MIAMI – If the Phillies do embark on a retooling, rebuilding, re-something effort this month, it won’t be one of those strip-down projects that lasts five years.
So says general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
“I can’t blow this team up for five years and expect us to be [crappy] for the next five or six years,” Amaro said before the Phillies opened a 10-game road trip against the Marlins on Tuesday night.
“I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it for our fans, our franchise, our organization. I think we owe it to a lot of people [that] if we do have to go into a transition, it’s going to be a shorter one than that.
“There’s ways to do it. You have to make shrewd moves, make intelligent moves and try to continue to do that so that the drop-off isn’t long term. So if we have to go a step backward for a year or two to move forward then that’s what we’ll try to do.”
The Phillies entered the month of July in last place in the NL East, 8½ games out of first place.
All signs point to the club selling off significant amounts of talent before the July 31 trade deadline. The Phillies will listen on Cole Hamels, but it would take a king’s ransom to get him. Ryan Howard’s contract is virtually unmovable. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have full veto power over trades and both have expressed their desire to stay with the Phillies, though things have a way of changing when the losses pile up and the trade deadline looms.
While moving the aforementioned bunch might not be likely, the Phils do have players that could be dealt in the right circumstance, for the right price. They include starting pitchers Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett and Kyle Kendrick, relievers Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo and outfielders Marlon Byrd, John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown.
Though the arrival of July heightens the focus on trade possibilities, Amaro said he’s been talking deals for weeks.
“Obviously my job is to think about what’s going to happen over the next month,” Amaro said. “But we’ve been assessing this thing and will continue to do so all the way through this month.
“If there are things we can’t do in this next month as far as trying to improve the club, for the long term or the short term, then we’ll try to figure it out afterward and in the offseason.
“We have to improve in our offense. We’re not getting enough offensive production. Pitching and defense has always been the theme, but we’ve been so inconsistent offensively, that’s got to be one of the priorities moving forward.”
Would it behoove the Phillies to move quickly in the trade season or wait till closer to the deadline when a potential trading partner’s desperation can lead to a higher price?
This is always a bit of a conundrum at this time of the year. But it’s clear Amaro is laying the groundwork for some moves.
“It could be [advantageous to move quickly],” Amaro said. “But you can’t ask a team to pretty-please trade with us. We’ve had a ton of conversations. I’ve had a ton of conversations with teams. They’re assessing the market, too. We’re not the only team in baseball that may have players available. We’re not the only team trying to improve our club.
“I think a lot of teams are in limbo. There’s a lot of time left to decide. Teams are still not sure what it is they need.
“On our side, we’re looking for some offense. We’re looking for some younger players. We’re looking for some things that can help us short term and long term.
“As far as the other teams are concerned, some of them know exactly what they want, but most of them don’t. There’s still a lot of time. Injuries can happen -- a lot of different things that can happen with some of these teams moving forward.”
Amaro has been in charge of baseball operations since Pat Gillick stepped down after the 2008 World Series. The Phillies returned to the World Series in 2009 (and lost) then won division titles in 2010 and 2011. They missed the playoffs the last two seasons and are headed for another miss this year. In fact, they are on pace for their first 90-loss season since 2000.
Amaro’s many critics say he should not be the one to handle trades this month, but his job does not seem to be in any immediate jeopardy.
“I’m not worried about my job,” he said. “My job is to try to do what’s best for the organization, short term and long term. I feel very good about our ability and our staff’s ability to do that.”
Despite the dismal state of the team, Amaro says he holds out hope that the team can rally in the standings. But time is running out.
“These next 10 games leading into the all-star break are going to tell us a lot about where we’re going to go,” he said.