Phillies Gone Crazy: GM Indicates Lee, Hamels, Papelbon Available

2014 Payroll Breakdown: Part Four
Scouting the Free Agent Market: Joaquin Benoit
No chance I'm posting a picture of Lee in a post-Indians jersey. (Elsa/Getty Images)
No chance I’m posting a picture of Lee in a post-Indians jersey. (Elsa/Getty Images)

If the Phillies are selling, the Yankees should be interested in buying. At the start of the off-season it didn’t seem likely that the Phillies were in any kind of selling mode. Does a team that spends $44 million on Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd sound like a team that is ready to trade away its best players?

In the last few days, though, the rumor mill has churned out plenty of Phillies content, mostly related to them potentially trading their most expensive players. It started when we learned that they want to trade Jonathan Papelbon and his entire contract, using the cash savings for a starting pitcher. Peter Gammons took the issue further, saying the Phillies might even attach OF Domonic Brown to a Papelbon trade to sweeten the pot.

Trading a high-salary closer doesn’t necessarily fly in the face of the Phillies’ off-season moves to date. If they can free up enough cash to sign one of the free agent starters while losing only Papelbon, they could be better off in the long run. The rumors from this morning, on the other hand, will make you scratch your head. They might also make you say “gimme gimme gimme.”

Buster Olney reported that the Phillies “have indicated to other teams they are ready and willing to talk about Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in trades.” So, to review: the Phillies want to trade Papelbon to free up cash to sign a starting pitcher, but also are seeking to trade one of their very good starting pitchers. OK. Far be it from me to question the wisdom of Ruben Amaro, Jr. It’s his club and he can run it how he sees fit. It just so happens that the Yankees could be beneficiaries here.

Hamels, at age 30, might seem the more attractive of the two. Yet he has five years and $118.5 million left on his contract, including a $6 million buyout on a $20 million option for 2019. It’s not the worst contract for a 30-year-old; I’m sure he’d get more than that if he were a free agent today. Of course, his age and general effectiveness (2013 notwithstanding), he’ll probably fetch a decent price in a trade.

Lee, on the other hand, has two years and $62.5 million left on his contract — though that could be three years and $77.5 million, given his vesting option. That’s a lot of money annually, but the short-term nature of the deal, combined with Lee’s general elite level of play, makes that deal more palatable. It would certainly free up payroll for the Phillies, who could then sign another player to a dumb contract.

Plenty of roadblocks exist between the Yankees and Lee. For starters, Lee can block trades to 21 clubs, and surely the Yankees are on his list. It’s tough to forget that he spurned more guaranteed money from the Yankees — six years and $140 million at least, and it was rumored that the Yankees added a seventh year to the deal — in order to sign with the Phillies. Throughout the process we heard of Lee’s reluctance to play in New York, citing their older roster* and an incident wherein New York fans allegedly spit on his wife.

Time, of course, can change matters. The Yankees are looking a bit better than the Phillies right now, so Lee, who hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2011, could be more amenable to a trade. That’s when we hit another roadblock: the Phillies’ demands. According to Jayson Stark, the Phillies will want the receiving team to take on all of Lee’s salary, plus give up a “huge return.” That makes the deal seem less likely — not only because the Yankees don’t have much in the way of major prospects, but because Brian Cashman has shown no indications of trading prospects for a player with a huge salary (paying twice, as he says it).

Few teams can afford a contract of Lee’s size, even though it runs only two or perhaps three years. That gives the Yankees an advantage. Given their need for pitching, and the immense help that Lee would provide on that front, they should look into a trade. Yet it’s unlikely anything gets done here. The Phillies want it all, and it doesn’t make sense for teams to give that up. Yet given the Yankees’ needs, we can all dream a little.

2014 Payroll Breakdown: Part Four
Scouting the Free Agent Market: Joaquin Benoit
  • Anthony

    I wonder if NYY could get Papelbon and Utley. Fills two holes.

    • TWTR

      That’s about $40m in salary, so unless the Phillies want to take back Tex and/or the Yaankes want to increase the payroll by a lot, probably not.

