Chase Utley and Charlie Manuel are both in the final year of their contracts with the Phillies. (USA Today Images)
DETROIT — The Phillies club that opened the second half of the season with a 1-8 road trip to fall 10 1/2 games off the pace in the NL East should look much different by the time the calendar flips to August.
But just how different?
For a team that appears to be in sell mode, veterans like Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley could be bargaining chips before the July 31 deadline.
If there is one player that should hear his name mentioned in trade talks over the next 48 hours, it will be Young. A 14-year veteran with two World Series appearances and a solid batting average, Young could be a nice addition to a contending team.
But Young also has a no-trade clause in his contract that he needed to be talked into waiving in the winter when the Rangers sent him to Philadelphia.
Would he be willing to waive that no-trade clause again?
“I don't know. The first thing I want to do is talk to the Phillies about that,” Young said. “[General manager Ruben Amaro Jr.] has been very upfront with me since day one. The entire organization has. What I went through back in May, they stood by me the entire time. I certainly appreciate it. Any conversation that has to do with trades will be with them first.”
Young said he has not heard anything about the possibility of being traded nor has he chatted with any of his teammates about the looming deadline. If the Phillies are thinking about the uncertain future the way manager Charlie Manuel has suggested, they aren’t letting on.
“You would think, but not really,” Young said. “Usually the veteran guys know the way the game goes. You have a feel for it. Everybody in here has been all-in to see if we can try to get some wins on this road trip. We needed it. That has been the primary focus.”
Trading away Young is one thing, but a deal with Rollins, Ruiz or Utley, the holdovers from the 2008 World Series championship club, would mark the end of an era. Ruiz isn’t quite ready to see the band break up.
“We’ll see [at the deadline],” Ruiz said. “Hopefully we can change everything and turn around everything. I don’t want anybody to leave here. But it’s not up to us. It’s up to the front office. Our job is to continue to play and see what happens.”
Rollins isn’t going anywhere. With one more season plus an option on his current deal, the Phils' long-time shortstop also has some power. As a player with 10 years in the league with five on the same team, he can veto any deal.
In fact, Rollins says he will veto a trade because there are club records he has his sights set on breaking. He is second in franchise history in games, at-bats, doubles and stolen bases and has a shot at beating some of those records if he plays out his contract.
“Until those things are done, I’m not going anywhere,” Rollins said.
What about Utley? Another 10-5 player, he, too, has some say over his future. But Utley is also in the last season of his current contract. Though he didn’t really speculate on his future with the Phillies when asked about it on Saturday, Rollins weighed in on the subject after the 12-4 loss to the Tigers on Sunday (see story).
“I have actually thought about asking him,” Rollins said about Utley. “But, everyone goes through it their own way, and if he wants to be here, he’ll be here. That’s the way it is. If he doesn’t want to be here, he’ll have an opportunity if it pops up. But if he wants to be here, he’ll be wearing No. 26 playing second base next year.”
Then there is the manager, also playing out the last year of his contract. With the most wins and most seasons as a manager in club history, Manuel is one of two skippers to win the World Series with the Phillies.
Could this be the end for Manuel, too?
“It’s very rare you get to ride out on your high horse. That’s sports. You have highs and lows, and right now we’re low,” Rollins said. “No one wants to go out not being successful, but if this is his last year, [Manuel] did what he was brought here to do, and that’s to make us contenders and bring us a championship, and he did that. The last two years have been a struggle. We haven’t been healthy and haven’t had a good product, honestly.”
If this is the end, Manuel has enjoyed the ride.
“Sometimes that’s kind of what baseball is about,” Manuel said. “That’s how the game goes. You make sure you have a passion for it and a love and you take advantage of it and you keep things in perspective and don’t let it slip away.”