The Philadelphia Phillies are 36-41 and have the second-worst run differential in the National League (and the third worst in baseball). They are eight games back in the NL East and nine games back for the NL Wild Card. By every appearance the Phillies are not a team in contention for a playoff berth and thus should be seriously considering selling off parts of their roster to begin building for next season and beyond, especially with several key players in the final year of their contracts. A fire sale of some sort would be prudent, right?
At least not if you ask Ruben Amaro Jr., who as the GM of the Phillies holds the only opinion on the matter that actually counts. Amaro has been adamant in recent weeks that he is not looking to start trading players away. He'll even tell you so before you even get a chance as he recently responded to an interview request from Jon Heyman with the message of, "Yes. But I'm not trading anyone."
Gosh, Ruben, why don't you tell us how you really feel? Oh, right, you did in another interview last week when discussing the idea of trading closer Jonathan Papelbon or pitcher Cliff Lee:
Who am I going to replace these guys with to win a championship? These are championship-caliber players. If we think about moving these guys, then I better be getting someone of better or equal value and I just don't see that happening.
For "championship-caliber" players, the Phillies don't seem to be getting much in the way of championship-caliber results, but it doesn't seem to bother Amaro much. In fact, he still very much seems to believe the Phils can get back into the playoff race as he went on to cite how the Phillies traded the likes of Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino last season only to sneak back into the playoff race, though he conveniently failed to mention that had more to do with St. Louis struggling than the Phillies getting hot, and even then they won just 81 games and finished seven games out of the final Wild Card spot.
Amaro may not want to admit it, but this team as currently constructed is not good and they are only going to get worse. Amaro himself mentioned the need to replace these players that people want him to trade, but he seems to be overlooking the fact that he is going to have to replace many of them this off-season. Second baseman Chase Utley, third baseman Michael Young, catcher Carlos Ruiz and potentially pitcher Roy Halladay will all be free agents after this season. Even if Amaro doesn't want to replace those guys now in what is shaping up to be a lost season, he is going to have to replace them soon. That is unless he decides that he wants to give this group another go because he believes in them so much, despite what the results suggest, and re-signs several of those guys.
Replacing those guys won't be easy though since the Phillies have what is widely considered to be a bottom-third farm system and already have $104 million in committed payroll next season. That should give them some spending flexibility, but that may not mean much in a pretty weak free agent market. That doesn't paint a very rosy picture for Philadelphia's 2014 off-season aspirations but that picture could be brightened if Amaro were willing to deal some of his bigger pieces like Lee or Papelbon. Not only would he get additional payroll flexibility but, more importantly, he could add some legitimate elite prospects to give him a young nucleus to build around as opposed to the core of 30+ year olds that form the current decaying core of the franchise.
That would be the smart thing to do and nobody would blame Amaro if he did blow things up, but he just doesn't seem inclined to go down that road. To be fair, he went on to tell Heyman that, "I never say never. But it's our job to win, and these are guys who are hard to replace." So while he isn't ruling out trades or declaring anyone untouchable, Amaro just can't seem to let go of the notion that this roster is going to magically turn things around. If he can't wise up to his wishful thinking before the trade deadline, he is in real danger of ending up being the GM of a bad team with a bunch of solid to fantastic trade chips that he just left on the table. That sounds like a real good way to end up as the former GM of a team.