Prior to Monday’s Phillies/Nationals tilt at Citizens Bank Park, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. spent nearly 20 minutes discussing various topics including the health of Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz, the return of John Lannan, and the comments made by Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels over the past week or so. It felt as though no stone had been unturned.
The most poignant remarks came when discussing the possibility of trades and if the Phillies could to the model the Boston Red Sox. If you remember last season, the Sox were able to unload three high-priced veterans to the Los Angeles Dodgers; Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett.
When asked if they could follow that path, Amaro said this:
“It’s a little different in their case. They had players at the major league level with large contracts that people still wanted. That may not be the case for us.”
With so much talk of Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon being two likely candidates to move at or near the trade deadline, this quotation stands out.
Clearly, he could not mean Lee and Papelbon. Although Lee makes $25 million per season through 2015 with an buyout $12.5 million, most teams would line up to acquire him. The same holds true with Papelbon, even at $13 million per through 2015.
Chase Utley, Michael Young, and Roy Halladay each make upwards of $15 million this season, but are free agents after the year. You wouldn’t necessarily move them, but they aren’t killing you long term either.
Jimmy Rollins makes a paltry $11 million this year and next and has an option for 2015 that maxes out at $8 million. Surely, Ruben didn’t mean J-Roll.
That leaves one person who fits the bill of a large contract another team would not want: Ryan Howard.
If we’re reading between the lines, Amaro is saying Howard’s contract is a mess and basically an immovable object. At $20 million this year, $25 million from 2014-16, and a $10 million buyout in 2017, he’s right.
With the comments made by Lee and Hamels about the Phillies lack of success – and the lacking playoff hopes that come with it - this adds to an already tumultuous first half of 2013. Perhaps Amaro viewed it as a chance to light a fire under his underachieving first baseman. Maybe he does include others in that category that he views as hard-to-move players.
Whatever the case, it clearly points to Howard as the man behind the quote.