stopped by the GM's office recently and said he's not done making moves; he'd like to add another reliever. Since DiPoto became the team's GM in October 2011, he has needed a defibrillator for many of the ninth innings; only three AL teams have blown more saves since the start of 2012. It's time for the Angels to solve it once and for all, and although they're hoping newly acquired Jason Grilli is the answer, they know Papelbon would be. Papelbon has converted 22 saves with a 1.21 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in 37 1/3 innings pitched. This is a no-brainer move for the Angels if they can get it done.

Who? The Phillies will target all of the Angels' top prospects, focusing more on overall quality rather than positional needs, realizing they could always spin the acquired assets for needs down the road.

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The Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs kicked off the baseball trade fireworks on the Fourth of July with a blockbuster deal that sent starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, among others.

With three weeks left until the trade deadline, here are four more blockbuster trades I'd like to happen:



San Diego Padres-Los Angeles Angels

Padres receive: 2B Taylor Lindsey, 3B Kaleb Cowart, SS Jose Rondon, and RHPs R.J. Alvarez and Victor Alcantara

Angels receive: C Yasmani Grandal and reliever Huston Street

The Angels have the second best record in baseball behind only the Oakland Athletics, and if it weren't for 12 blown saves by their bullpen, they would have the best record in the majors. GM Jerry DiPoto has done a great job upgrading the bullpen the past couple weeks with the acquisitions of Jason Grilli (from the Pirates) and Joe Thatcher (from the Diamondbacks), but why stop there? A blockbuster to get one of the game's best closers, in Huston Street, would be huge.

Street, 30, is controllable though 2015 at an affordable $7 million per season. He's also having a career year, with 23 saves, a 1.13 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. Add Street to the Angels' bullpen, and the team can start printing postseason tickets.

Grandal, who, at age 25, has yet to fully develop, would be the long-term catcher for the Angels and would benefit from playing under Mike Scioscia, a former All-Star catcher. Grandal has struggled the past two years at the plate, but his career numbers -- 16 homers, 64 RBIs and a slash line of .246/.349/.409 in 455 at-bats -- are still respectable. He would benefit from a change of scenery. He's a smart, good kid who I think would thrive in the Angels' environment, though he'd probably have to settle for a backup role this year.

In return, the Padres load up on prospects as their rebuilding program under the new GM gets under way.


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A.J. BurnettAP Photo/Charlie NeibergallWe may see A.J. Burnett suiting up for a former team again by the end of this season.
Over the course of July, Jim Bowden will be looking at a number of high-profile trade candidates and explain what it would take for certain clubs to acquire that player.

Player: A.J. Burnett | RHP | Philadelphia Phillies

Possible destinations: Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians


Pittsburgh Pirates

Why? The Pirates' rotation has been given a boost of late by Vance Worley and Jeff Locke, and the team is hoping Francisco Liriano not only returns from the disabled list soon but is more like the Liriano of 2013 than the one with a 4.60 ERA this season. However, the Pirates would feel better about their rotation if they could add one more veteran starter for the stretch drive, and Burnett could fill that void without a huge return. Burnett was well-respected in the Pirates' clubhouse, and viewed as a leader by their young pitchers. After a rough May, Burnett has thrown six consecutive quality starts, increasing his trade value.

Who? A package of 19-year outfielder Harold Ramirez and right-hander Clay Holmes should get the deal done from a player perspective, but the Pirates won’t even consider the deal unless the Phillies send back a significant amount of cash to help with the salary and buyout of the mutual option year on Burnett's contract.

Will it happen? Baseball-wise, this is a good fit for both teams.

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Kris BryantTony Farlow/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesCubs prospect Kris Bryant won't be seeing the majors anytime soon.
Perhaps the most obvious reason a top prospect isn't called up to the big leagues is he's simply not ready. For others, serious injuries have derailed their timeline to the big leagues, such as Miguel Sano (Minnesota Twins), Archie Bradley (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Addison Russell (Oakland Athletics).

Then there those prospects who are major league-ready but won't be brought up until mid-to-late June simply because their clubs want to ensure they don't qualify for Super Two status. This refers to their major league service time, which would allow them to become arbitration-eligible at the end of the 2016 season, as opposed to 2017. Gregory Polanco (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Andrew Heaney (Miami Marlins) are prime examples of this phenomenon.

As much as fans might want to see their teams' top prospects, a few who simply won't be in the big leagues anytime soon, regardless of injury or service time. Here are five:

1. Kris Bryant | 3B | Chicago Cubs

Just 12 months ago I said the Astros should draft Bryant as the first overall pick.

