It's about this time of year when fans around the league start to examine whether their team will be buyers or sellers come the trade deadline at the end of July.
While many teams will be looking to add the missing piece to their roster for a deep playoff run come the fall, others will be looking to offload hefty contracts and aging players in return for up-and-coming farm league talent.
With a record of 48-48, the Phillies are the definition of a league-average team. Sitting 6.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East, as well as 5.5 games behind in the Wild Card race, the Phillies face quite the predicament this season.
While some would look at the massive contracts of superstars like Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon and the ages of core players such as Chase Utley, others would see these same players as a solid foundation that could help Philadelphia make a playoff push in the second half of the season.
That is where the debate begins.
On one hand, many critics of the Phillies would call Philadelphia a team on the decline. First baseman Ryan Howard is out for six to eight weeks with a knee injury. Center fielder Ben Revere is also set to miss six to eight weeks due to a broken foot.
Those two injuries may prove to be costly for the Phillies' chances in the second half, and that doesn't even include the injury to Roy Halladay, the pitching ace for Philadelphia who has been out since May with a shoulder injury.
Furthermore, the Phillies have several contract issues that they may want to address come the deadline.
One of those issues involves superstar pitcher Cliff Lee, who is 34 years old and set to earn $75 million over the next three seasons.
Not to mention, the Phillies have several key players over the age of 30, including Halladay, Lee, Papelbon, Utley, Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young.
If general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. wants an opportunity to become younger and stock the farm system, this may be a great time to do so, especially with Young, Utley, Ruiz and Halladay (assuming his option is declined) set to become free agents after this season.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Bob Ford, the Phillies should stick to being sellers at the trade deadline despite their recent success.
Ford's argument is an interesting one. Ford cites the injuries to Howard and Halladay as a crippling blow to the Phillies' playoff chances. However, Ford goes on to say that if the prognosis of Halladay's injury and recovery is promising, then the Phillies have a chance to turn into buyers, although he doesn't see that happening.
With all that said, this team is right in the thick of the playoff race. As this team has shown us, like they did in 2007 when they came back to steal the division title away from the New York Mets after being seven games behind with 17 remaining, anything can happen.
According to Buster Olney of ESPN, Amaro Jr. has said that his team will in fact be buyers at the deadline.
Believers in the Phillies would look at the team's recent form. Yes, they're a .500 team, but they have won their last four series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Chicago White Sox. Three of those teams (Pirates, Braves and Nationals) have better records than that of the Phillies.
Believers would say that players such as Utley, Lee and Rollins have the experience and potential to lead the team in a second-half push. Believers and optimists would say that Halladay may be ready to pitch in late-August, which would only help the starting rotation. Believers would look at Cole Hamels' recent form, and say that he is finally returning to his game that made him a NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008.
Also, the Phillies schedule favors them. There is no West Coast trip left on their schedule, the longest road trip remaining for the team this seasons is nine games, and the Phils have 12 games remaining with the Braves, as well as nine with the Nationals, making for a great opportunity to make up games in the standings.
When all is said and done, it is not an easy question. Only one man, Amaro Jr., can answer the question of whether the Phillies should be buyers or sellers come the MLB Trade Deadline, and yet he still might not even know.
It is an answer that will not be decided until right up against the deadline. While the Phillies have an aging and injury-plagued roster that may need to be overhauled, there is no doubting the potential is there for the Phillies to make a serious playoff push in the second half of the season.
What do you think? Should the Phillies be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline on July 31st? Share your opinions and predictions for what the Phillies will do in the comment thread below!
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