    • Rick

      Easiest “that’s what she said” ever?

      • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?


  • John Romano

    Gardner and prospects for Lee and Papelbon?

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Where’s Melky and IPK when you need them?

      • lightSABR

        Or that hotshot young catcher who did so well in September a few years ago. What was his name again?

        • lightSABR

          I could have sworn he was supposed to be reaching the majors any time now…

          • TheEvilUmpire

            Didn’t we already trade him for Lee? Oh wait no, that Smoak kid is so much better…

            • lightSABR

              Can I just tell you how profoundly grateful I am not to be a Mariners fan?

              • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

                Something something Thank the good lord something something…

                • lightSABR

                  Something something AMEN!

            • FLYER7

              Yeah some guy Jack Z in Seattle but the screws to Lee to NY over some kid David Adams lol

            • LK

              I liked this joke better when it looked like Montero was actually better than Smoak.

              • lightSABR

                That’s right. Today Smoak’s as valuable (by fWAR) as Chris Stewart, whereas Montero’s more like Vernon Wells.

                (I repeat: I’m really, really glad I’m not a Mariners fan.)

    • D$1184

      Doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Phillies.

  • Farewell Mo

    I’d do the dance of joy for either Lee or Hamels but I don’t see the Yankees having the prospects to get the deal done and I can’t see the Philles just dumping them for salary relief.
    The Yankees one surplus is outfielders but as per Joel Sherman today, none of their AA outfielders have much value at this point and it’s gonna take a lot more than Gardner to get one of those guys. I guess with McCann, maybe you can trade Sanchez in a deal but that sure would be painful.

    • FLYER7

      Ready or not Heathcott has to come up if something happens in the OF in 2014 or SWB better have some veteran AAAA OFers available in a pinch

    • I’m One

      maybe you can trade Sanchez in a deal but that sure would be painful.

      Yet, I’d do it in a second. Who knows what Sanchez will become? We just can’t tell with prospects. (See: Montero, Jesus)

      • Preston

        I prospect hug as much as the next guy. But for somebody of Lee or Hamels ability, I’m fine taking on the contract and giving up Sanchez plus.

  • Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    I honestly wouldn’t put so much stock into these rumors. I think the Phillies are trying to build for the now, but if a team were to come along and blow them away for Lee or Hamels then they would listen. With pitching on the FA market or the trade market (aside from Price) being less than spectacular, they would be dumb not to at least take offers. Nothing new to report here.

    • Jersey Joe


  • Bobby D

    This is it!! If there is any way you can get Cliff Lee you do it. Makes the Yankees a contender again. Right now this is an 85 win team at the most and Lee changes that to a playoff contender. If not him since the cost is indeed high another ace would be needed, but who else is available?

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Careful dude, you’re drooling all over your keyboard…

  • OldYanksFan

    Forget about Hamels. He still has value to the Philly’s future. But unless they plan on winning soon, Lee doesn’t have much value. Frankly, at 2/$62.5m (highest paid player in MLB), I’m not sure they can get much back.

    Really… only a contender would be interested, and I can’t see someone paying that kind of money AND giving up some prime prospects.

    • TWTR

      Yeah, unless the Phillies’ ask drops to a salary dump-based price (and of course, the Yankees want to spend really big), it makes little sense.

      They did burn about $30m last season on some really bad (or likely to get injured) players last season, so it’s not out of the question that spending big a good player might interest them more.

    • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

      Yeah I think anything other than salary relief for Lee is a pipe dream on the Phillies part.

      I’d happy give it to them if I were Cashman, but I wouldn’t also include meaningful chips. Or prospects.

      • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?


  • cooolbreez

    no way in Hell pinstripes for Paplebon.

    Maybe we do have a shot at the Lee/Hamels as few teams have the $ to take on thoses salaries and we do have prospect depth at catcher.

  • Darren

    The game Cliff Lee pitched aginst the Yankees in the WS was one of the best pitching performances I can ever remember seeing. Truly an amazing thing to witness.

    So, Zoilo, Ronnie and Cito Culver for Lee? Sound fair?

