A report on Sunday from ESPN’s Buster Olney indicated that the Phillies were open to trade offers involving starting pitcher Zack Wheeler. John Middleton denied it, telling Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia “There’s zero truth to it.” Over the phone, Middleton angrily told Olney that he wouldn’t trade Wheeler for Babe Ruth, Ted Williams or Mike Schmidt.
Wheeler wasn’t the only player the Phillies were taking calls on. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Phillies have received trade inquires on Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins among others. There is no indication that either Nola or Hoskins will be moved.
If anything, interim GM Ned Rice was doing what he’s supposed to do, which is to gather information on how valuable his top players are on the trade market even if the intention isn’t to trade them. It’s a way to acquire a further understanding of what the market for players looks like and how other teams value the Phillies’ current roster. Nola is signed through 2022 with a $16 million club option for 2023. Hoskins is in his first year of arbitration eligibility and is set to become a free agent in 2023.
Middleton has received criticism in the national media for his emotional response to Olney’s report. Rosenthal suggested that Middleton was not aware of the trade discussions and was “upset to learn them from ESPN, particularly when he has given his front office no direction to shed existing contracts, according to a team source.”
It’s important to keep in mind that so far, Middleton has not directed the front office to cut existing payroll. Last week, Jean Segura’s name was rumored to be coming up in trade discussions. If the Phillies do free up a good portion of Segura’s remaining salary (approximately $30 million through 2022), the Phillies could use that money to pursue Didi Gregorius or another infielder to replace Segura. Or the Phillies could choose not to reinvest that money into the current roster.
At the very least, we can assume that Middleton did not order the front office to trade Segura, Wheeler or any of their top players in order to save money.
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