The pain of 2013 doesn't look like it's going to end anytime soon for the Philadelphia Phillies.
With overpriced and often injured veterans throughout the roster, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said he will not be blowing up the roster, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.
People think we’re going to blow up this team. We’re never going to be in the position of blowing up. There’s no blowing up. There might come a time when we make changes to improve for the future, but we don’t have a reason to blow it up. Boston didn’t blow it up last year. They retooled. That’s the challenge we have whether it’s July 31 or November 1.
While the word choice may be different, one has to wonder if Amaro Jr. is making a huge mistake by not trading away some of his higher-priced veterans. Is it worth keeping guys like Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon?
Before we delve into those players, let's look at the players who should stay and the minor league prospects who might contribute in the near future.
Continue the Youth Movement
It's important to note the players who aren't going anywhere. The Phillies can build their core with these young talents.
Starter Cole Hamels is as close to untouchable as there is on Philadelphia's roster. While he has struggled this year, the Phillies signed him to a six-year, $144 million contract last year. It's safe to say he's going nowhere.
Then there's Domonic Brown, who has been on an absolute tear this year. He's batting .289 with 19 home runs and 47 RBI. Many gave up on him as a former top prospect, but he's finally coming through.
Jonathan Pettibone and Ben Revere also can be considered part of the young core and will get better with time. Neither is likely to go anywhere, either.
Rebuild with Minor Leaguers
When the Phillies consider trading players, they must also look at their potential replacements in the minor leagues.
Three Class-A players—catcher Tommy Joseph, shortstop Roman Quinn and OF/1B Larry Greene—are still a few years away but should contribute when they do reach the big leagues.
Others like third basemen Cody Asche and Maikel Franco could also make an impact in the near future.
Trade Overpriced Players
Now that we know what the Phillies do have, let's look at their assets in the big leagues.
Cliff Lee is the first name on anyone's list of potential pieces to be traded away.
With the Phillies going nowhere this year, he could be moved for a few pieces that could bolster their minor league system.
He could also return a major league-ready outfielder, which is another area of concern for the Phillies. Unlike other positions, there's no relief in sight from the minor leagues.
Then there's Roy Halladay, who has struggled this year but could still do a lot for another team. A team like the Oakland Athletics (which could lose Bartolo Colon as a result of the Biogenesis scandal) could use his services.
Then there's Jonathan Papelbon, who isn't getting the same opportunities he's accustomed to. He's one of the highest-paid closers in the game ($13 million) and isn't getting the opportunity to earn his keep.
What value does he bring to the Phillies, which are likely out of the playoff race?
Lastly, there is Utley, who is a fan favorite in Philadelphia.
His abilities at the plate at a normally weak position make him a valuable commodity on the trade market. Outside of Brandon Phillips, Ian Kinsler and Robinson Cano, there isn't a more consistent hitter at second base than Utley. He will also be a free agent after this year.
Lee, Halladay, Papelbon and Utley are being paid a combined $73 million this year. Trading them could clear some serious cap room on the books to make a run at some free agents this offseason.
The bottom line is the Phillies have a bunch of players that teams would be interested in, but they have to be willing to make the moves.
How is that fiscally smart?
Instead of retaining these players and watching them lead Philadelphia to a losing season, Amaro Jr. should swallow his pride and get to work at rebuilding the Phillies into a winning baseball team once again.
Right now, it's a joke to see how much they're paid and how bad they're performing.
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