Philadelphia Phillies: Why They’ll Be a Seller by the All-Star Break

May 1, 2015 by Sam Spiegelman  
Filed under Fan News

Merely one month into the MLB season and teams are already beginning to separate themselves in the division as races start to shape up.

Although the 2015 MLB All-Star break is still more than two months out, the teams quickly descending to the bottom of the standings are beginning to figure out whether to buy or to sell before the game.

One team primed to be a seller this summer are the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that has gotten off to an 8-15 start and currently sits fifth in the NL East.

Injuries have piled up for the Phillies, which has led the pitching to fall to the bottom third of the league in most statistical categories. In addition, the team suffers from a lack of offensive production.

With the New York Mets leading the NL East and a three-way battle brewing in for second place, the Phillies are in a position to trade away their top assets. 

Just 23 games into the 2015 season, the Phillies have mustered only eight wins and are struggling to keep pace with the NL East front-running Mets. The Mets own a 15-8 record and have been dominant at Citi Field. 

Both the Miami Marlins and the Washington Nationals remain in contention, too. The Nationals have won three in a row, while the Marlins have ripped off two straight. Meanwhile, the Phillies continue to dig themselves into a deeper hole with three consecutive losses.

Currently, five pitchers sit on the Phillies disabled list. Among them are Cliff Lee and Chad Billingsley, who were expected to be pivotal parts of the starting rotation.

Billingsley is on the 15-day DL and could be activated as early as next weekend for the showdown against the Mets, according to the Philly.com.

Lee, on the other hand, is on the 60-day DL. He's currently deciding between rehab for a left forearm strain or surgery, which would end his 2015 season. In March, Lee told Philly.com that he was leaning toward giving rehab a third chance.

With both Lee and Billingsley sidelined, the Phillies have had to rely on the likes of Jerome Williams (3.80 ERA), David Buchanan (8.76 ERA) and Severino Gonzalez (23.63 ERA). Along with Cole Hamels (3.19 ERA) and Aaron Harang (2.51 ERA), the Phillies rank 21st in MLB in team pitching, behind three rival NL East clubs.

Offensively, the Phillies have endured even more struggles. The lineup has been short of Domonic Brown all season long, while their usual sluggers, such as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, have struggled with been inconsistent. 

Utley has batted .114 in 21 games played, and his counterpart Howard is at .194 in 20 games. As a team, the Phillies rank 29th in the league in offense with a team batting average of .223. Additionally, the Phillies rank 26th in home runs (13), 29th in on-base percentage (.280) and 30th in runs scored (63).

As the Phillies continue to sputter, they find themselves with no other options other than to start dealing. Among the chips that could be angled include none other than Hamels. 

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro has received a bevy of phone calls about the availability of the team's longtime ace, and according to USA TODAY, the St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have all expressed some level of interest.

Per the report, the Phillies would only send Hamels in exchange for a player they could turn into their centerpiece in the future. 

The Cardinals are without their ace, Adam Wainwright, who was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Brandon McCarthy, the Dodgers' prized free-agent signee, is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Blue Jays need to find a suitable replacement for Marcus Stroman, and the Red Sox rank dead last in MLB with a 5.04 team ERA.

If the Phillies intend on being sellers, they also can try to shed closer Jonathan Papelbon and his $13 million salary to any buyers. 

Papelbon owns a 1.08 ERA and five saves in eight appearances out of the Philadelphia pen, but the team has little need for a stopper as it continues to plummet in the standings. To shed his salary would be ideal for Philadelphia, and the Blue Jays—who also reportedly have interest in Hamels—also have been in the mix for Papelbon, per CSNPhilly.com.

However, Toronto dropped out of those talks as the season progressed, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

In addition to those two pitchers, the Phillies may consider dealing Utley. Although the veteran second baseman is not putting up All-Star statistics so far this season, he is an impending free agent.

The team would be wise to try to get something in exchange for Utley, instead of simply allowing him to walk for free.

Utley previously made it clear to the organization that he did not want to leave Philadelphia, according to ESPN's Buster Olney, but that position may have changed with the team's current standing.

But there is some curiosity about whether this will change, in the face of the Phillies' dim prospects now or in the immediate future. Jimmy Rollins chose to leave, accepting a trade to the Dodgers, and rival evaluators believe Cole Hamels wants out, as well.

Utley is a California native that attended UCLA. Naturally, both Los Angeles teams—the Dodgers and the Angels—make season for that reason. Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick is batting .295 this year with 14 RBI. Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella is batting .317 with 10 RBI. 

All signs point to the Phillies making some moves before the 2015 MLB All-Star break. They've been rumored to do so for months, and all signs point to it finally coming to fruition.

Read more Philadelphia Phillies news on BleacherReport.com

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies