SAN DIEGO — It’s December and Ryne Sandberg already seems a bit tired of the question, because with the Philadelphia Phillies, it’s the only question.
How is this team going to get better?
“Well, first of all,” Sandberg said Tuesday during his media session at the MLB Winter Meetings, “I just see after the last couple seasons, and primarily last season, I see a need for change and to get some youth in there and some energy and athleticism.”
The Phillies were 73-89 in 2014, last in the NL East, and it doesn’t seem like they’ll finish any better than fourth in 2015 unless some changes are made. They were among the bottom third in the league in runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Their starting pitching ERA was 20th in the league. They’re saddled with expensive players who are mostly past their prime. These are not good times.
Cole Hamels is the Phillies’ best trade chip — he had a 2.46 ERA last year, he’s 30 and despite the fact that he’s owed $22.5 million for each of the next four seasons, there are many teams that would love to have Hamels in a trade. The Red Sox are supposedly chasing him. The Dodgers have been linked to Hamels. Brian Cashman would rappel down a million buildings if the Yankees could get Hamels (they probably don’t have the prospects it would take).
Pump your brakes on that though, guys. Because Sandberg says GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will have to be “wowed” to trade Hamels.
“There’s no way that Ruben’s going to just give away a player,” Sandberg said. “I mean, we’d have to be wowed to give up a guy like Cole Hamels, which would be a wow that would help us with the process and go in the direction that we want to go.”
Amaro has been accused of overvaluing his players and thus hindering the chances for rebuilding the Phillies through trades. You know the guy in your fantasy baseball league who does the same thing? Yeah, that. The stakes are much higher for Amaro and the Phillies, of course, because they don’t want to just sit idly and lose 90 games.
Sandberg was asked whether he thought he’d have Hamels on his roster for Opening Day. His response was as shruggy as you’d expect.
“I’m just waiting to see through this process to see what comes about,” Sandberg says. “Whether Ruben gets wowed or not is yet to be seen. If not, then he’s on our pitching staff, and we build some more starting pitching depth around him.”
Oh, Ryno, this is going to be a long year for you.
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