Could Chase Utley be gone in July? Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Oh Good, We're Already Talking About The Phillies At The Trade Deadline


Apr 21, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr talks with media prior to playing the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

As prone as I am to panic, even I realize speculating about what the Phillies might do at the MLB Trade Deadline, which is just 96 short days away, might not be the most productive use of my time.

But here we go anyway. All the better to prepare yourselves now to say goodbye to every player you’ve ever loved.

And Michael Young.

Thanks to an interestingly-timed column by Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi on Thursday, conversation has begun on just who may be leaving this team at the trade deadline on July 31. The premise of the article is that the Phillies will be the most fascinating team at the deadline as the team tries to decide whether they are officially turning the page, or if they’re going to double-down and add some more pieces to a veteran squad that is efforting one last charge up the October field of battle.

And at 9-14, already seven games behind Atlanta in the NL East and in fourth place in the division, it sure seems as though the Phillies have to start making some decisions sooner rather than later.

“The next four months are very important for our organization,” Amaro told FOXSports.com. “We have a lot of potential free agents — Chooch (Ruiz), Chase, Halladay, Michael Young, Delmon Young. Do we want to go younger, or do we move forward with the guys we’ve got?

“We’re going to have to turn left or right. We have to decide.”

It’s interesting to see Amaro acknowledge that he may have to start jettisoning the players he mentioned above. It’s hard to imagine many of those guys leaving at the deadline (especially Chase Utley), but if the Phillies are under .500 and showing no signs of going anywhere, Amaro seems ready to turn the page and begin the rebuilding process.

I don’t know why, but it surprised me to hear that. And as bad as the Phils have played so far this year, those guys mentioned above would be extremely valuable pieces.

Aside from the pending free agents, Amaro could look to unload Cliff Lee in a trade, freeing himself from the final few years of his mega deal. That would also be a tough move for the fanbase to swallow.

And it’s fair to be worried whether Amaro is capable of maximizing the return for many of those pieces. While Phillippe Aumont has the looks of being a good relief pitcher some day, the haul he got back in his trade of Cliff Lee a few years ago was underwhelming. In fact, it was worse than the compensation he gave up to acquire Roy Oswalt.

It’s also fair to wonder if the Phillies know how to target the right kind of prospects, given their free agency targets over the last few years and recent draft picks. Amaro seems to value projects over players with more baseball pedigree, so much so it’s fair to wonder if he would get enough in return for many of his valuable veteran trade chips.

Of course, Amaro isn’t giving up the ship just yet.

Amaro said he hopes he’s buying at the trade deadline, but he also allowed, “We could be very young next year.” Amaro is excited about the team’s farm system, from pitchers Jonathan Pettibone (already in the big leagues), Adam Morgan, Ethan Martin and Jesse Biddle, to catcher Tommy Joseph, third baseman Cody Asche, second baseman Cesar Hernandez and left fielder/first baseman Darin Ruf.

“We’ve got guys who can play,” Amaro said. “They’re legitimate prospects. The question is whether they will develop into championship players. But I like what we have, close to the top.”

Amaro certainly isn’t going to poo-poo his minor league talent. That would be dumb. But honestly, most of the prospects he mentioned above are not projected to be All-Star players. Biddle and Morgan seem to have bright futures as starting pitchers, with a ceiling of #2 or #3 spots in the rotation. And Joseph seems to have a good bat, but his defense needs a lot of work. And while Asche is the supposed heir apparent at third base, he’s no sure thing, nor is Hernandez or the struggling Ruf.

So, Ruben must soon decide. Does he take the blue pill, double down on this veteran group for one more ride and trade off more young talent from the minor league system to make one last run? Or does he take the red pill and unload his high-priced yet valuable veterans and essentially begin what could be a long rebuilding process?

And are there any players Amaro should hold onto no matter what? Barring injury, the only name mentioned above that Ruben should absolutely not get rid of is Utley. But everyone else; Chooch, Young, Halladay, even Lee, should be traded for the right price.

You hear that Ruben? The RIGHT PRICE!!!

There is still time to let things play out and see how things go. The Phils have gotten off to rocky April starts in the past and have come back to make the playoffs.

But if things go south, it could make for a very exciting, yet uncomfortable month of July in Philadelphia.

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