Phillies' Amaro: No untouchables
Ruben Amaro says he'll pursue whatever deals he can to help the team's rebuilding project.
A.J. BURNETT'S decision to turn down a guaranteed $12.75 million from the Phillies - and what could have been as much as $14.5 million if he had reached incentives - was apparently due to the pitcher's preference to play for a playoff-hopeful team in 2015.
Through his agent, Burnett, who turns 38 in January, said he plans to pitch next season. Burnett flirted with retirement last winter; this offseason, he wants to land on a contending team.
It's worth wondering, then, if other veterans on the current Phillies roster would also rather be elsewhere come Opening Day.
On the first day of free agency, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was open to all possibilities as he begins the challenging process of remaking his roster. Although Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are likely to return in 2015, Amaro isn't ruling out anything this winter.
As players with at least 10 years of service time and 5 years with their current team, Utley and Rollins have full no-trade clauses. Both have been steadfast in their preference to remain in Philadelphia.
"I would expect that they would be with us," Amaro said yesterday of his veteran middle-infield duo. "But we're keeping our minds and ears open. If there's an opportunity that matches what they'd like and we like, we have to keep our eyes open to explore all things."
Rollins and Utley - who could interest the Dodgers, Yankees and Athletics, all in need of middle-infield help - both turn 36 this winter. Hamels, meanwhile, will be just 31 on Opening Day.
Since his current contract can keep him in a Phillies uniform for as many as 5 more years, Hamels could still be an important piece of the future should the Phillies contend again in the next half-decade. Then again, as the only former All-Star on the roster who still is in his prime, Hamels would also fetch the biggest return in a trade, which could accelerate the rebuilding process.
"I think we're right in the sweet spot with Cole," Amaro said. "Because we can go either way. We can't close off any discussion. At the same time, he'd be the perfect guy to build around as well. He has a great contract compared to what might be going on with the elite pitchers [in free agency]. And I don't know if there was a better pitcher in baseball [in the] second half of the year."
Hamels had a career-best 2.46 ERA in 30 starts this season. From June 1 on, he had a 1.91 ERA in 23 starts.
In the last 5 years, Hamels' 3.00 ERA is the fourth best in baseball (among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched). Hamels is owed a minimum of $96 million over the next 4 years.
While that profile - along with his success in the postseason - might make Hamels an attractive option for teams in search of pitching this winter, those teams would also have to forfeit multiple prospects to pry the pitcher from the Phillies. Teams like the Red Sox, Cubs and Dodgers, for example, could spend between $150 million and $200 million on free agents Jon Lester or Max Scherzer, or they could spend $96 million and prospects for Hamels.
While it's debatable whether the Phillies would actively shop Hamels, they will be listening if a team comes calling. There are plenty of players on the roster they will actively shop, namely the other 30-something veterans without full no-trade clauses: Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon and Marlon Byrd.
The $60 million remaining on Howard's contract - and his declining skill set - make him very difficult to trade. But the Phillies' brass isn't going to be opposed to eating a large chunk of money this winter if the end result is improving the roster for 2015 and beyond.
The trade market for Phillies veterans could be slow to develop, however, as teams are likely to check out the free-agent market first. If the Orioles are unable to re-sign free agent Nelson Cruz, for example, Byrd could be an alternative.
For the next 3 months, Amaro and the Phils' front office will consider everything as they attempt to reconfigure the roster. Both Amaro and acting team president Pat Gillick have used the words "youth" and "athleticism" when talking about what they'd like to bring to Clearwater in February.
Yesterday, Amaro brought up Cody Asche, Maikel Franco, Domonic Brown and Freddy Galvis as young players the Phillies plan to let develop in 2015.
"It's clear we have to go into a rebuilding mode," Amaro said. "We have to get younger, more athletic . . . That's really the goal. We're keeping our thoughts and eyes open and not leaving anything off the table. We'll talk about any player. There are no untouchables. But we'll keep as many young players as we can."