After the Philadelphia Phillies won 102 games in 2011, they were stopped in the first playoff round by the St. Louis Cardinals. Charlie Manuel led this season's team through a second-half surge, but only finished with 81 wins.
Having playoff access denied for the first time since 2006 doesn't sit well with the Phillies' front office. So, does that mean that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. might pursue a different path during this offseason?
I want to review every well-known Phillies' player to attempt to determine who might be dealt before next season begins.
Starting on the mound
Cole Hamels is highly unlikely to be traded for a number of years. It's always risky to make an absolute statement, but let's be serious. Hamels is the best homegrown pitcher to remain with the organization in many decades and he also holds a brand new contract extension.
Cliff Lee was a trade candidate this summer, regardless of whether his emotionally-attached supporters believe that to be true. The idea of moving him during this offseason makes no sense, mostly because of Roy Halladay's arm issues.
I believe that if Halladay were fully healthy, the Phillies might consider the option of exchanging Lee's guaranteed $75 million contract ($25 million due each season, through 2015). The idea of another team accepting Halladay's $20 million 2013 contract seems to be a stretch as well.
It would be mildly surprising if Amaro traded Kyle Kendrick. "KK" served as a good swing man and is currently standing in Joe Blanton's rotational spot.
Starter Vance Worley, or any of the younger bullpen men, could be traded. But, dealing these second-tier staff members certainly wouldn't be shocking.
Jonathan Papelbon is the only other person who I would be surprised to see traded. Number 58 didn't have a perfect year, but he saved 38 games.
Dealing a closer in his prime, who has only spent one season in red pinstripes, might only happen if another team overwhelms the Phillies with an early Christmas gift.
Erik Kratz has an incredible arm and showed power at the plate, but he has no long-term major league track record. So, Carlos Ruiz can't possibly be dealt. Plus, "Chooch" just had his contract option picked up.
Ryan Howard isn't fully healthy and has $95 million left on his guaranteed contract through 2016. "The Big Piece" will be the Phillies' cleanup hitter in 2013. I do think that he could be moved in a few years if Darin Ruf remains with the team and is successful, as that rookie could always be shifted back to first base in the future.
Chase Utley has clawed his way back from the grave. While he's no longer "The Man" he once was, I do expect to see him keep his second baseman's glove on during his last contractually guaranteed season in 2013.
Jimmy Rollins seemed to be strongly considering the free agent discussion that he had with the Milwaukee Brewers a year ago. He and the Phillies settled for each other when they reached their 3-year, $33 million deal. The challenge with letting him go remains similar to last offseason's question. Would Rollins' potential replacement be an upgrade over the status quo?
I don't rule out J-Roll allowing himself (as a 5/10 man) to be traded to a West Coast team. The Oakland Athletics may serve as a potential trading partner, among others in this regard, because he's a native of Oakland, Calif. Oakland's general manager Billy Beane always keeps an eye on his financial waistline, so the Phillies would likely have to eat a significant portion of Rollins' money to make that specific deal happen. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Dodgers are financially healthy.
It would be surprising if a team really wanted Domonic Brown. Despite his production numbers, he was steadier this season. But, the 25-year-old has yet to prove that he can be a full-time major leaguer.
Ruf's value might never be higher, but I wouldn't trade him. I believe that the historic power punch he delivered this season is far too compelling to exchange for some other player's promise. If Ruf seems like he's not ready for the major leagues by next spring, the only team that I would send him to is the Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
The last pitch
Phillies' fans might be wondering how their team is going to improve by next year. They know that a fully healthy squad would have won approximately 95 games this season and qualified for the playoffs.
Since an older core of players are hardly guaranteed to remain healthy throughout 2013, it would be wise to continue making changes. As noted, the ability to actually do so seems somewhat limited.
It would be surprising if Amaro trades any of the players who have been mentioned. Somehow, I still think that at least one could be sent packing. Who that player will be is anyone's best guess.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies' farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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