Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has spent the week consulting with his major-league staff and top advisers -- Pat Gillick was in town for meetings on Thursday -- as he plots strategy for the nearly three weeks that remain before the non-waiver trade deadline.
As he stood on the field during batting practice before Thursday night’s game, Amaro was neither a buyer nor a seller. He could go either way, depending on how his club plays in the 12-game stretch from Friday’s series opener against the White Sox to the July 28 series finale at Detroit.
“If tomorrow was July 31, we’d be buying,” Amaro said. “We’re 6½ out of the wild card. No one is running away with it. No one is invincible.”
Amaro straddled a similar line last July and ultimately traded away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.
Four days before the all-star break, the Phillies are in better shape this year than last. Last year, they were 13 games under .500, 14 back in the division and 10 back in the wild-card race at the all-star break. Entering play Thursday, they were two under .500, 7½ back in the division and 6½ back in the wild-card race.
“I considered us less of a contender last year,” Amaro said. “We’re in a better spot this year.”
Even as they plot strategy for the next few weeks, Phillies officials are planning multiple scenarios based on whether they add or subtract, stay in the race or wave the white flag and plan for the future. That means communication with other teams.
“Tons of calls,” Amaro said. “It’s all I do is take calls. Things are very active. It’s that time of year, man. Nothing different than any other July.”
There is plenty of interest in Phillies players. You know the names -- Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Michael Young. It’s possible that one or all could go if the Phillies sell.
Young, the Phillies’ third baseman, could go either way. According to sources, the Phils have heard from a handful of teams that have interest in the versatile infielder. Some of those teams like the fact that Young can play some second base. The Toronto Blue Jays have scouted the Phillies this week. The Jays like Utley, but it’s believed his contract allows him to block a deal to Toronto. The Jays are talking about moving Brett Lawrie from third to second. That could add up to them taking a peek at Young for third base. Young, however, has a full no-trade clause and would probably only approve a deal to more of a legitimate contender. Baltimore might be an interesting fit for Young as a utility man and bat. Young has a good history with Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who values the type of winning veteran intangibles that Young can bring.
Young would be expendable because the Phillies have some options at third base, including Freddy Galvis, Kevin Frandsen and possibly Cody Asche. He’s also 36 and on an expiring contract. Amaro is reluctant to trade away young talent.
“I don’t really want to move young talent,” Amaro said. “If we have to [make a trade] we’ll figure something out. With the way our club is and with our age -- it’s a young man’s game. We want to try to keep as many young guys as we can.”
Amaro continues to list bullpen help as the Phils’ No. 1 need. He was asked how much financial flexibility he has to take on talent.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “But my boss has always allowed the sensible thing.”
If the Phils get in the race in the second half, Amaro hopes to have Roy Halladay back in the rotation in September.
“It’s possible,” Amaro said. “We have to see how he feels. If he’s pitching by September, I’ll be ecstatic.”