As Ruben Amaro turned his Phillies calendar to July and saw a healthy Jimmy Rollins swinging a bat at the top of the page, a smile likely came to his face. Then, he allowed his eyes to scroll toward the very bottom where the date of July 31 had a big, red circle drawn around it. That circle signifies many things; a bulls-eye for getting the right player to make his team whole again. A target date for completing his most important and challenging work of the season. And, magnificent red for danger that could be lurking if just the right move or moves aren't made.
So, let's start to compile a list, probably much like the one that Ruben has made, of players who the Phillies will target over the next 30 days and we'll keep checking back on that list to see who is still there and who has been removed, only to be replaced by other potential players on the Phillies trade radar.
They say it all starts with pitching and the Phillies have made no secret of the fact that they want and need pitching. It's a hunt that has been going on since the winter when the Phillies basically swapped out Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay. Even after that acquisition, the Phillies continued to look for pitching - primarily starting pitching - that they could add to the mix to give them a rotation that would strike fear into the hearts of opponents. Yes, they could have done that had they not dealt Lee to Seattle, but that ship has sailed and to discuss the merits or follies of the move would be adding more beatings to a horse that has long died.
Ahh, but talking about returning Cliff Lee to his rightful home in Philadelphia would be like having a fresh new horse to beat. First, is it possible? The short answer is yes, but if you ask if it's probable, the answer still doesn't require much length; not very likely. First, there was some obvious bad blood to the deal that sent Lee out of town and Lee made no bones about it that he loved being in Philly and was something along the lines of miffed by the move to Seattle. Lee's exit likely started when he and his agent started talking about their interest in free agency and the Phillies started to worry about being able to re-sign him. A classic over-reaction on the part of the Phillies, to be sure. Don't think for a minute that Seattle will simply take J.C. Ramirez, Tyson Gillies and Phillippe Aumont back and give the Phillies a do-over on the trade. Seattle wants - and deserves - at least one top prospect out of the deal and you have to believe that they'll get at least that. For the Phillies, that means either Domonic Brown or Jarred Cosart to get things started. That's not likely, since the Phillies balance sheet on Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee looks something like this already:
Acquired by the Phillies: Roy Halladay, Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez.
Even if you add Cliff Lee's name to the "acquired" side of the ledger, putting the name of either Brown or Cosart and a couple of other prospects into the "traded from" side of the ledger, things just don't balance out well for the Phillies, especially long-term. And considering that Cliff Lee still has the hammer of impending free agency to swing, things could get very tricky.
So if Cliff Lee is somewhat of a pipe dream, who else will the Phillies look at? Names like Jeremy Guthrie and Kevin Millwood, both of Baltimore, have been thrown around. Millwood is too expensive and hasn't pitched well, making Guthrie the best target from the Orioles. Former Phillies GM has both Roy Oswalt and Brett Myers to dangle in front of the Phillies, but Oswalt will likely be too expensive in terms of prospects and Myers doesn't exactly consider Philadelphia to be the City of Brotherly Love.
A new name to put on the pitching radar is Dan Haren. The Diamondbacks are likely to deal Haren somewhere and teams have shown a definite interest. The Phillies join a group including the Yankees, Tigers, Twins and Cardinals in scouting Haren and the D'backs are doing their part in dispatching scouts to each of those clubs minor league cities. Haren would be a good middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Phillies to acquire, although his numbers (7-6, 4.56) this season aren't what you would have hoped for out of him. A good part of that could likely be fixed by a change of scenery. Haren wouldn't require the investment of prospects that Oswalt or Lee will command and he's signed long-term, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on how he pitches. Haren's contract runs through 2012 and guarantees him $8.25 million this season and $12.75 for each of the next two seasons. There is also a $15.5 million guarantee for 2013 or a $3.5 million buyout.
The list of names is likely to grow, but rest assured that Amaro has a good, tentative list to start his search with.