For the third consecutive season, the Philadelphia Phillies are going into the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline as a team that could, in theory, ship off some of its veterans in exchange for prospects who could help out the team in the future. Also for the third consecutive season, the Phillies have not firmly established themselves as definitive contenders or pretenders.
While the 2012 season—one that was considered an anomaly at the time—was the worst of the three, the Phillies have been a losing team and have spent more days in recent years with a losing record than within fighting distance of the top of the NL East division. It's led to the departures of Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Michael Young and John McDonald over the last two years.
This season, while the murkiest of the three in what lies ahead, could be the most radical yet.
The Phillies are not getting any younger, and they aren't getting cheaper, either. It's why expensive veterans such as Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins and even Chase Utley, to an extent, are possibly available in trades.
This is a Phillies team without a clear road map in front of them. They have approached a fork in the road, yet they remain stuck there, indecisive on which road to take.
What needs to be addressed at this year's trade deadline? Plenty, ranging from players to personnel to prospects, both physically and metaphorically. Not only is the minor league system thin, but so are this team's hopes for future success. Here's a rundown of what exactly are the biggest issues the Phillies must address at the 2014 trade deadline.