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Should Amaro blow up Phillies? Trade Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels or Jim Thome?


 Who stays and who goes on 2012 Philadelphia Phillies?

After watching Sunday’s uninspired debacle in Toronto which capped off a three-game sweep of the Phillies at the hands of the Blue Jays, it’s pretty obvious to all at this time that the Phightins are going nowhere fast. The team has too many subs who are starting due to countless injuries, the offense has no offensive approach at the plate, their once gold glove-caliber defense now allows runs at will, the team’s $21 million dollar starter is winless, their bullpen is a disaster, and there are no signs of this improving whatsoever.

If Chase Utley can return in a few weeks and provide somewhat of a “spark” for this team, than so be it- but please keep your expectations in check. The same goes for Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay, who at 35 may no longer be able to regain the title of baseball’s best pitcher.

With the Phillies in dead last and staring at a nine game deficit (they’re 11 in the loss column) to the Nationals in the NL East standings, there may be a slight chance at best of the Phightins grabbing a Wild Card slot if they manage to somewhat pick up the pieces. However, if the injuries continue to mount and the Phillies continue to slide even further, don’t be surprised if Ruben Amaro Jr. doesn’t start to sell off some pieces of his very expensive payroll.

Although there are names not listed below that could be dealt at the deadline, the following are the most likely. All bets are off from this point.

Jim Thome: We might as well start off with the Phillies hottest hitter. Honestly, I thought Thome was finished. Charlie Manuel made the mistake of playing Thome in the field earlier in the year and it killed his back. So a funny little thing called Interleague Play comes around, and Thome catches absolute fire. In a little over a week, Thome hit four home runs and drove in 14 RBIs in nine straight games as the team’s designated hitter. In the process, Thome became just the fourth player in baseball history to hit 100 or more home runs for three different teams.

From a personal standpoint, I loved this signing in November, but deep down I wondered how this would work. Thome hadn’t played the field in years, and his track record as a pinch hitter is less than spectacular. Keep in mind this is coming from a big Jim Thome fan. I would hate to see him leave again, but being that the Phillies’ bullpen is currently the worst it’s been in half a decade, the team might be able to get a serviceable middle reliever in exchange for Thome returning to the American League where he rightly belongs: as a DH.

Joe Blanton: When you have six more wins than Cliff Lee and two more than Roy Halladay,  you’re either Jim Palmer, or you have some serious issues with your pitching staff. Such is the case with Blanton, whose chances of being traded to a contender are more likely than not. Blanton will be a free agent after 2012, and his $8 million owed to him will be in the range of $3 million or a little less by late July. A team who is a serviceable fourth or fifth starter away from solidifying their rotation could express interest in Blanton, much like the Phillies did back in 2008.

Cliff Lee: If the Phillies again traded Lee, it would clearly be the most controversial, although maybe not as much as the first time the Phillies shipped Lee out of town in December 2009. Lee, who returned to the Phils after signing a five-year deal in December 2010, emphasized how he and his family looked forward to establishing a home in Philadelphia. Cliff Lee photo: Matt Slocum/AP

However, business is business, and you have to wonder how Lee isn’t completely fed up with this team. Lee’s altercation with Shane Victorino a few weeks back was something you hadn’t seen with this Phillies team in years, furthermore proving that frustrations are mounting with this team. It’s almost July, and Lee still does not have a win. For a man making $21.5 million in 2012, this is embarrassing.

Granted, Lee has shown flashes of dominance, but those stretches where it seems like he’s from another planet now seem few and far between. Moreover, much like his performance in the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals, Lee has had a penchant for blowing games this year, particularly to the Dodgers, Orioles, and Blue Jays this weekend.

Three and a half years and $75 million and change of a contract would still be owed to Lee, clearly making him the hardest to deal. I’m not sure what would be harder: Amaro trading Lee again, or the backlash that would follow?

Shane Victorino: The average fan watching Victorino play doesn’t see the fielding and running mishaps that are only magnified by the Phillies’ less than spectacular play. Sunday’s baserunning blunder against Toronto is absolutely unacceptable for any veteran ballplayer. Victorino was an integral part of that 2008 World Championship team and will always be remembered fondly for his contributions. However, his expiring contract combined with his complete lack of fundamentals on the baseball field don’t make him a viable long term fit for this Phillies team. Of course, you’ll most likely be stuck with John Mayberry Jr. in centerfield for the remainder of the 2012 season if they don’t get a replacement in return for Victorino. But if the Phillies begin to rebuild, does it matter?

Hunter Pence: Being that Pence has another year left of arbitration with the Phillies and is just 29 years of age, the team will get more for him than Victorino. Make no mistake, Pence’s stats speak for itself and his talent is unquestionable. However, he has no approach whatsoever to hitting, and his fielding blunders seem to be happening at the worst possible times for this Phillies team. Not a good combination. You’ll be giving up your biggest power threat by a long shot (13 homers going into Tuesday’s game), but chances are you could get some nice value in return.

Cole Hamels: I’ve saved the best for last. He’s been struggling lately, but simply put, the Phillies HAVE to sign the 28-year old Hamels to a long term deal if they even stand a chance of being competitiveCole Hamels photoL Chuck Solomon in the next half decade. According to Howard Eskin, multiple sources indicate Hamels will not be back with the Phillies next season. Hamels reportedly wants a seven-year extension from the Phillies.   Although he is several years younger than Cliff Lee, it was practically a stretch the Phils gave Lee five years!

Bottom line, this is not good, but can you blame Hamels for not wanting to come back to the Phillies? This entire team (as presently set) is on a downward spiral that is most likely going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Unless the Phillies do some major (and by major, I mean practically an overhaul) retooling in the months that follow, Hamels (and I hate to say this) is as good as gone.

The Phillies have also reportedly had no contact with Hamels’ agent John Boggs in quite some time, which is never good news. If the Phillies remain apart or don’t reopen talks with Hamels’ camp, do they consider dealing him at the deadline? The Phillies dealt Curt Schilling to Arizona in 2000 while they were rebuilding their team and got practically nothing to show for it. Could this happen again?

While we aren't getting into particulars of who the Phillies could acquire for the above mentioned players just yet, getting quality prospects in return for any of them (with the exception of Thome) is always a crapshoot. For example, how many of the Phillies’ prospects that they traded over the last five years have panned out for the teams on the receiving end of the deal? Not many. Gio Gonzalez and possibly Travis d’Arnaud (who the Phillies traded in the Halladay deal), but that’s about it. With the proverbial shoe now on the other foot, the same could happen to the Phillies, and we very well could be seeing the beginning of their rebuilding process sooner than you think.

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Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Cliff Lee: Matt Slocum/AP

Hamels thumbnail: Chuck Solomon