Inside the Phillies: Amaro has a chance now to start reloading Phillies for 2013

Posted: July 30, 2012

ATLANTA - It's July 29, and if history repeats itself for a fourth straight season Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will make a significant trade at some point Sunday.

Three years ago, he added Cliff Lee on this date. Two years ago, it was Roy Oswalt. Last summer, Hunter Pence came aboard, and the Phillies lapped the field on the way to their fifth straight National League East title.

"I might trade four guys," Amaro said jokingly before Saturday night's 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves dimmed the Phillies' slim playoff hopes a little bit more.

It's doubtful four players will be erased from the roster Sunday, but many more than that have disappointed Amaro since the start of the season.

What's certain is that the circumstances surrounding this summer's trade deadline are going to be drastically different for Amaro and the Phillies. This year's math is going to be more about subtraction than addition with Shane Victorino, Juan Pierre, and Saturday night starter Joe Blanton still the leading candidates to be dealt as the trade deadline heads into the final turn.

Blanton, the Phillies' best starting pitcher since the middle of June, enhanced his value with seven more strong innings against the Braves.

If this was the end of the road in Philadelphia for Blanton, he described the overall experience as "phenomenal," but admitted this season has made a lot of players' "minds spin" because the team has not been able to duplicate all the past success.

A parade of scouts have been following the Phillies for more than a week, and Amaro's decision-making time has been narrowed to just a few days. One baseball source indicated the Cincinnati Reds have interest in both Victorino and Pierre, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are also believed to be in the mix for those two.

Amaro understands that a lot of fixing needs to be done between now and 2013.

"I don't think we're going to do anything before July 31 to fill all the holes that we might have in 2013," Amaro said. "That's not going to happen. We've got plenty of time to try to work through that."

Yes, plenty of time, including a quiet October while 10 other teams, most of them with much more modest payrolls, participate in the fall tournament that decides the 2012 World Series champion.

The first of those moves in an effort to improve for next season could be about to be made. The most daring thing Amaro could do is trade lefthander Cliff Lee.

With Zack Greinke now on board with the Los Angeles Angels, Amaro should push hard to deal Lee back to the Texas Rangers for one of their young infield prospects, preferably third baseman Mike Olt. It is such a position of need for the Phillies, and Lee's exit would free up so much money for this winter's reloading process.

After watching his team take another step backward with Friday night's listless, mistake-filled loss to the Braves, Manuel spent Saturday afternoon offering his take on the rise and fall of the Phillies.

"I started seeing it early," the manager said. "I started seeing it when the season started, and, if you remember, I had two meetings like three weeks or a month apart."

Meetings did not make much of a difference, and you get the impression that Manuel does not think anything short of some roster changes will get the Phillies going in the right direction again.

"We need some improvement, man," Manuel said. "I mean, we can take our defense, our pitching, and our offense, too. All three. We have to get better than that.

"Some people will say, 'You've got the same players.' Well, yeah, we do have a lot of the same players. At the same time, you still have to play at that level we used to."

For the second day in a row, Manuel noted that the starting pitching has to improve, and by that, he meant that Roy Halladay, Lee, and Cole Hamels have to pitch like aces again.

The manager has confidence that the offense will continue to get better with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley back in the lineup, but he knows help is needed there, too.

In addition to seeing a team that lacks talent at some key positions, Manuel also has seen a reduction in fiery play.

"Our team, we used to - and I hate to say 'used to' - we did things different," Manuel said. "A lot of that contributed to our success. People do change. Success changes people. Money definitely changes people. You have to be able to see those things, too. I'm not singling out one person. I'm talking about a team.

"At one time, we had the greatest attitude and best hustle of any team I ever had. General managers used to tell me they had just as much talent, but we had more heart. I always thought we had the talent and the heart. Seriously, we kind of slipped a little bit. I think our play shows that."

It's right there in the standings, too.

And Charlie Manuel is beginning to sound a lot like a politician running against the incumbent candidate. He believes it is time for a change.


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

 

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