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Top 10 early trade candidates 

May, 12, 2014
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David PriceKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsIn what has become a yearly refrain, David Price should be on the July 31 deadline trading block.
The July 31 trade deadline is a little less than three months away. While every team is focused primarily on the draft right now, they’re also realizing that because of the sport’s parity and competitive balance, there could be fewer “sellers” at this year’s deadline than perhaps we’ve seen in decades.

In fact, there are just three teams more than 4 games out of the postseason: the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks.

I expect that group of teams to grow between now and the middle of July, but it will be no larger than more than seven or eight teams. With so few sellers expected, the asking prices for top talent will be exorbitant.

Here is my early list of 10 trade candidates to watch:

1. David Price | LHP | Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are hoping to be in a pennant race come the end of July, but after the season-ending injury to Matt Moore and a below .500 start, Price will have to be considered the early most sought after trade candidate in baseball. General manager Andrew Friedman knows that he’ll get more value for Price at the July trade deadline than he will in the offseason with only one year left on Price’s contract.

Further hurting Friedman's leverage is the fact that Price is off to a slow start, and he'll be hoping to get a haul similar to the one he received for James Shields prior to the 2013 season.

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Seven bold predictions for 2014 

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
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Cliff Lee Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesCliff Lee has a lot to be worried about if things go sideways for the Phillies.
With the start of the 2014 season upon us, it's time to take a guess at what might happen this year.

In this space last season, I predicted that Yasiel Puig would become an instant hit in Los Angeles and envisioned a last-place finish for the New York Yankees. Although the Yankees did not end up in the AL East cellar, they definitely fell off, and "Puigmania" did indeed ensue. So here are seven predictions I'm making for 2014.

1. Phillies finish last in the NL East

The Philadelphia Phillies might not have the worst roster in baseball, but they do have the oldest, and it's a team that has been on a steady decline for the past few years.

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MLB has never had more parity 

March, 15, 2014
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One of the main purposes of ESPN Insider's Future Power Rankings is to offer fans hope.

Even if your team is bad now, it might be really good in three years. The rankings are designed to peer into the projected future. However, this year’s FPR also illustrated something else: baseball has achieved a tremendous amount of parity. If you look at the overall scores, you'll see that the gap between No. 1 and No. 5 (25.8 points) is larger than the gap between No. 5 and No. 25 (23.8). This kind of parity keeps fans’ hopes alive because, year to year, any team could be that surprise contender.

The rankings showed there were four elite teams with scores well above the average: the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers. Conversely, there was a significant drop to the last four teams: the Philadelphia Phillies, Seattle Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers and Miami Marlins. But what about that middle 22 teams?

For fans celebrating their teams ranked just below the elite at fifth or sixth, not so fast. For fans upset their teams ranked as low as 24th or 25th, not to worry. The reality is, there isn’t much difference between the fifth-ranked team and the 26th-ranked team, thanks to this new competitive balance. Any of the teams within this range can easily move up or down within a year with some solid moves and decisions.

But how did baseball create such competitive balance so quickly?

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The missing link for every NL team 

January, 14, 2014
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Clayton KershawAP Photo/Jeff RobersonThe Dodgers likely will cease chasing Masahiro Tanaka after Clayton Kershaw gets his extension.
For the vast majority of major league teams, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training exactly a month from now. Usually teams are simply fine-tuning their rosters, whether it's that last utility bench guy or an additional bullpen arm.

But with teams from both leagues waiting on the fate of free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, many teams still have significant moves they must make to shape their team into a championship club. What is the missing link for each team? On Tuesday I will focus on the National League teams and Wednesday I’ll present the American League.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks

Missing link: Top-of-the-rotation starter
Solution: Sign RHP Masahiro Tanaka or Ervin Santana or Matt Garza
Both general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson’s option years for 2015 were not picked up, leading Towers to admit that both are on the hot seat to win this year. Every move they’ve made this offseason has involved trading future assets for win-now results. With this type of pressure on him, Towers knows the best way to keep his job is to add an elite starter.

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Offseason grades thus far: NL 

December, 15, 2013
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Curtis Granderson AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackCurtis Granderson went across town and helps the Mets' outfield substantially.
On Saturday, I graded every American League team based on the moves they have made thus far this season, and today we move to the NL.

While the free-agent class wasn't as exciting in years past, we've seen some bold trades that should change the baseball landscape in 2014 and beyond. (Teams are listed in order of their grade, by division.)

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