Tuesday, June 12, 2012

To Sell Or To Buy

'Tis better to sell and build for the future or to buy and salvage the present?

Those are the questions.

The answer should come from Florida shortly.  There, the Chase Utley soap opera, starring the unwitting second baseman, will play out in the heat and humidity.  There is little doubt Utley can hit low minor league pitching; the larger question is whether or not he can field at any level.  Utley holds the key to the Phils' short-term thinking, like it or not.  If he can handle the double duty, the Phils' alleged brain trust will believe they have already improved without making a single trade or sale and will think the season can be salvaged.  Such a conclusion would beg the question of whether or not half an Utley is better than no Utley at all, but the Phils have already tipped their hands by dragging out this will-he-or-won't-he comeback.

Many posters in the local blogosphere doubt the Phils can trade Cole Hamels for high value prospects or current big leaguers.  Their thinking goes like this:  no one is going to rent Hamels for half a season without a guarantee they can sign him long term.  The reasoning is faulty.  Plenty of teams would accept a half-season rental for a chance to hoist the World Series trophy.  Make no mistake about it.  The Phils have done it.  Will they get a major prospect in return instead of a first round draft pick if Hamels elects free agency?  No one knows...until they explore the possibilities, and even then, it's always a crap shoot.  Given the Phils' recent history of first round draft picks in general, I'd take my chances on a trade for prospects with some track record..

Whether or not the Phils will embark on a fire sale is another matter.  Shane Victorino is having a mediocre season but still commands value.  He seems to have worn out his welcome in Philadelphia though no one says as much.  Victorino has reached the status of a player who needs a change of scenery.

The Phils could also opt to move Cliff Lee if for no other reason than to shed salary.  Again, a serious contender is going to take a chance on Lee.  It is less likely the same contender(s) would take on his huge salary unless the Phils picked up a portion of it.

The other joker in the deck is Ryan Howard.  No one knows how well the Big Piece will recover from his Achilles rupture, but nearly everyone who plays a doctor on television and the internet thinks it's much harder for a big, heavy man to come back within a year.

In two weeks the Phils fell from 2.5 games out of first to 8 full games behind front-running Washington.  By the All Star break they easily could be further off the pace making the July 31 trade deadline a time to clean house.