Watching the 2013 Phillies has been a frustrating experience. You do not need me to tell you that I am sure. After dropping the Sunday finale in Los Angeles to cap a losing four-game set against the Dodgers I heard multiple times reporters or broadcasters remind me how many games back of the NL East leading Atlanta Braves the Phillies are. I understand why they would share that tidbit of information, as it does show just how far back the Phillies are from postseason contention.
If you ask me, I don't care how many games back the Phillies are of the NL East lead or a wild card spot. I may be an optimist when it comes to sports but even I have come to the point of saying that those numbers mean absolutely nothing until this team can find a way to put together a .500 record or above for at least a week. The bad news is this Phillies team is floating solidly under .500 so even that is out of reach.
As the calendar changes from June to July the Phillies, in my opinion, are done for the 2013 season. I cannot see this team, as currently made up, going on any sort fo a roll that would change the outcome of the second half of the season. You know I am rarely one to quit on the Phillies, and I will be watching every game regardless, but if I had to bet on it I would feel very comfortable in saying there is no chance this Phillies team reaches the postseason. And as the trade deadline looms at the end of the month one thing is becoming more and more clear to me.
This may be the most important month of Ruben Amaro Jr.'s career as a general manager.
There has been a lot of discussion about who on this team should be untouchable in the event the Phillies commit to playing the role of sellers. For what it is worth, I think the Phillies are in position to sell and see what offers are out there. Are pitchers Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels untouchable? Is Chase Utley a guy to commit to heading in to 2014? Do you build the future around Domonic Brown?
Fortunately for me, I am not the one who has to make these decisions. That responsibility falls on Amaro, who I have been critical and skeptical of before. Amaro has been known to make some big moves and he has shown he is not afraid to sell on starters to make way for potential future growth. Last season Amaro shipped out Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence as the Phillies fell out of the hunt in the summer. We could very well be heading to some more major shakeups with the roster bidding adieu to some core players. As much as it might sting at first, I am on board with the idea of parting ways with many of the key players on the team if it means getting some pieces to build in the future.
If I am Amaro, the one player I absolutely hold on to might be Domonic Brown. The way I see it, he is the one core player on the roster right now that figures to be a fixture for years to come. At a time when the rest of the players on the roster are growing older or breaking down, if I am putting together a five-year plan, Brown is a part of it.
Yes, that means I would trade Cole Hamels if the right deal came along. If the Phillies are going to be getting in to a position where blowing up the team and hitting the reset button is a legitimate possibility, I am not sure holding on to Hamels does anything to change what occurs over the next couple of years. Granted, I do not think it gets quite to this point of full rebuild mode, so I don't anticipate Hamels going anywhere. Sure, he has had a rough year and perhaps he would give a playoff contender a solid boost for the second half of the season, but Hamels is under a nice contract and if Amaro plays his cards right, the former World series MVP can still play a key role in the more short-term future in Philadelphia.
I would, however, entertain offers for Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Ryan Howard if any club was interested. I am not one of those "get Howard or Rollins out of town guys" by any stretch of the imagination, but if a team is going to improve for the future, moving these cogs for players with an upside while freeing up payroll is worth considering. Utley is a free agent to be and has been playing well, but his injury history should be a concern. Again, if the team is going to hit rebuilding mode, having Utley does not do a whole lot but offer a chance to get back some ingredients.
This could be a very interesting month, and it could be one of the most important months in the franchise's more recent history. Let's see what Amaro has up his sleeves.