If there has been one phrase to describe the Philadelphia Phillies‘ season so far, it’s been treading water.
The Phillies will win one, lose one. Win five, lose five. Win a series three of four and lose a series three of four. No long winning streaks, no long losing streaks. They’ve just been treading water, and at five games under .500, mostly below the water line.
This might not be a sinking ship, but it is not headed for any safe harbor. Whatever the season has proven so far, the message to General Manager Ruben Amaro should be clear by now: It’s not going to improve significantly either way over the next four weeks. Amaro says he’s not going to be a seller by the July 31 MLB trade deadline, but the dour look on his face tells another story.
“I think they’re a better club than they’ve shown so far,” Amaro said told a Philadelphia TV station earlier this week, ‘”but maybe they’re not. We’ll know more in the next few weeks.”
He knows now. Three months of treading water should have taught him that. While the Phillies might not completely blow the team up, Amaro has shown in the past that he’s willing to part with certain veterans to get younger, as he did last year with Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, so expect the team to jettison at least two of the veterans by the end of the month.
This, though, is where it gets tricky for him. He’s locked in to certain veterans, like Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels but not locked into a couple who might have trade worth, like pitcher Cliff Lee and third baseman Michael Young. In Young, he has a perfect piece a team like the New York Yankees might be interested in, a good-hitting guy who can play third or be a designated hitter. Lee could bring top-line prospects, but his contract could scare most teams away.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, despite his declining hitting skills (his fielding has been fine), also has trade value, as does his longtime infield mate, second baseman Chase Utley. Jonathan Papelbon was outstanding his first 13 outings, not so much his next 13, but no sub-.500 team can afford the luxury of keeping a closer paid in the top 10 percent for what he does.
Mostly, Amaro has seen a bullpen that self-destructs on a nightly basis, and he has to use one or more of the trade pieces to fix that. He’s seen plenty of mediocrity, enough to tell him all he needs to know.
In June, the Phillies won five straight, then lost the next five, followed by, in order, win two, lose two; win two, lose two; win one, lose two; win two, lose one and win one, lose two. The message that sends to the fans of the team and the people who run it should be clear: Sell, don’t buy.