Obviously we're just over two months out from Major League Baseball's trade deadline, but already there is some speculation as to who might find themselves to be buyers and who might be sellers come July 31.
One of the more intriguing characters in this year's midsummer drama will be the Philadelphia Phillies.
Currently sitting at 26-29 and just six-and-a-half games behind the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves, the Phillies find themselves in quite the quandary.
The Phillies and their fans have grown accustomed to winning. In fact, last year's third-place finish was the first time since the 2006 season that the Phillies did not win the NL East.
During that span from 2007 to 2011, the Phillies won five division titles, two National League pennants and one World Series.
Their 81-81 record in 2012 was simply unacceptable.
However, the front office did little prior to the 2013 campaign to improve their roster.
The additions of center fielder Ben Revere, right fielder Delmon Young and expected eighth-inning setup man Mike Adams have yet to pay off. Likewise, third baseman Michael Young has not provided much in terms of production.
It's time to come to a realization—the Phillies, as they are now, cannot compete with the elite teams in baseball.
The roster is littered with guys who find themselves in the onset of the twilight of their careers.
Cornerstone players in this organization just can't produce like they once could.
Ryan Howard—the hulking first baseman who was once a perennial MVP contender, even winning the award once in a season that saw him club 58 home runs—is a shell of his former self.
Howard is averaging one home run for every 31 at-bats.
In contrast, during that MVP season in 2006, Howard knocked one out of the park every 12 at-bats.
Chase Utley, the beloved second baseman, has battled knee problems in the past. While Utley has come back, he's just not the same superstar player that he was during seasons past.
It's unfortunate that it's come to this, but this year, when the Phillies once again find themselves outside of contention, we should expect to see the team move into selling mode.
There are certainly singular players on this roster who are capable of being difference-makers.
A team in contention that is one starting pitcher away from reaching the postseason would be hard pressed to find a better starting pitcher on the market this season than Cliff Lee.
Of course, Lee is set to make $75 million over the course of the next three seasons. That's a lot of money, and at age 34, it's definitely a risk.
I'm sure, though, that the Phillies will find themselves with several suitors.
With pitching at a premium in the major leagues, Jonathan Papelbon is a legitimate top-level closer. He's having a fantastic year and is just the kind of player who can make a good team a great team.
While Lee and Papelbon will be among the hottest commodities on the trade market, I feel like the Phillies will be willing to part with several other players. However, they won't be sought with the same vigor.
Yes, I believe the Phillies will be willing to part with Howard, Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Mike Adams and the Youngs—Delmon and Michael.
Of course, it's unlikely that all these players will go. In fact, it's totally possible that none of these guys will find themselves with another club on August 1. Contract lengths, salaries and no-trade clauses could seriously hamper any chance at making a worthwhile trade.
The truth of the matter is this team has run its course, and now's the time to rebuild.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!