It was only three years ago that the Philadelphia Phillies set a franchise record with 102 wins in 2011, but now the team is hoping to have its first winning season since that record setting year. The aging core of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Carlos Ruiz are still the team’s hope for contending. It may also be the team’s last chance to contend. While these four stars are signed through 2015, if the Phillies have another disappointing season there could be changes on the horizon.
Rollins is most likely of the core to be gone first. He has a vesting option for 2015 that he will likely meet, but afterwards he becomes a free agent. There have been rumors that the Phillies attempted to trade him this past offseason, but the shortstop has full no-trade rights. He has stated that he will not waive those rights, most likely so that he can become the franchise’s all-time leader in hits, surpassing Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. He would likely be more willing to waive those rights once he has the franchise record. While general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has backed Rollins, Amaro could no longer be the GM at the end of the season.
Since taking over for Pat Gillick after the 2008 season, Amaro has made many big moves. However, in each season after the 2008 World Series victory, the Phillies have progressively finished worse each season. From 2009 to 2011 the Phillies made the playoffs, but each year they did not make it as far as the year before. Then in 2012 the team not only missed the playoffs, but also did not have a winning season, finishing 81-81. Last year the team had its first losing season since 2002, finishing 73-89. While injuries to the core have mostly been to blame, Amaro has failed to fill in holes in the lineup.
This has contributed to the team’s recent offensive struggles, and while Marlon Byrd and Ben Revere could help correct this, it may be too late. Howard, who has been recovering from a torn Achilles’ Tendon in 2011, and a torn meniscus last year, could possibly not have the same power he once had before the 2011 injury. It is known that may already be moved out of the cleanup spot he has held since 2006 when the team faces left-handed pitching.
If the Phillies have another season like last year, or finish even worse, then there is no reason Amaro should be back in 2015. He is already unpopular among fans, and ticket sales are already down this year. The organization is no doubt aware of this, and it will be inexcusable if Amaro is back following another losing season. A new GM would not have any connections to this aging core, and would be more willing to part with such veterans if possible.
Ruiz and Utley are the least likely to go anywhere, as Ruiz is valuable to the pitching staff and Utley has once again become a key player after battling knee troubles. Howard would likely remain with the team as well, but due to the massive contract given to him by Amaro. In the end, Howard could still return to form, now that he is over two years removed from his Achilles injury. However, if he does not, then it just marks the beginning of the end of this core’s time with the Phillies.
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