Inside the Phillies: Phillies' trip did not make Amaro's decisions any easier

Posted: July 20, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- It was a fine road trip. Any time you go to the West Coast and win more games than you lose, you've done your job.

"We won two series," pitcher Cliff Lee said after the Phillies' jarring extra-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday. "That's what you got to do to catch back up. You've got to win one series at a time and we've done that. It would have been nice if we had won today and got the sweep, but we didn't. We still won the series and it's definitely a positive."

That's the only way players can think.

If you're the general manager of a baseball team on the deepest possible periphery of playoff contention with the trade deadline less than two weeks away, a 4-2 road trip does nothing more than add to the conundrum.

Sell or buy?

By winning four of six on their recent road trip, the Phillies did nothing more than hold ground. They were 10 games out of the second wild-card spot at the all-star break and they are still 10 games out heading into Friday night's series against the San Francisco Giants at Citizens Bank Park.

Having lost 10 of 11 games to close out the first half, the Phillies' players viewed their West Coast work as progress that could be partly attributed to the returns of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Roy Halladay. None of the three did anything extraordinary, but Halladay made it clear about what he thinks Amaro should do without being Curt Schilling-like overbearing about it.

"It's definitely hard," Halladay said. "This is an organization that has been committed to winning and you want to see that continue, and there are points where they may have to reconsider about how they are going to go about that. I hope that is long after I'm gone, to be honest with you.

"You want to have every chance you can to win, and it's tough having the trade deadline and being at the point we're in. It puts some pressure on the front office, but I don't think any of us have given up on [the season], and I know they haven't in the front office. It's a tough situation where you can't always go down the same path if things aren't working and you have to make some changes and do some different things. We understand that, but as players you want to go out and give yourself a chance to win and avoid those situations."

The Phillies' best chance to make the playoffs now, as slim as that may be, is to keep potential free agents Shane Victorino and Cole Hamels. The team's best opportunity to win a year from now may be by trading those two for bullpen help and possibly a power-hitting third baseman.

Victorino limped into the all-star break hitting .225 in his final 22 games of the first half without an extra-base hit. But on the 4-2 road trip he showed signs of life and a desire to remain with the Phillies through at least the remainder of this season. He hit .375 and had five extra-base hits, including three triples.

If the Phillies trade Victorino, they are not likely to get his replacement in return. They would probably be left with the option of playing John Mayberry Jr. and Jason Pridie in center field for the remainder of the season while also taking a look at Domonic Brown in left field.

That's a tough sell to guys like Lee and Halladay, who took less money to come to the Phillies with the hope of winning a World Series.

"I think there has to be a positive mentality, especially when you have the players we have," Halladay said. "It's not like we have players who can't compete and can't win. We have those players here; it's just a matter of going out and doing it and giving ourselves a chance."

Their slim chance decreases even more without Victorino and entirely without Hamels.

The bigger issue, of course, is what to do about Hamels. John Boggs, the agent for the pitcher, was awaiting the enormous contract offer the Phillies are expected to make in the near future.

If Amaro were to trade Victorino in the interim, it would be sending a message about this season, and you have to wonder how Hamels would perceive that message.

That's why a 4-2 road trip added more thorns to Amaro's already tough situation. Had the Phillies gone 2-4 or 1-5 and fallen further back in the wild-card race, it would have been easy for the general manager to field and accept the best offer for Victorino right now.

And if the Phillies had gone 5-1 or 6-0, the best-case scenario of gaining ground would have Amaro and the front office enthusiastic about keeping the core together and adding immediate bullpen help.

Instead, things remained status quo.

"I think [Amaro] knows how a lot of guys feel," Halladay said. "He knows we want to keep Cole and Victorino. As a player, there are certain lines that you don't cross. He understands you want to win and you want to have the guys here to do that, but by the same token he is the GM and I'm a player and I respect his position."

Nobody, however, envies the spot Ruben Amaro Jr. is in right now.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com  or on Twitter @brookob

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