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So What the Heck Do the Philadelphia Phillies Do Now?

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COMMENTARY | We are a little more than a week from Father's Day and at this writing the Philadelphia Phillies had finally reached the .500 plateau, something which had eluded them since mid-April. They've won four straight games with some excellent pitching and some timely hitting, two components of the game they haven't performed with any consistency at all in 2013.

They are in second place in National League East, 7½ games behind the Atlanta Braves. Veteran core members Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz are due to return to the lineup within the next couple of weeks.

So here's the proverbial $64,000 question: What the heck should the Phillies do now?

The answer really revolves around Cliff Lee, the left-handed ace who is pitching as well if not better than any pitcher in the National League right now. Cliff Lee will be an All-Star at Citi Field in New York in a little more than a month. If you follow baseball's rumor mills, there's no telling what team or even what league he'll represent.

If the Phillies want to trade Cliff Lee, there will be plenty of interested parties. He has a clause in his contract that won't permit a trade to 20 other major league teams, so he does have some say in what happens to him. He says he wants to stay in Philadelphia. But it appears he'd likely accept a deal to a legitimate pennant contender.

There are plenty of teams out there rich in prospects that could very well mean a lot to the Phillies' future. Trading this one player might make quite a difference in a few positions going forward. The way he's pitched this season, Lee's value will likely never be higher.

Do they trade him? Do they hold on to him and hope Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick provide excellence similar to his the rest of the way? Is there hope that an offense which has been dismal for most of the first two months of the season has finally turned the corner?

What about Chase Utley? He's been rumored to be a great candidate for designated hitter for an American League contender. Has Freddy Galvis shown enough to play second base the rest of the way? He certainly has defensively. Since Utley's contract expires at season's end anyway, does it make sense to deal him now and open the door for Galvis for good?

What about closer Jonathan Papelbon? Should the Phillies move him to a contender? Are there any other parts outside of the untouchable Domonic Brown and Hamels who would gather interest? Would Jimmy Rollins' gold glove and flair for flourishing in the moment be enticing for a contender?

Really, it seems to all hinge what happens with Lee. If the Phillies trade Cliff Lee, this becomes a team that has begun building for the future. When you trade away one of the best pitchers in the game, you're telling you fans a pennant run appears improbable. Utley, Papelbon, Rollins and others could follow Lee out of town in a hurry. The Phillies will be in rebuilding mode for 2014 and beyond.

The alternative would be to hang in there with the existing squad, perhaps add a bat and a relief pitcher, and make one more run at glory. With so many expiring contracts in the next few seasons, this would certainly seem like the last stand for a great core group.

The realists among us would say blow it up now and start the rebuilding process because this team won't make it to the playoffs. But the loyal Phillies' followers want to see a pennant run and have seen enough happen with this group through the last six years to believe it can happen one more time.

It will come down to which influence within general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. wins out.

Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Phillies follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards. He covered the 1980 World Series, the first championship in Phillies history.

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