A BUYER'S GUIDE to the Philadelphia Phillies . . .
In the market for a last-minute addition to your already-formidable roster? Welcome to Philadelphia, where the Phillies finally are acknowledging what most of the rest of the world has understood for at least the last month. For a few weeks, they tried to pretend they believed they were on the verge of making a charge up the National League East standings. Alas, eight-game losing streaks are the stuff epiphanies are made of, and the Phillies experienced theirs over the weekend in Detroit.
Here's a handy buying guide with everything you need to know about what Ruben Amaro Jr. has to offer, along with what it will cost.
What he brings: Don't try to play coy. You know darn well what he brings. A 2.52 ERA in 11 postseason starts, along with 89 strikeouts, 10 walks and two - two! - home runs in 82 innings. This year, he is averaging more than seven innings per start with a 3.05 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9. Oh, and he's used to changes of scenery.
What he'll cost: If you don't have a young hitter with star potential who is near major league ready, don't even bother asking. The Phillies really don't want to trade Lee, but they understand that he might be their only shot of fielding a team in 2014 that looks significantly different from the slop fans have witnessed this year.
You'll also need to throw in a young pitcher who can contribute next season, along with a third prospect who has serious potential, probably from the lower levels of your minor league system. Oh, and did we mention that Lee still has about $71 million owed to him between now and the end of 2015 (including the buyout of an option for 2016)? Amaro is going to try to get you to assume responsibility for as much of that money as he can. But make no mistake, it's the talent level of the prospects that matters most.
Fine print: Lee was scratched from his most recent start with what the team described as a stiff neck. As of Saturday they did not expect him to land on the disabled list. Also, he can block deals to all but eight teams. Chances are, your team is one of the eight.
Suitors: The Red Sox have been connected to Lee in recent days, but don't count out teams like the Cardinals and the Tigers. Mike Illitch has made it clear that he wants to win a World Series before he leaves this good earth, and the Cardinals would love to add a veteran Game 2 starter behind Adam Wainwright to take some pressure off the youngsters behind him. The Dodgers probably do not have the motivation or the prospects.
A trade for Lee would not fit the profile of the Rays, and it is hard to imagine Lee wanting to go back to Cleveland because of how much he likes the atmosphere of the northeastern baseball towns. The Diamondbacks don't seem likely to mortgage the future for a season when they might not even qualify for the playoffs. Oakland is not the kind of situation a player waives his no-trade clause for.
Scratch Atlanta and Washington because the Phillies are not going to suffer the indignity of having to face Lee four times a season over the next couple of years. Scratch Texas because of its trade for Matt Garza. Brian Cashman seems to understand he does not have a World Series contender this season, and the Orioles already traded for Scott Feldman.
So there it is: Boston, St. Louis, Detroit, and throw in the Pirates and Reds as serious darkhorses.
What he brings: You general managers love your closers, and Papelbon is everything you think a closer should be. He has a World Series ring, and has allowed just three runs in 27 playoff innings. This year, he has a 2.21 ERA, and while his strikeout numbers are down significantly from his career norm, an 8.0 K/9 is not too shabby.
What he'll cost: The Phillies need talent that can help them within the next 2 years. The better the talent, the more money they'll pick up. Papelbon is owed roughly $30.25 million through the end of the 2015 season. Give up a top-50 prospect and another usable piece and Amaro should be willing to eat more than half of that amount. Remember, the Phillies have money. What they don't have is developed talent that can prevent them from plunging into a Cubs-like abyss.
Fine print: Papelbon's velocity has dropped from the 93-94 mph range to 90-91. He is 32 years old. He has always been an extreme fly-ball pitcher. Those fly balls have been a lot louder this season. Caveat emptor, my friends. Caveat emptor.
Suitors: The Indians, Red Sox, Tigers, Orioles and Dodgers all have bullpens that rank in the bottom half of the majors in ERA. The Dodgers just might have the GM and the bank account to do it.
What he brings: Plenty of experience, postseason and otherwise. And a .277/.342/.402 batting line. He won't give you much power, or much defense, but he'll give you a professional at-bat.
What he'll cost: Nothing that will hurt you to part with. A lower-tier pitching prospect, and then it's about who will eat the most money.
Fine print: What you see is pretty much what you get.
Suitors: Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers.
What he brings: Not much power, at least not this season. But he has a track record as an outstanding clutch hitter, especially in the postseason. And you won't find many better defenders behind the plate.
What he'll cost: You'll probably have to give up something of value since Ruiz doesn't make much money and he happens to be a fan favorite in Philadelphia.
Fine print: You'll be paying for a track record, because Ruiz has not been very good at all offensively this season. But he does have the potential to get hot.
Suitors: Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, Rays.
Kyle Kendrick isn't the kind of pitcher you acquire to put you over the hump, but he does have some value. Hard to see any of the contender targeting him, though. Chase Utley appears to be staying put. Jimmy Rollins has full no-trade protection and wants to remain with the Phillies. Cole Hamels isn't going anywhere, nor is Domonic Brown.