Stark reported on Saturday that "teams that have talked with the Phillies say they've shifted course in the past 24 to 48 hours." As of this writing, the Phillies have lost eight games in a row and stand at 49-56, 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
Here's a breakdown of the four players being discussed.
Cliff Lee, SP
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke about left-hander Cliff Lee on Friday, per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN:
I never put any real absolutes on anything. Although we don't have any desire to move a guy like that because we view him as someone who will be key to our future, I am a businessperson, as well, and I'll be a good listener.
Lee, who was removed from Saturday night's start against the Detroit Tigers with a stiff neck, has posted a 10-4 record with a 3.05 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 131 strikeouts in 144.2 innings this season. The 34-year-old was also selected to his fourth career All-Star Game.
It hasn't been reported which clubs are interested in Lee, but you can bet the list reaches far and wide. Crasnick notes that the Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers are all in need of starting pitching.
Of course, those interested may have to pay a steep price to acquire Lee. He's worth $25 million per year from 2013 to 2015. His deal also includes a $27.5 million team option in 2016 and a $12.5 million buyout.
For a player who is getting up there in age, there's certainly a risk in acquiring Lee. On the other hand, he's been excellent so far in 2013.
Michael Young is a free agent after this season and is unlikely to re-sign with the Phillies, so it comes as no surprise that Stark would report Philadelphia is "more open to trading Young" than Lee.
According to Stark, the Phillies and Texas Rangers have held "exploratory" talks about sending Young back to Texas where he spent his first 13 seasons in the league.
Young is batting .277 with seven home runs, 32 RBI and 38 runs this season. Last year with the Rangers, he batted .277 with eight home runs, 67 RBI and 79 runs in 156 games.
If you haven't heard, Jonathan Papelbon ripped the entire Phillies organization after the club's 12-4 loss to the Tigers on Sunday.
Per Todd Zolecki of MLB:
Asked what he thought about the direction the organization is headed, he sighed.
"Oh, man," he said. "We could be here all day."
So then what about this team's ability to turn things around, if not this season, then next season?
"It's going to take, in my opinion, a lot," he said. "And in my opinion, I think it's going to have to be something very similar to what the Red Sox went through a couple years ago. From top to bottom."
When asked if he would like to be traded, Papelbon said, per the report:
No, I would like to stay here. But if I'm going to have to put up with this year after year, then no, I don't want to be here. Why would you? Why would anybody?
So, in other words, Papelbon would like to stay, but he's not willing to ride it out.
To his credit, Papelbon has mainly pitched well this season, posting a 2.21 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP and 35 strikeouts in 39.2 innings pitched. On the other hand, he has blown five saves in 25 chances.
Carlos Ruiz is batting .253 with zero home runs, nine RBI and 12 runs in 46 games (146 at-bats) this season.
That's after batting .325 with 16 home runs, 68 RBI and 56 runs in 2012.
The 34-year-old has dealt with hamstring problems this season. He appeared in his first game of the season on April 27 after a 25-game suspension for taking a banned stimulant, then was diagnosed with a right hamstring strain in late May. He returned to the lineup on June 18.
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