PHILLIES-RED SOX TRADE TALKS STILL ON THE FRONT BURNER

By Ben Sullivan

With all the sound and fury of last week’s opening of spring training, you might have thought the heat on the Phillies-Red Sox trade talks had calmed down.

But no.

Just the opposite.

One of Phillies’ general manager Ruben Amaro’s top advisers, Charlie Kerfeld, was on hand Monday to watch all of the desirable Boston players the Phillies would like to see in a trade for Cole Hamels or perhaps Cliff Lee (photo above).

Lee, 36, has thrown the ball well in Phillies camp after rehabbing an elbow injury. The feeling now is that Lee could be traded ahead of Hamels.

The price tag for Lee would be less. He makes $25 million this year and has a player option for $27.5 million in 2016 that can be bought out for $12.5 million. Teams such as the Red Sox would likely want to see Lee pitch a few times in spring training before they’d commit to giving up both player and financial resources for him. But Lee is in play.

There had been talk about Shane Victorino going back to Philly, but he is 34, and the Phillies want young talent. Perhaps they would be open to taking on the salary if Boston took on Lee’s salary, but there also would have to be prospects in the deal.

The Red Sox and Phillies have been concentrating on Hamels. And, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cofardo, the last time they had serious discussions, Boston was offering some major league talent, not prospects.

If that major league talent were, say, Xander Bogaerts, the Phillies would likely jump, but that’s not what was offered, according to a Cafardo source.

The two teams will scout one another to death over the next few weeks. There’s really nothing more to see, but they’ll keep looking. If the Phillies can’t get what they want for Hamels and Lee, they’ll keep them and put them at the top of the rotation.

The Phillies want to get on with their rebuilding as quickly as possible. But they won’t settle for less than what they want.

Blake Swihart has been an object of their desire. And what Kerfeld saw was a bigger, stronger version than the Swihart he saw last season. There’s no more convincing to be done that Swihart is the real deal. But the Red Sox think so, too. And they just won’t let go of him.

If the Phillies are willing to move off Swihart and Mookie Betts, there might be some combination of players they could pry from the Red Sox that would help in transforming them.

The Phillies can afford to carry these guys until they get the right deal, even if that means waiting for the trade deadline at the end of July when they might find a desperate buyer.

In Hamels’s case, if the Red Sox have to guarantee his fifth-year option at $20 million, would they need some salary relief for the five years and $110 million left on his deal?

Would any team take on Lee’s guaranteed $37.5 million? We’ve already seen a Phillies-Brewers deal fall through when Milwaukee balked at taking on Papelbon’s vesting 2016 option of $13 million.

 

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