This season has been extremely frustrating for the Phillies and their fans. The team that has won five straight National League East titles now sits in last place in the division and continues to find new ways to lose games.
The Phillies are 28th in the league in runners left in scoring position per game. Not only can the team not drive in runs, but their pitching staff hasn't been as dominant as expected.
Roy Halladay is on the DL, but even before that he was struggling. Cliff Lee is still winless and has struggled to locate his pitches. The man who used to go games without walking a batter now has put too many runners on base and then has allowed them to score.
The bullpen has been horrendous, ranking 25th in the league in bullpen ERA. The team finally designated Chad Qualls for assignment, but he isn't the only problem in that pen.
In order to put together this team, general manager, Ruben Amaro, Jr., traded away the team's future. The team is getting older and doesn't appear to have many players in the farm system who are anywhere near ready to come up and make an impact.
It's time to sell in Philadelphia.
Shane Victorino should be the first to go. Victorino is a solid defensive center fielder, but he is a terrible baserunner and isn't worth keeping for his hitting.
After dealing Victorino, the Phillies need to seriously consider trading either Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay. By getting rid of one of these guys, they will be able to re-sign Cole Hamels after this season.
Roy Halladay's injury and age could prevent teams from pursuing him, but you have to think that Cliff Lee is still a coveted player. The only problem is, do the Phillies have the heart to trade the guy who turned down more money to play for them?
Let's say the Phillies decide to trade Lee. Where could he go?
Well, look at potential playoff teams that need pitching. Let's start in the American League. The Yankees have pitching troubles as it is, but now CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte are injured. Lee turned down the Yankees before signing with the Phillies, but he would greatly improve that team. In return, the Phillies could receive outfield prospect, Mason Williams, and third base prospect, Dante Bichette, Jr.
The Red Sox are another team that could use Lee's services. The Sox have the offense to make the playoffs, but they're at least a pitcher away from being serious contenders. In return, the Phillies could get outfield prospects, Bryce Brentz and Jackie Bradley.
The Detroit Tigers have a World Series-caliber offense as well, but a pitcher like Lee would give them a dangerous pitching staff. Verlander and Lee would create an incredible one-two punch. And how about third base prospect, Nick Castellanos, coming back to Philly along with another prospect?
In the National League, Cliff Lee would make the Reds the team to beat. Cincinnati has a great offense, and if they added Lee, a rotation of Lee, Cueto and Latos in the postseason would be brutal for opposing offenses. Pitching prospect, Robert Stephenson, and outfield prospect, Ryan LaMarre, would be great pieces for the Phillies to get in return.
It's time for the Phillies to start preparing for the future, and it starts by being able to re-sign Hamels. If the team trades Victorino and Lee, they'll get pieces in return that will allow Philadelphia to have a playoff-caliber team sooner rather than later.