    • TheEvilUmpire

      They probably wouldn’t even do it for our whole top 10 prospect list.

    • jjyank

      You’re joking, right?

      • Darren

        yes! just a joke.(not about Cliff Lee game, that WAS awesome)

    • lightSABR

      You’d probably have to throw in Dante Bichette and Austin Aune to get it done. ;)

      • I’m One

        Yeah, that sounds fair. Get it done, Cash!

  • sevrox

    Like Mariano said, if the Yankee fans can give Robertson a little time and patience (paraphrased), he’ll do just fine.

    The time and patience thing is a might daunting for those fans <40 years of age.

    Would like to see Lee – would like to see Hamels more.

    • VT Yankee Fan

      You must be one of the “old” guys like me who shake their some on here.

      • sevrox

        Age is in the low-50’s unlike the temp here in SE PA. Started following the Yanks when CBS still owned them – now THOSE were dark years.

  • Dr. Grenaldine

    This is JUST what the doctor ordered!

    If there were a way to get Lee/Hamels and Utley – that would be awesome! Papelbon isn’t necessary but if that Yankees land him somehow, I wouldn’t be disappointed. I just think the position players and starting pitchers are way more important…and Cashman has openly stated this as well that the closer role is his last priority.

    • Rick

      Why re-sign Utley only to trade him a month later?

      • Dr. Grenaldine

        I agree…but it’s not unheard of.

        The Red Sox did the same thing to Arroyo on a much worse scale. They signed him to a “hometown discount” only to trade him immediately after. So it does happen.

        • Scully

          LOL, I forgot about that with Arroyo. Too bad he never got the chance (or hasn’t yet) to stick it to them in a meaningful game.

  • Dicka24

    I’ll repost what I wrote in the Colon thread.

    I highly doubt Hamels is a salary dump type deal. He’s a bonafied ace in his prime, signed long term at what is now decent dollars. He will cost more than the Yankees can pay. I don’t think the Yanks can put together a package for him. If they could, I’d do it ASAP.

    Lee is the more attainable arm of the two for the Yankees. He’s older, makes a ton, and is closer to a salary dump than Hamels ever will be. That’s not to say he won’t cost some pieces, but his price I think the Yanks could meet. The question is, what would Lee’s annual money mean for Operation 189? His avg is what, $25 million per?

    If I’m the Yankees, I’d consider throwing Operation 189 out the window, if I could land one of Hamels or Lee. Especially if they could also land Tanaka too. Imagine a rotation of:

    Hamels or Lee

    That would be a World Series contending rotation for sure. That leaves out Pineda too. I guess he’d be Tanaka insurance. Slot Nova as the #4, and Pineda as the #5, unless one or the other is used as a trade chip. Too bad Pineda’s seen as damaged goods, cuz he’d have given the Yanks some ammo to go after Hamels.

    One question, assuming Lee is traded to the Yankees, how would his money count against the tax? His deal is 2 years, with an option. That option has something like a $12 million buyout. So it the Avg spread over 2 years, or 3 years, and at what dollar amount? Is the buyout calculated over the 2 years, or 3, and is the nonguaranteed option money used in the calculation? Just curious if anyone knows.

    • Jersey Joe

      If they acquire Tanaka, they won’t go for Lee/Hamels also. This makes no sense; I was looking for the sarcasm tag.

      • Dicka24

        I don’t know why acquiring one would exclude you from acquiring the other. It’s not as if the Yankees have high end, young pitchers waiting in the wings. Plus, the time table for each players acquisition will be different. You may have to decide on one, before you know the status of the other. Lee could get traded tomorrow at the Meetings, and Tanaka may not get posted, or may sign with another team. Then you’re hosed both ways. The one resource the Yankees have, is money. The resource they’re short on, is minor league talent. If you can get Lee for lesser prospects, at the cost of money, the Yankees should seriously consider it. If they can add a pitcher like Tanaka on top of the that, again, for the cost of money, they’d be fools not to. If the WSJ is correct, the Yankees lost $58 million just in ticket sales last year, after missing the playoffs. I think adding Lee and Tanaka (if possible) would go a long way toward recouping all that lost revenue. What it would do, is force the Yankees to flush Operation 189 down the drain.

