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2013 could be last chance to see several Phillies favorites

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The dawn of a new baseball season brings hope and promise for all 30 major league teams. After a disappointing 2012 season that seemed doomed from the outset, the older but wiser Philadelphia Phillies are looking to reclaim their title as the beasts of the National League East.
 
In addition to having to beat the Nationals and Braves, the 2013 Phillies will also have to beat father time. In fact, three of the team’s core players will be facing free agency after the season. Each player has been extremely popular during their time in red pinstripes, and it will be tough to part company with any of them if the Phillies decide to go in another direction. Here they are:
 

1. Chase Utley- I  never thought I’d see the day where Chase Utley could possibly wear another team’s uniform than the Phillies’. But in all actuality, there’s a chance that might happen after 2013. After his first four seasons in the majors, Utley was undoubtedly on track for a Hall of Fame career before injuries took it’s toll.  Now 34 years of age with two bad knees, Utley appears to be healthy for the first time in several seasons, but the chances of him regaining his stature among the game’s best have most likely passed him by.

A solid season by Utley could bring him somewhere between 8 to 10 million a year on the free agency market. With Utley’s condition, he might be better suited as a DH on an American League Team. A cornerstone of the Phillies franchise as well as one of their most popular players of all-time, would the Phillies part company with Utley? We’ll have to see how he performs this year, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

As you can see by these betting odds the 76ers are underdogs tonight


2. Roy Halladay- I really hate seeing this, especially since Halladay was unbelievably dominant in 2010 and pretty damn good in 2011. However, a subpar 2012 for Halladay combined with the issues he’s having as Spring Training progresses makes it highly unlikely the Phils are thinking about picking up his $20 million dollar option in 2014, which includes the clause he throw at least 225 innings in 2013 (which is also looking more and more unlikely.) Granted, Halladay looked physically spent yesterday and is apparently fighting a bad stomach virus. Problem is, he looked horrendous in his start against the Tigers last week, his velocity is down once again, and the more time he misses, the less time he has to get things together to start the season.

Depending on how things play out and the Phillies aren't interested in restructuring a new deal, the team should seriously consider contingency plans for life after Halladay (who will be 36 in May), but aces just don’t grow on trees.
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3. Carlos Ruiz-  It’s hard to believe that Chooch is 34 years of age, but he didn’t break into the bigs until he was 27 and then kind of snuck up on everybody. Ruiz has vastly improved his game with each passing season, but there are some underlying issues here. He’s still staring down the barrel of a 25-game suspension for testing positive twice for a stimulant. He’s also a free agent after 2013. Although he started catching relatively late which spared him of some possible future knee issues (knock wood), Ruiz missed five weeks last summer with plantar fasciitis, which can Carlos Ruizbecome a recurring problem, so you could understand the Phillies reluctance in giving a 34-year old veteran a long term deal- especially a catcher.

There has been talk about using Ruiz at third base during some games in 2013. He’s played there during two memorable Phillies games: the first in 2008, when Chris Coste went 4 for 4 off the bench in an 8-7 Phillies win that once saw them trailing 7-0. The other in the 19-inning classic against the Reds in 2011, which saw former infielder Wilson Valdez notch the win. With third base prospect Cody Asche as well as catching prospect Tommy Joseph not quite ready for prime time, the Phillies might be more willing to sign Ruiz for a few more years as both of these players develop. But this is a contract year, and Ruiz has to have a decent follow up to his 2012 season: One that could have an asterisk next to it depending on how well he performs upon his return.

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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