Jul 24, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) in action in the second inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports

The trade chips for the Philadelphia Phillies

A few players for the Philadelphia Phillies have undoubtedly seen their names surface among the recent rash of trade rumors. Some make big money. Others, not so much. There are a couple of players that could certainly provide a decent return. In fact, upon listening to MLB.com’s Richard Justice on today’s Dan Patrick Show, Phils GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has the chips that could aid in a solid rebuilding effort.

Thing is, there are a few snags.

1. Cliff Lee‘s no-trade clause

According to Cot’s Contracts, Lee has a no-trade clause that’s a bit strange. He can block trades up to 20 teams, but there’s a list of teams he cannot. Those teams: Atlanta, Cleveland, Houston, Miami, Minnesota, New York Mets, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Washington. See anything strange there? All of the other NL East teams are on that list, meaning Lee would have no defense against a deal to those clubs.

With Lee having a year beyond 2014 on his current deal, the chances of heading to those four clubs is remote. Sure, teams are a little more willing to trade within a division these days as achieving the best return is more desirable. The more years on a contract, I believe, the less chance a trade can occur between teams within the same division. In essence, Lee will not be dealt to 24 teams, provided we all go with my theory.

Who does that leave? Cleveland, Houston, Minnesota, San Diego, Tampa Bay. You tell me if those five would be willing to take on Lee’s salary. The Phillies would have to kick in a fair amount of cash. And of those five, which team offers the chance at winning it all?

I can picture Lee not being traded by tomorrow’s deadline. If Lee is traded, teams will want to see another start, maybe even two, to see how the elbow is. Even if he is claimed on waivers, chances are the team will have to ask Lee to waive his no-trade clause.

2. Chase Utley is not going anywhere unless he wants to go

You know the San Francisco Giants (at least) would have interest in Utley. Another report I read stated the Oakland Athletics could be in the mix as well. Second base has been a void for both teams. He holds the 10/5 rights (ten years in the league with five years with current team), so he must agree to a trade. Having a no-trade clause is a moot point.

As far as the remainder of his contract, Utley will make $10 million next season. Well, it could be for $5 million more if he doesn’t spend any time on the disabled list due to a knee injury. He’ll be 36 then.

Now add three more years through vesting options. Those kick in with 500 plate appearances for the previous season. The vesting options become club options of Utley is unable to meet the 500 PA threshold.

3. Jimmy Rollins can nix any deal as well

Like Utley, Rollins is 35. He plays a more demanding position. Rollins has also attained 10/5 rights. There’s a chance (a slim one) this could be Rollins’ last year of his current deal.

According to Cot’s:

2015 option guaranteed at $11M with 1) 600 plate appearances in 2014 or 2) 1,100 PAs in 2013-14 and Rollins is not on disabled list at end of 2014 season (or if he is on the DL, a mutually agreed upon doctor deems him available for Opening Day 2015)

Rollins had 666 plate appearances last season and owns 457 this season. That total is 1123. He doesn’t need to amass those 600 PA for this season, but he will add to that total. Well, unless he’s benched or he hits the disabled list. And that would be the only thing standing in the way of the option vesting. If Rollins stays healthy, he’ll make $11 million next season.

Now, who would want to pay $11 million to a 36-year-old shortstop…outside of the New York Yankees? Note: Rollins will be 36 in November.

4. Jonathan Papelbon wants assurance that if he’s traded, he will be his new team’s closer.

Papelbon holds a limited no-trade clause, so he can block any deal with up to 17 teams. Granted, those can be waived. There’s also a vesting option for the 2016 season in his deal. If that option vests (100 games finished for 2014-2015 or 55 games finished in 2015), he would be due $26 million for the following two years.

No question that Papelbon his best season as a Phillie. I completely understand Papelbon wanting to continue to be a closer regardless of the uniform he would wear. That’s where he’s made is money. But there’s no way any team can give him that assurance. How do we know the Papelbon of 2014 will be the same in 2016?

Plus he’ll be 34 at the start of next season. Potentially $26 million for two more years? Again, the Phillies would be asked to toss in some coin.

But throwing in some money on any deal might not be all that bad. As history tells us, the more cash you have go out your window, the better the package you receive.

RAJ sure loves those vesting options.

So what viable trade chips do the Phillies have? Three names garnering a fair amount of attention are A.J. Burnett, Antonio Bastardo, and Marlon Byrd.

Can you honestly see Philly receiving a decent return for any of those three? Not enough to help bring the Phillies back to the days of winning five straight division titles. Not even close.

And that leads me to Cole Hamels. There have been varying reports in regards to Hamels being available. I’ve seen that he is. I recently heard that he isn’t. If any one Phillies player could see a good return, it would be Hamels. It would give them their best return. And yes, some money would most likely need to flow the other way as Hamels is due $22.5 million over each of the next four seasons.

Unless a team with deep pockets got him. Here’s something of interest on that front.

There is a no-trade clause, but like Lee’s, there are certain teams in which Hamels cannot block a deal. Those teams are Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, San Diego, St. Louis, Texas and Washington. There are some teams that have those deep pockets listed here.

Make no mistake about it. The Phillies need to get younger. Sending multiple players out of town doesn’t necessarily send a good signal to the fanbase, but if there is one team that desperately needs the injection of youth, it’s Philly.

A fire sale? If need be.

Tags: Philadelphia Phillies

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