What’s next for Phils as deadline approaches?
All right, now that we know Cole Hamels is staying, what might the Phillies be up to at the trade deadline?
According to sources, Shane Victorino remains the Phillie most likely to be dealt before next Tuesday’s deadline. The Pirates want him, sources say. The Dodgers also have interest. The hitch? No team has yet come forward with a package that would entice the Phillies to make a move. (The Reds reportedly turned down an offer
There have been reports that the Phillies are looking to deal Hunter Pence. While the Phillies have indeed gauged interest on Pence, it would be difficult to part with him and still make a playoff charge over the final two months. If the Phils become full-blown sellers in the next week, Pence could go. If they fancy themselves as a playoff hopeful – and after four straight wins, three by comeback against Milwaukee and its wretched bullpen, the Phillies do -- they might have to hang on to Pence, at least for the remainder of the season. With Hamels on the books for $24 million per season over the next six years, the Phils could look to shed payroll over the winter and Pence, who could make about $15 million in arbitration, could be moved then.
Cliff Lee’s name remains warm on the trade front, but his situation is like Pence’s: The Phils probably need him to make a playoff run. Shopping him over the winter could make more sense to the Phils' short-term goals.
Juan Pierre is another player who has garnered interest, particularly from Cincinnati. Placido Polanco’s recent sore back probably takes him out of play. Joe Blanton could probably be had, but teams haven’t been knocking down the Phils' door for him.
Victorino will be eligible for free agency at season’s end, and it’s unlikely the Phillies will re-sign him. Dealing him now would save the club about $3 million in payroll, which would help the team get under the $178 million luxury-tax threshold. The Phils opened the season with a $174 million payroll and bonuses and reinforcements from the minors have put the team close to the threshold. If the Phils go over $178 million, they would pay a 17.5 percent tax on every dollar they go over. Second-time offenders pay 30 percent, so this is a serious concern.
Club president David Montgomery was asked Wednesday whether he believed the Phillies were currently under the threshold.
“Probably not,” he said.
Montgomery called tax payments “unproductive payroll.” While he prefers to stay under the tax threshold, Montgomery acknowledged that it might be necessary to go over the threshold this season or next.
With a week to go before the trade deadline, Montgomery said the Phillies were neither buyers nor sellers.
“We’re improvers,” he said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve. We had a really disappointing first half, but there’s so much left of this year.
“We have the club we envisioned now,” he added, referring to a healthy Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. “We hope we can build some excitement with that.”
Meanwhile, Victorino hopes to remain part of the excitement. He said it would be difficult to leave.
“Of course, why wouldn’t it be?” he said. “I made myself the player I am in this city. But I’m in a Phillies uniform now and that’s my focus.”E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org