Chase Utley rounds the bases after hitting a home run in his first at bat of the season.
For a lot of teams, the first of July represents the point in the season where you have to have a clear
idea as to how the rest of the year is going to play out. Depending on your record, it could mean a lot of things. It could be the start of an exciting month where the GM acquires players who can be useful in getting to the playoffs. It could be a month of standing pat with what you have. It could also be a month of selling off your prized assets so you can live to fight another day.
For the Phillies, it will be the second straight season in which they are going to be raising the white flag at the All Star break. At 39-44, they are 9.5 games out of first place in the division, and 7.5 off the pace for the Wild Card. Despite the fact that there is a ton of time left in the season, the writing is on the wall, and the Phillies are more than likely going to be playing golf come October.
In other words, it's time to sell.
General Manager Ruben Amaro took baby steps in his first time as a mid-season seller in 2012, when he traded Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton at the trade deadline. Things are a bit dicier this season, as he'll potentially need to deal with trading longtime Phillies Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Kyle Kendrick, along with the likes of Michael Young and Jonathan Papelbon. It's not an easy spot for Amaro, who not only has to make tough personnel decisions, but also has to deal with the potential PR backlash that comes along with a fire sale. If he trades Chase Utley, the fans have to be convinced that it was the right move to trade one of the most beloved players in team history. While a GM shouldn't avoid making a move because he might anger the fans, it's important to remember that happy fans make the team more money, and a team with more money has a bit more flexibility when it comes to signing big-name free agents.
But the question, really, isn't whether or not they should become sellers, but whether Amaro can pull the trigger. He's never been the one to admit defeat, and coming into the 2013 season, it was pretty clear that he felt that this team could contend heading into the season. But after a 3-4 road trip that was notable for late-inning losses and one 16-1 blowout, the Phillies are in dire straights heading into the month of July.
And despite Jimmy Rollins' optimism about the team's chances, it's just not looking very good. Too many injuries have taken their toll on what was already a so-so team, and the bullpen – which was thought to be a strength heading into the season – has done more harm than good. There have been bright spots, like Cliff Lee's dominance, Kyle Kendrick's continued success, and Domonic Brown's breakout season, but that's not going to get the Phillies back to October any time soon.
It's unfortunate, but it's the truth, and one that is often hard to accept, especially when this team was so good for the better part of the last seven years. It's not a feeling that any fans are used to, but the sooner they accept that it's coming to a bitter end, the sooner they can move on and be somewhat content with these strange new circumstances.
The rumor mill has just started to churn over the last couple weeks, but I predict that by the middle of July, it will be moving fast and furious, with a lot of familiar names dominating the conversation. The only question is whether or not Ruben Amaro can pull it off.