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Phillies Appear to Hold the Key Leading Up to July Trade Deadline

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies

Buy, buy, buy!!! Sell, sell, sell!!! Those alternating opinions seem to be floating through the mind of Phillies GM Ruben Amro, Jr. as the baseball season cruises toward the All-Star break.

At the start of July, Philadelphia looked like roadkill. The National League East was long gone and the Wild Card nothing but a distant longshot. Although those playoff hopes remain a longshot, a decent 6-3 start to July has kept the Phillies on the fringes of playoff contention, stress fringes. As of Thursday Philadelphia still trailed Atlanta by 7.5 games in the East. The Phillies are still 6.5 out of the Wild Card.

However you look at it, the Phillies — who have a highwater mark of one game over .500 in 2013 — probably aren’t making a playoff run. Of course, Amaro continues to send out mixed messages.

There’s a long way for the Phillies to go to vault into contender status, but, as long as they float somewhere in the middle, it muddles up the MLB trade picture. Consider the assets Philadelphia could deal, should it try to clean house in the next two weeks:

  • Chase Utley: A free agent after 2013, but with a nine-team no trade clause. Utley is 34, but slugging .500. Makes sense for the Dodgers to go all-in and try to acquire him.
  • Michael Young: Two words: veteran leadership.
  • Carlos Ruiz: Cooch isn’t having a great season but he’s another free agent after 2013 with a solid track record, including the postseason.
  • Cliff Lee: Longshot trade candidate since he’s owed a guaranteed $50 million the next two seasons. Lee is putting together another fine season with only 21 walks in 138 innings.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: As detailed here, contract is a big red flag trying to deal the closer.

Parting with these players — especially fan favorites like Utley and Ruiz — might be tough for Phillies fans to stomach, but they’re on expiring contracts. Eventually, the Phillies need to restock their farm system after making so many win-now moves over the last few seasons, including the trades to acquire Lee and Roy Halladay. Then again, the club is also saddled with Subway pitchman Ryan Howard for at least the next three seasons at $25 million per year. Bear in mind the slugging first baseman is now 33 and recently landed on the disabled list again so a full-on rebuild could take time.

Philadelphia must decide quickly if it should build around outfielder Dominic Brown, who is 25 years old and already has 23 home runs. The longtime super-prospect is one of only three regulars under the age of 30.

With Amaro pulling the strings, expect the unexpected, or at the very least something illogical between today and July 31.

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