COMMENTARY | For many reasons, the Philadelphia Phillies and their faithful fans are welcoming the close of 2012 with open arms. It was tough year full of injuries, disappointment and unfulfilled expectations.
2012 hoped to be a season of redemption for 2011, but Chase Utley's knees and Ryan Howard's achilles put them in a deep hole from which they were never able to climb.
The 2013 season that lies ahead brings with it a mixture of reserved optimism and irrefutable cynicism for many fans. The roster is deeper than it was last season, and there is a lot of upside, but on paper the Phillies are still facing an up-hill battle if they want to compete with Washington and Atlanta.
As it turned out, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was able to fill the most important holes in his roster - late-inning relief, center field and third base - for much less than it would have cost to sign a big name free agent. Now he is left with some payroll flexibility and could still add some depth to the roster.
Could another trade be on the horizon? Maybe.
It won't be easy. After trades for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Ben Revere and Michael Young the Phillies are lucky to have the few promising prospects currently in their system. With many of their core players in their mid-thirties, they may be needing those prospects to step up soon too.
Still, Amaro rarely closes the door on anything that could help the team win both now and in the future. If a move presents itself that could do just that, don't be surprised if Amaro pulls the trigger.
Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton are the two most appealing names that have come up in trade rumors, but both of them present a catch-22 for the Phillies. Both Upton and Stanton would require a sizeable return which is a bidding match the Phillies would quickly be priced out of should teams like Texas and Atlanta get involved.
However, if those teams decide not to part with their top prospects and the Phillies are the most aggressive suitor, Stanton and Upton are young enough where the loss of top prospects would be justified.
Upton - who is owed $38.5 million through 2015 - would also require the Phillies to dump some salary before next season. Amaro did indicate that he was under no mandate to stay below the luxury tax in 2013 since the threshold will increase next season, so he could be willing to pay the tax this season if they could land Upton.
When trade rumors surrounded Upton prior to the winter meetings, the Diamondbacks were looking for a top shortstop prospect, which they acquired in Didi Gregorius in a three-team trade with Cleveland and Cincinnati. So any package built around Freddy Galvis is out.
The one place where the Phillies have depth is pitching. Two of their best pitching prospects went to Minnesota in the Ben Revere deal, so any possible deal would have to be built around top prospect Jesse Biddle and also include some combination of Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, Tyler Cloyd and Jonathan Pettibone.
You can see how the Phillies are at a disadvantage on the trade market.
Catching prospect Sebastian Valle could be a wildcard. The Phillies acquired 1B/C Tommy Joseph when they traded Hunter Pence to the eventual World Series champions, so they do have some depth at the position if Valle is appealing enough to land a top right-handed bat.
Much like Upton, Giancarlo Stanton will likely be the center of trade talks for a long time. A 23-year-old budding superstar on a going-nowehere team is prime for a blockbuster trade, making it all the more impossible for the Phillies to be a a major factor.
It's impossible to even speculate on a potential trade package for Stanton because the Phillies just don't have the pieces. If Amaro were somehow able to pull this rabbit out of his hat, give the man a lifetime contract and a new wing in the Hall of Fame just for him.
Stanton is the type of trade target that comes around once every… never. It would be like trading a 23-year-old Albert Pujols or Alex Rodriguez. It just doesn't happen.
Somehow, though, the idea of Stanton being on the trading block doesn't seem so farfetched. He is unhappy with the Marlins, who are under the microscope after trading half their roster in exchange for a few thousand more empty seats at their new ballpark, so perhaps it would be best for both parties to go their separate ways.
Amaro says he is comfortable with the roster as it stands, and I believe him. I might even say I agree. There is young upside to this team with Ruf, Revere and Brown coupled with veterans who aren't far removed from their former dominance.
Still, I would be lying if I said I thought Amaro has turned his phone off completely.
Scott Lentz is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker from Philadelphia. He is a freelance contributor to Yahoo! Sports and TheGamingAdvisory.com. For more baseball talk and questions, follow Scott on Twitter: @scottlentz27