DURING BASEBALL'S General Managers Meetings in Florida this week, word seeped out that the Phillies were willing to listen to offers for their young closer, Ken "100-miles-an-hour" Giles.
On the surface, it made no sense. With a new team president and a new GM, the Phillies are in rebuilding mode and Giles, at age 25, would seem to fit that rebuild. But with no proven ace and none projected on the immediate horizon, they seem at least several seasons away from having a staff that could either prop up the young positional talent they hope trickles in over that time, or make Giles' considerable talents more than an occasional salve for win-starved fans beaten down not only by the baseball team's lack of success since 2011, but the win-much-later philosophy of their professional basketball franchise, the close-but-no-cigar personality of their professional football team, and the past organizational philosophy of the hockey team that can best be described by the visual of a beheaded chicken.
It is also possible that Giles, with his flailing mechanics, develops arm trouble, a common occurrence among many young hard-throwing closers of the past. So if you could get a potential ace or everyday player, why not listen?
Which leads right into that annoying reality of the above-mentioned hockey team, which finally seems to have found a head, glued it back on, and is amid a sensible but painful rebuild that has focused not as much on scoring goals as on stopping them.
The Flyers' prospects on the near horizon who generate the most excitement are almost exclusively defensemen: Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim and June's seventh overall pick, Ivan Provorov. All receive high grades for star potential by HockeysFutures.com, and each features a different set of strengths. Morin's a bruiser; "Ghost" is a sleek skater with a big-league shot; Sanheim a deft puckhandler; and Provorov is said to have some of all three, and a high hockey IQ, to boot.
But all are at least a year, and probably more, away from playing together. And it is reasonable to expect it will be a few years beyond that before they have enough experience to both forge a team personality and fuel the repeated Stanley Cup runs GM Ron Hextall has targeted as his ultimate goal.
By then, Claude Giroux will be well into his 30s, after beginning his NHL career at the ripe old age of 20. That's hardly unusual in hockey, but it's an oft-overlooked difference between hockey and other pro sports in measuring when an athlete peaks. You play an 82-game schedule at 20, you will feel it in your body at an earlier age than someone. At least most of the time.
You can gamble that Giroux, of slight build and generously listed as 5-11, will buck this trend, just as the Phillies once bet that Chase Utley would return to form after tearing up his knee. Just know the odds are long.
The Flyers have made way too many of these bets over their history, and particularly over my 23 years around this team. It's a big part of why their organizational philosophy over the years - so often expressed by eternally optimistic owner Ed Snider - is that any team making the playoffs has a puncher's chance to skate around with the Cup.
This is no dis of Giroux. It's the opposite. He plays his guts out on most nights, is good in the room, and is a prime-time talent who - unfortunately for him and us - is in his prime years right now. His size, his injury history already, suggests strongly that his value will never be higher.
Ask yourself this: If your fantasy team looked as the Flyers do now and you were building for a big payoff down the road, would you not see what you could get for him in future talent?
Well, that's the Flyers' current dilemma. Or it should be. The more you watch the cast assembled around him play, the more delusional it seems to believe that they are a better team than the last two seasons would indicate. They are saddled with lopsided contracts; their lack of secondary scoring has existed too long now to suggest there is more talent there than the numbers indicate. As Luke Schenn said during a between-period interview the other night, "We're not in a position to take any team lightly."
Nor will they be, with this cast, for the foreseeable future. And so, if the goal is truly to build this team through the draft, and that draft has produced far more talent on the back end than the front, doesn't it make sense to see whether you can even that up by dealing your most valuable piece?
I know. The Flyers did this once, trading away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter for much of its current core. It might have been then-GM Paul Holmgren's finest hour, but the success of that core has been greatly compromised by his other ones - the big, long-term contracts handed out to Chris Pronger, Ilya Bryzgalov and, more recently, Vincent Lecavalier and Andrew MacDonald, to name a few.
And if he were still making the deals, I probably wouldn't even think this unthinkable thought, of trading the most compelling reason to watch this team for the great unknown.
But if you're going to rebuild, shouldn't it be all-in?
To quote my favorite character from HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," Jimmy Darmody:
"You can't be half a gangster, Nucky. Not anymore."
On Twitter: @samdonnellon