        • TWTR

          You’re right. If they want to win, they have to spend big, really big. That Hal would even cite $189m as a goal while simultaneously talking about fielding a championship team every single year is laughable.

          • Mike

            Yea. The Red Sox significantly overspent in order to win it all last year. We have to do the same.

    • TheBadOwl

      Cashman has said that the #5 role is going to be a competition. Granted that things are always subject to change, but I could see a deal like this going down:

      Philly gets: Ivan Nova, Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Zoilo Almonte
      NYY gets: Cliff Lee

  • Roadgeek Adam

    “I’m still baffled to how Ruben Amaro Jr still has a job”

    That describes this being even a possibility.

  • TheEvilUmpire

    Didn’t we already trade him for Lee? Oh wait no, that Smoak kid is so much better…

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Reply fail.

  • Nope

    F*ck Lee, let him rot in Philly.

    And that b*tch Papelbon as successor to Mo? I’d honestly rather come in last place.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Now tell us how you really feel…

  • Get Phelps Up (looking for a new name)

    Please no Papelbon. There are so many better ways to solidify a bullpen.

  • We Need a Starter

    10:20am: ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets that the only way the Phillies would move Hamels or Lee would be in a “win-win” situation in which they receivea huge return and shed the entirety of the remaining salary. In other words, a trade is unlikely.

    8:18am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also hears that both Philadelphia aces are in play, but the Phillies won’t eat any of the remaining money on either contract (Twitter link).

  • Kenny

    Give up anything we can, get back Utley, Lee, Hamels, Papelbon, and Brown. Get it done!

  • FLYER7

    Think Yankees can piece together bullpen with some low cost signees and minor league depth. Will be interesting to see who survives the Rule 5 draft and if anyone is taken will they be offered back in March?

  • Fernando

    See I was already beaten to the bleep Lee comment. No desire to add someone that doesn’t want to play in NY.

    As for Papelbon, not a fan but curious on what it would type of return they would want for him/Brown. He would strengthen the pen and Brown would be a great trade chip in the hunt for a SP, though I would want to include Ichiro’s salary in that deal.

  • LK

    A move for Cliff Lee (or someone like him) isn’t a luxury for this team, it’s what they need to do to put a contender on the field this year. Unfortunately a move like that doesn’t seem likely, barring Tanaka getting posted and going on to have instant success.

  • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

    This has shades of a Dodgers-Red Sox redux, this time Yankees-Phillies.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Yanks (literally) trade the farm and take on all that payroll…Lee, Hamels, Papelbon, Utley, Brown. I wouldn’t be surprised but I would definitely shit my pants. And then I’d have to decide how I felt about it. I think good.

    • Mike

      I think the Dodgers also gave up very good pitching prospects in that deal.

      *I don’t really mind giving up any prospects if we get that haul.

  • Mr. Pappageorgio

    Pappelbon is a complete bum. How could anyone even consider him being the replacement for Mariano? (not that he can be replaced). You’d be going from one of the classiest, most professional baseball players of all time, to the games most demonstrably douchiest and immature player.

  • Travis M. Nelson

    Not fair to say that Hamels was effective “notwithstanding 2013”. He was exactly as effective in 2013 as he’d been in 2012, he just wasn’t successful at posting W’s because the Phils never hit when he pitched. 9th worst run support among qualified MLB pitchers.

  • Nathan

    I swear Cliff Lee is like the high school girl that you wanted but she spurned you for another guy. A few years later, you hear she split from her boyfriend and wants to go on a date but then things keep working against you getting together.

  • qwerty

    Our best prospect, Zoilo Almonte for Cole Hamels.

  • EndlessJose

    Cole Hamels 2013 was actually great and better than anything we had last year.200 inning pitcher and 200 strikeouts guy is not bad to trade.

    He is only 29 years old and being a lefty would be great.

  • dkidd

    my phillie friends pronounce ruben amaro “ruins tomorrow”