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An Open Letter to Ruben Amaro Jr. to Commit to Phillies Fire Sale

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An Open Letter to Ruben Amaro Jr. to Commit to Phillies Fire Sale
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Dear Mr. Amaro: It's time to sell. Sincerely, The Writing On The Wall

Dear Mr. Amaro Jr.,

First off, congratulations!

You've had a nice little run as a key decision-maker for the Philadelphia Phillies, a team you've been an executive with since 1998. You served as assistant general manager until 2008, at which point not only did your team win it all, but you were promoted to general manager.

You even managed to make a few blockbusters of your own since taking over for Pat Gillick. Some of them worked out well enough, like the trades for Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. The deal for Roy Oswalt? That wasn't so bad either. That Hunter Pence trade helped at the time, too.

Many of the bigger, more recent moves, though, have been questionable transactions at best.

Like inking Ryan Howard to a $125 million extension when you didn't have to or giving Jonathan Papelbon $50 million to pitch 60 innings a year.

And hate to pile on here, but how's that $144 million you gave Cole Hamels—he of the 3-11 record and 4.38 ERA—this time last year looking right about now?

Even though they don't qualify as major moves, let's not even get into the Young and Young (Delmon and Michael) pickups this year, as you were trying to plug holes in your sinking ship with a little Elmer's. You had good intentions, no doubt, with all of these, trying to make a championship-winning core better—or at least prolonging the window of opportunity—but a lot of them were a tad shortsighted.

Maybe you were trying to make your own mark after succeeding a Hall of Famer.

Which is why it's even more important that you don't lose sight of your position this time.

This year is huge for your future, as well as that of the Philadelphia Phillies. With the club stuck in no man's land—the Phils are 44-46 and 6.5 games out of a playoff spot entering play Tuesday—you've wavered about whether you're going to buy or sell this month.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Ryan Howard has earned $40 million this year and last to do a lot of this due to injuries.

But you got hit with a big blow recently when Howard went down with a torn meniscus in his left knee that will require surgery and keep him out up to two months. That might finally push you into the seller bucket.

At least, one would hope.

Not that Howard has been all that great. In fact, that massive extension you gave him kicked in just last season. Meaning through the first part of that deal, Howard has given you a triple-slash line of .244/.307/.445 in two injury-plagued seasons.

Even factoring in the knee problem, that's not pretty.

That performance actually led you, Mr. Amaro, to call out Howard in a pregame interview show on 94 WIP in Philadelphia:

If Ryan Howard is now relegated to being a platoon player, he's a very expensive platoon player and he needs to be better. I think he knows it. I know he's struggling, I know he's not happy with his performance—neither are we. I think he's going to be better, but right now, he's just not doing the job.

Furthermore, it's fair to question, as Dan Szymborski did for ESPN Insider (subscription required), whether Howard's contract is a total loss. Already.

But it's not just Howard. Halladay may miss the rest of the year after finally succumbing in early May to arm and shoulder problems that had plagued him for the better part of a year. Reliever Mike Adams, who was given a two-year deal this offseason, is also very likely gone for the year.

Jason Miller/Getty Images
Phillies fans haven't seen much of Roy Halladay this year, and when they did, he wasn't good.

Factor in the ages and contract situations of the core group who was responsible for a World Series title that came five years ago, and, well, it's a pretty easy decision.

Time to sell, Mr. Amaro.

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You seemed to realize this last week when you told CSN Philly, "If we continue to play the way we play sporadically, then I'm going to have to consider being a seller."

The good news? You've got some chips in the cupboard.

There's Lee, who's pitching as well as always and who would unquestionably be the top arm on the market, even with the $25 million-a-year price tag that comes with him through 2015. Dealing Lee would not only net some young talent, it would allow you to free up some money to spend elsewhere in the future.

There's Chase Utley, who's a free-agent-to-be and recently came back from yet another stint on the disabled list. Trading the guy who was inarguably the heart and soul of the franchise for a decade would be a hard pill to swallow, but it's better than letting him walk away at season's end for nothing. Especially when Utley's still hitting extremely well and could command a solid return.

If Papelbon can keep doing this, he'll be easier to trade.

There's Papelbon, who's a luxury you simply cannot afford. He's a high-priced closer on a sub-.500 team that's been headed in the wrong direction for a few years now. The $13 million a year he's owed through at least 2015 will make him a tad tougher to trade, but it's a down reliever market and there are some teams desperate enough for a closer (cough, Detroit, cough) to take that contract off your hands.

Lord knows, with more than $80 million still going into Howard's bank account through 2016, you'll need it.

There are others, too, like right-hander Kyle Kendrick, who would help a team in need of a mid-rotation arm. Then there's the Young boys, with Michael capable of being a utility player or injury replacement at multiple spots and, hey, Delmon has that spiffy postseason résumé that might entice a contender.

Another key factor here is that there just aren't many teams in sell mode yet, with maybe a handful of clubs ready to cash in their chips.

Mr. Amaro, if you get in there sooner or later—like now—you could make some real headway toward rebuilding the Phillies and restoring them to the team that was among the best in baseball over the past decade.

Beyond that, you'll open up spots for younger players to prove themselves.

You've got Darin Ruf, who can get a look at first base while Howard is out. And Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez can handle second base if you move Utley. Third basemen Cody Asche and Maikel Franco aren't far off, especially once you clear Michael Young out of the way. Tommy Joseph, whom you got from the Giants last July for Pence, could be your catcher of the future.

And in the rotation, it's time to see if lefties Jesse Biddle and Adam Morgan as well as righties Tyler Cloyd and Ethan Martin can make like Jonathan Pettibone and join Hamels.

So, Mr. Amaro, you're the decision-maker here. It's time to decide.

If you're still not sure what to do, well, here's a hint:

The writing's on the wall, and it reads "Sell."

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