Not long ago, coming home to Citizens Bank Park was a wonderful experience for the Phillies. They had the second-best home record in the National League in 2010 and 2011, racking up 50-plus wins on Pattison Ave. in both seasons.
Things have changed dramatically for the Phils in 2012. Their 12-19 home record is the worst in the NL and they are 13-27 in the last 40 home games, including playoffs, dating to September.
Home sweet home?
The Phillies actually have been brutal everywhere lately. They have lost 12 of their last 15 games, are a dreadful 4-12 in June and are coming off a 3-6 roadtrip. So the Phils can surely expect a warm Philadelphia welcome when they open a 10-game homestand on Tuesday night.
Tuesday nights game against the Colorado Rockies marks the start of a crucial 19-game stretch that will take the Phils to the all-star break. Management is likely to use this stretch to gauge whether to keep the team intact for a potential second-half run or start trading off players in an effort to re-shape the roster for 2013.
If theres any good news coming into Tuesday nights game, its that Cole Hamels will be on the moundhes due for a good one after posting a 6.08 ERA in his last four starts -- and the Rockies have been as bad as the Phillies lately. They are 4-11 in June.
The Phillies woke up Monday morning nine games behind NL East-leading Washington and five games out of the second wild-card spotbehind six other clubs. In this 19 game-stretch, they will play Colorado, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Miami, the Mets and Atlanta. The nine games against division opponents will offer the Phils a chance to make up some groundif they can put together some wins. Theres a strong possibility that Chase Utley will return during this 19-game stretch, and Ryan Howard could return right around the all-star break, give or take a day. Roy Halladay could be back later in July. Will they be playing with the same teammates they had in spring training? Or will some of them be gone as the team turns into a mid-season seller for the first time since 2006? These next 19 games will go a long way in answering these questions.
If the Phils turn into sellers, they will have some interesting pieces with which to tempt contenders:
The belief here is that Phillies management, as it has long stated, still wants to re-sign Hamels, who can be a free agent at seasons end. Similarly, we believe the pitcher wants to be in Philadelphia, where he owns a home, has shined professionally and done outstanding charitable works. Obviously its going to take huge money and a five- to seven-year commitment to keep him. The Phillies know they will have to play in that ballpark to keep their youngest star, who will pitch at 29 next season. As a matter of due diligence, however, the team will likely gauge interest in Hamels over the coming weeks. If the Phils are out of the race and blown away with the return, they might just move Hamels. It wont be easy, though. The Phils would require top value for Hamels and to surrender that a rival team might want a contract extension in place. Would Hamels do that just a few months from free-agency? The guess here is he stays and the two sides continue to work toward an extension.
It seems like a sure thing that the Phils will gauge interest in the lefthander. The question is: Would they deal the popular pitcher again after taking such heat the first time? And would management be operating in good faith if it dealt Lee without his approval less than two seasons after he turned down more money from other teams to come to Philadelphia? Lee can block deals to 21 clubs, but no-trade clauses can be negotiated away. But would Lee sign off on a deal after saying he wanted stability and control of where he played when he was a free agent two winters ago? On top of it all, Lee is owed 87.5 million over the next three seasons. Only a big-market contender with World Series aspirations could take that on, but having him for four Octobers would be attractive. In the end, dealing Lee would be difficult on a lot of fronts, but plausible.
He could be had, but would need a few more starts like his last onea complete-game seven-hitter with no walks and seven Ks -- to build value. He had a 9.91 ERA in his five previous starts.
Hes been a major contributor to the Phillies championship years, but hell be a free-agent at the end of the season and wants a multi-year pay day. He could be a budget cut as the team tries to sign Hamels. He could certainly be of interest to contending clubs if the Phils continue their plunge.
Hes under control through next season and that could enhance his value and get the Phillies a better return if they move him. Pence was a tremendous complement to the Phils lineup last season and has had trouble in a starring role this season. Put him back in a complementary role on a contending team and he could have an excellent impact.
His brief time as a starter is over as there will be no more designated hitter opportunities. Thome hit .333 with four homers and 14 RBIs in nine games as a DH and looked totally re-energized. His preference would be to make a playoff run with the Phillies, but if that doesnt happen, and he continues to swing the bat well as a pinch-hitter, he could be of interest to an American League club during the stretch drive. Thome was dealt from Minnesota to Cleveland late last season and fetched just 20,000 so the Phils should not expect a significant haul if they move him.
Hes owed 27 million after this season, makes his home in the Philadelphia area, has declining production, and full no-trade rights. All of this makes a deal highly unlikely.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org