MLB Trade Deadline 2012: Possible Cliff Lee Deal Shows Philly Is Changing Plan

Sam R. QuinnSenior Analyst IIIJuly 31, 2012

DENVER, CO - JULY 13:  Cliff Lee #33 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches in the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on July 13, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

After five consecutive National League East Division titles, Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Philadelphia Phillies have earned the right to change the plan a bit.

The weeks leading up to the 2012 MLB trade deadline have been filled with various trade rumors regarding Phillies players who played a big part in the team's recent success.

Starting pitcher Cliff Lee has been the most recent topic of trade rumors and speculation (per ESPN's Buster Olney via Twitter):

Source:Cliff Lee is in play in trade talks today. Rangers obviously the most logical landing spot, with 3B Mike Olt as possible centerpiece.

— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 30, 2012

Lee has been in the news for the last couple of days, but before that it was Hunter Pence, who, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, was the topic of conversation between the Phillies and the San Francisco Giants.

That deal seems to be less likely than one involving Lee, but now yet another Phillies player involved in trade deadline talks.

Shane Victorino has heard his name come up as well (via ESPN's Jayson Stark).

Before Pence, Cole Hamels appeared to be on the move in what could have been the start of a fire sale for the Phillies in a disappointing season that has seen them compile a 45-57 record. However, the Phillies axed that possibility by signing their most valuable asset to a monster deal (via Yahoo! Sports).

The Lee deal reportedly has fallen through, but if something changes and Lee is shipped to the Texas Rangers, it would be the beginning of a youth movement.

Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, though both recently returned from injuries, are shells of their former selves. At 32 and 33, respectively, they are certainly on the decline and won't have as much of an impact on the team's future as the organization would have hoped.

Roy Halladay, at one time was one of the most feared starters in the entire league, has had one of the worst seasons of his career. His injury has been a contributing factor to his ineffectiveness, and at 35 years old, it is impossible to tell how his body will rebound in the future.

The Phillies are getting old. There's no way around that. We have seen a changing of the guard in the NL East this season, with the Washington Nationals running roughshod on the other four teams.

It isn't just the Nationals either. The Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins and New York Mets all boast youthful players and prospects that should shape the future of each team.

Amaro and his charges surely realize that younger players must be brought in for Philadelphia to remain relevant in the coming years.

Lee's departure would be the first step in injecting youth into the organization. There are prospects to be had in exchange for his services despite his subpar season. In fact, there are prospects to be had for all of the aging players on the roster.

There's no predicting what is going to happen before Tuesday's trade deadline, but if Lee goes, the landscape of the Phillies will certainly change.