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Phillies need to start looking towards 2013 after sweep by Braves

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So much for that momentum gained after sweeping the Brewers.

It’s pretty obvious now that the Phillies have not, in fact, turned the corner on what has become their most disappointing season in years. The Brewers’ bullpen was just that bad earlier this week. The real 2012 Phillies reared their ugly heads again this weekend, and any possibility of securing a second Wild Card all but vanished in the process. The Braves flat out humiliated the Phightins by sweeping them three straight at Turner Field, officially making the Phillies sellers come baseball’s trade deadline at 4 p.m. Tuesday.  

With 2012 in the team’s rearview mirror despite 60 games left to play, the Phillies’ brass needs to look towards 2013. While some steps towards improvement could happen sooner than later, some may take longer than others. Nonetheless, here’s what they need to take into consideration while doing so.

1. Get younger, someway somehow

Shane Victorino ($9.5 million) and/or Joe Blanton ($10.5 million) may or may not be gone by Tuesday, Placido Polanco ($6.4 million) is not even a factor anymore on this team (his club option for next year should be declined), and Chase Utley (roughly $15.2 million) is entering the final year of his contract in 2013. Despite having heavy salaries, all four players’ best days are behind them, and the Phillies have to start looking towards the future. Every franchise does it, and the Phils will have to do this if they expect to remain competitive. The Yankees switched up their cast and they continued to win World Series titles, Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig helped the 49ers win multiple Super Bowls, but San Francisco let them walk as they aged and they still stayed competitive. I would mention the Eagles, but there’s that whole Super Bowl thing.

Back to my point. If getting younger involves trading some of your high salary players, Amaro has to do it, or at least explore what he can get for players like Hunter Pence (who will most likely see a significant increase in salary through arbitration next year), and possibly Cliff Lee (who Texas reportedly wants back badly). Trading Lee and/or Pence could free up plenty of salary cap room for Shane Victorino photo: Getty Imagesthe Phillies while making them potentially younger at the same time.

I know what you’re thinking, Pence is just 29. And while that might be true, he’s going to be a lot easier to move in a trade than Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, or Carlos Ruiz.  And speaking of Chooch, he’ll be 34 in January, but he’s currently the best player on the team. Will the Phillies extend him after 2013?

It wouldn’t make much sense to trade Lee because Amaro has pretty much built his team around him. Roy Halladay, and Hamels. Only problem is, Halladay and Lee are looking older by the day. Halladay continues to look non-Roy Halladay like, and Lee’s season speaks for itself. On the flip side, could the Phillies get a third baseman and starter/quality reliever in return for him? If you saw Sunday’s finale, you knoDomonic Brown photo: Getty Imagesw the team desperately needs one.

As far as prospects are concerned, keep in mind that they’re never a guarantee. Just look how many former Phillies prospects panned out for the teams they traded with over the last five years. Ideally, it would be advantageous to acquire young talent ready to play at the major league level while signing some key free agents with your payroll trimmed down.

2. Recall Domonic Brown and play him every game for the rest of the season-

Sure, he hasn’t played a full season at Triple-A this year due to multiple injuries, but Brown has done well when in the Iron Pigs’ lineup. With Victorino, Pence, and possibly Juan PIerre all rumored to be on the trading block, this team has absolutely nothing to lose by putting playing calling up Brown.  In year’s past, the Phillies were gunning for a championship and didn’t have the time to develop young players on a daily basis. Not this year. It’s put up or shut up time for him. Let’s see what he’s made of.

3. Start grooming Charlie Manuel’s successor (ie: Ryne Sandberg)

Has Manuel made every right decision this season? No. In saying that, his team was doomed from the start. This weekend’s series proved what we feared the most with this team: The Phillies, despite the additions of Utley and Howard, are an aging veteran ballclub whose best days seem long behind them.  If you’ve read the papers lately, it’s obvious Manuel is crying for help. He claims the PhilliesCharlie Manuel photo: sports.espn.go.com have lost their edge, that money has changed them, and they no longer have that ‘Eye of the Tiger.’  

As a fan, I really don’t like hearing that. Personally, I think it stinks, but this isn’t the same Phillies team that grabbed me during the summer of 2005. Despite the fact that the Phillies have vastly underperformed this year, Citizens Bank Park still sells out every night. We know the team has to get younger, but you can’t unload the entire team.

You can however, decide who is still hungry  and who isn’t, and start to clean house as you see fit. With Manuel’s contract set to expire after 2013, is this the time when the franchise turns the page and calls up Ryne Sandberg (who many expect to replace Manuel as the Phillies' skipper) so he can learn the ropes next year?

Although it’s not an impossible task, the Phillies front office has some serious decisions to make for the rest of 2012 as well as the next few years.

Stay tuned.

 

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Victorino photo: Getty Images

Domonic Brown photo: Getty Images

Manuel photo: Photo: phildelphia.cbslocal.com