MLB Bettors Beware! Phillies' Fire Sale About to Begin

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 5:47 AM GMT

The Red Sox will start selling off pieces soon, indicating that this season's hopes are over. There's a National League version of Boston, and that's Philadelphia. Should you steer clear of backing the Phillies on MLB odds?

When Do Eagles Start Playing?
At least the Red Sox have enough talent to likely bounce back next season and maybe do a worst-to-first turnaround in the AL East like they did in 2013. Philadelphia might have the most broken roster in baseball right now because the Phillies have so many veterans on unmovable contracts.

For example, first baseman Ryan Howard is making $25 million this year, $25 million in 2015, $25 million in 2016 and has a $23 million team option in 2017 with a $10 million buyout. Whoever negotiated that for Howard deserves a raise, while the Phillies' front office type who gave him that better be working at McDonald's now. Howard has 16 homers and 62 RBIs but is hitting just .224, can't run and is terrible defensively. Can you blame Manager Ryne Sandberg for recently benching him? Howard won't be traded because not a soul will touch that contract.

How about lefty pitcher Cliff Lee? He is guaranteed $48 million through the end of next season because of the $12.5 million buyout attached to his  vesting option for 2016. Lee (4-5, 3.78) recently returned from missing two months on the DL and he hasn't looked good in losing both starts. There's no chance he is traded by Thursday's deadline because he will pass through waivers and any possible suitors will want to make sure he's healthy and back performing at a high level before making any deal. The only realistic suitors are the Yankees.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon (25 saves, 1.83 ERA)? He's making $13 million this season and next and has a vesting option at the same price for 2016. Apparently the Phillies didn't get the memo, but you simply don't pay closers that much any longer.

So while those three guys are tough to trade because of finances, the Phillies do have some pieces teams would want and if multiple of these guys go, a full-blown rebuild is underway and the team will be a bad bet the rest of 2014.

Ace Cole Hamels has four years left on his contract after this season at around $22.5 million per season. That's obviously a lot but Hamels is only 30 and is a true No. 1 pitcher when healthy. He's 5-5 with a 2.72 ERA this season entering Tuesday and appears to be getting stronger. The Phillies have made Hamels available but reportedly are asking for a ton to get him. One rival GM said Philadelphia is "asking for the world," essentially four top-flight prospects. Hamels also has a 20-team no-trade list. He's from California so he'd probably love to go to the Giants or Dodgers. L.A. certainly has the money and prospects to get him, but how many $20 million pitchers (Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke) does one team need? Hamels can't block a deal to the Dodgers.

Right-hander A.J. Burnett (6-10, 4.15) seems sure to be traded, likely to either Pittsburgh or Baltimore. His contract isn't unreasonable, and he has always been an innings horse. The Phils might have waited too long on Burnett as he has been shelled in two of his past three starts, including giving up seven runs at the Mets on Monday night.

Shortstop Jimmy Rollins (.239, 13 HRs, 46 RBIs) and second baseman Chase Utley (.291, eight HRs, 50 RBIs) both are 10-and-5 guys, meaning they can block any deal. Utley is another California guy and he has been rumored to possibly be on the way to the Giants. They need a second baseman so bad they've been using terrible Dan Uggla after he was cut by the Braves. Finally, another guy who seems a sure bet to be gone is outfielder Marlon Byrd (.273, 20 HRs, 60 RBIs). He has a no-trade clause to Seattle, Kansas City, Toronto and Tampa Bay. The Mariners are a reported heavy suitor, but Byrd apparently won't waive his no-trade unless they pick up his 2016 option.

 

Trades Impact On Betting Odds
There's already a general malaise over this entire Philadelphia franchise. The Phillies are stuck in the NL East basement and have the second-worst run differential in the National League. Dealing possibly their best pitcher (Hamels) and hitter (Byrd) along with a pretty good closer will only make things worse. The Red Sox have some young kids who will be trying hard. That won't be the case in the City of Brotherly Love. This club will mail it in if it hasn't already.