There is a faction of the fan base repulsed by the last week of baseball, which, in a way, is perplexing. The Phillies won five of seven from the two teams ahead of them in a weak National League East. They have taken seven of their last 10, all against contending teams. They are playing their best at a crucial moment.
"Sell! Sell! Sell!" they are yelling. And yes, it is imperative to view this Phillies season in its proper context: They have played 93 games, and most of them are mediocre. Yet, here they are, one game under .500 and within striking distance of two flawed teams.
The general consensus is Ruben Amaro Jr. will not dive headfirst into the trade market. (Unless the Phillies win 10 straight.) Think more like a few steps into the pool. No, Maikel Franco will not be shipped away for a middle reliever.
There is a way for Amaro to improve the chances of this season's team without affecting the future. This trade deadline should resemble more 2007 than 2011.
Those 2007 Phillies, the first incarnation to make the postseason since 1993, made two minor moves at the deadline. Then-GM Pat Gillick added Tad Iguchi and Kyle Lohse for two non-prospects. (Matt Maloney straddled that line, and as it turns out, it did not really matter.) Both players filled an immediate need without compromising the future. That team entered the All-Star Break at 44-44 and 4 1/2 games back of first place.
When Amaro sold last July, his team was 12 games under .500 and 16 1/2 games back. If these Phillies hover around .500 and remain in striking distance, do not expect big names to be jettisoned.
Amaro has often spoken of weakening one area to strengthen another. He has that option in 2013. Michael Young is a commodity on the market. Other teams, specifically American League ones, could better utilize the 36-year-old veteran. Scouts who have watched Young in recent days — and there are many — see him not as a third baseman, but a hybrid utility man who could play first, second and serve as designated hitter. Boston could use him. The Yankees will definitely show interest. Los Angeles will discuss him. Baltimore is a possible landing spot.
Young has a full no-trade clause. If the Phillies present him with a chance to contend, he could waive it. Effectively, Amaro must find a trading partner in contention with an infield deficiency and bullpen surplus. That is easier said than done. But it is his best shot at upgrading in July for a longshot run in 2013 without sacrificing 2014.
The Phillies have internal replacements at third base. Kevin Frandsen is one of the game's best pinch-hitters. He played the position for the final two months of 2012. His defense is not worse than Young's. Cody Asche, the 23-year-old prospect at triple A, is batting .293 with an .812 OPS. He is hitting .329 since the start of June. Freddy Galvis could return to play third, too.
Young is a free agent at season's end. His return to Philadelphia is unlikely, barring a torrid finish to the season. That is not to say Young has been horrible; he would bring more value to another club. Young managed 10 extra-base hits in his first 50 games. He has 16 in the 36 games since.
If Amaro decides he is a buyer, it does not mean a blockbuster trade will follow. There are varying degrees of deadline activity. Given the so-so perfomance of his team in a weak division, there should be no drastic changes. This is a logical one.