WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 06: Cole Hamels #35 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on May 6, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Following Wednesday night's loss to the New York Mets, which put the Phillies four games under .500 for the first time since 2007, Charlie Manuel did something that he hasn't often had to do, when he had a closed-door meeting with the team, where he likely ripped them to shreds thanks to their lousy play and their 14-18 record.
The actual contents of the meeting are unknown, but one thing is sure: Charlie Manuel isn't happy. And he shouldn't be. He is team is playing like garbage, mostly thanks to a case of lack-of-talentitus, but that doesn't take any of the sting away.
After the meeting, General Manager Ruben Amaro had a few things to say. Like Charlie, he wasn't happy about the direction that the team is heading in, and as GM, he can necessitate whatever changes are needed to right the ship. But sometimes, the only thing that one can do is concede defeat and look forward to next season. And, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, that might be a possibility:
“July is so far ahead,” Amaro said. “We just have to get on track. But if July comes and we’re playing like this, we’ll be sellers. How we play now will determine whether we’ll be buyers or sellers in July.”
First, this is likely just Amaro-talk. It's posturing, more than anything else. Throughout the course of his career, he has sort of established a track record of not being the most honest guy in the room. And why should he? He is in the business of making trades and signing players, so it behooves him to keep things close to the vest. How many times has he said one thing, only to go and do the exact opposite? Plus, there is a motivational component behind what he is saying, as the team knows that they could be broken up by mid-season if they don't get their act together.
Second, in order for the Phillies to become sellers, in earnest, it would take some kind of catastrophe. Granted, they aren't exactly setting the world on fire now, but they are one or two moves away from being 18-14, instead of 14-18. All is not lost in Philadelphia, no matter what you think. Assuming that the Chase Utley and Ryan Howard come back before July, and assuming that the bullpen really isn't this bad, the Phillies have a good chance at competing in the second half of the season.
But, let's imagine, for a moment, that the season goes into the toilet, and come July 1st, the Phillies are 17 games out. Maybe another pitcher gets injured, maybe the bullpen completely implodes, whatever. If the Phillies were to become sellers, who could they move? What could they get? Let's take a look.
Shane Victorino – The center fielder is on the last year of the three-year extension that he signed before the 2010 season, and he figures to make a decent chunk of change on the open market. After all, he is a speedy centerfielder with a solid enough glove and a bat, to boot. Since he was installed as the centerfielder in 2008, he has a .279/.345/.450 line, with 64 homers and 123 stolen bases. In that span, he has the third highest OPS among centerfielders with at least 2000 plate appearances, with the second highest stolen base rate (81%).
Joe Blanton – There were rumors that Blanton could be moved prior to the season, as teams in need of pitching depth tend to overpay for the most rarest of commodities. He didn't go anywhere, and luckily for the Phillies, he's off to the best start of his career. Through six stats, Blanton has a 3.24 ERA, and a career-best 4.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio. When healthy, he can provide quality innings to any pitching staff, and if he keeps this performance up, it might not be too long before a team in need of pitching comes calling.
Hunter Pence – Sure, the Phillies just traded for Pence last season, but that doesn't mean he isn't immune to trade talks. Thanks to the arbitration process, the 29-year-old right fielder, who is earning $10.4 million this season, figures to cost the Phillies a bit more in 2013 - his final season before free agency. With an escalating payroll, the Phillies might be tempted to move the right-fielder, who has average a line of .291/.341/.486 in his six year career. He can hit for power, he can steal a base or two, and with another year plus of team control under his belt, he could be an attractive trade target for teams in need of some offense.
Roy Halladay – This one is a bit of a stretch, but I suppose it's possible that Halladay could be on the trading block, should the Phillies decide to become sellers. He has one more guaranteed year on his current deal, plus a vesting option for 2014. He is slated to make $20 million in each of those two years, so the Phillies could be motivated to move Doc, should they decide to regroup, shed payroll, and build from the bottom up. Again, this one is a longshot, but a team looking to snag an Ace at the deadline would be hard-pressed to do better than Halladay.
Placido Polanco – I'm not sure who would want an aging third baseman with diminishing contact skills and limited power, but I'm sure there is some team out there who would take a versatile infielder with a decent bat and great defense. Plus, Polly is on the final year of his deal with the Phillies, so they could look to get as much as they can out of him, even if that means moving him for a sub-par pitching prospect.
Cole Hamels – As much as it pains me to say it, the most likely Phillie to get moved this season might just be the young lefty. At 28-years-old, Hamels stands to make a truckload of money when he hits free agency after the season. Although he and his agent have toed the “we want to stay in Philly” line, it'd be way too tempting for them not to explore free agency, where Hamels figures to be – by far – the best available pitcher on the market. Through six starts, Hamels is striking out 9.8 per nine, has an ERA of 2.45, and a N.L.-leading strikeout-to-walk ratio of 7.33. And excepting his flukey 2009, Hamels has improved on his performance in every single season. And at 28, he only figures to get better. While Ruben Amaro and company would be better off trying to keep the Ace on their side (after all, he's entering the prime of his career), this recent slide, plus the prospects of a huge deal from another deal, might make Hamels think twice about staying in Philly.
Although the trade deadline is way far off, it's not the most unlikely of scenarios that the Phillies would need to become sellers. It would be the first time since 2006, the year they traded Bobby Abreu, that they wouldn't be looking to make a playoff push. Should they get there, though, they could get quite a haul on some of these players. Maybe even enough to be able to get right back on the horse in 2013.
Of course, this is all just speculation, and as I said earlier, the odds of them even having to become sellers is probably pretty remote. Still, though, it would be awfully interesting to see Ruben Amaro on the other end of the bargaining table, for once.