The July trade deadline passed quietly in Philadelphia. Very quietly. The only momentous event of the day came later that evening when a few unnamed clubs who'd possibly been considering acquiring Cliff Lee breathed huge sighs of relief when the veteran left-hander left the game in the third inning with a recurrence of the elbow strain that had already sidelined him for two months of the season. Lee is done for the year if not career and his trade value is nil.
Indeed, nil was the watchword in Philadelphia. The Phils had nothing especially valuable to trade and potential partners had even less they were willing to offer. The Phillies' alleged brain trust has finally come to the conclusion reached unanimously elsewhere that the rebuilding must begin. The trouble is a team cannot rebuild overnight, especially not these days when free agency isn't what it once was with most teams locking up potential free agents with lucrative long-term deals. The Phils are going to have to rebuild slowly the old-fashioned way, by developing players. They did it within recent memory, developing Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, but they didn't do it after that bumper crop and now the farm system is bare.
The danger that looms, and thus the watch noted above, is the Phillies will make an especially desperate move and trade Cole Hamels for prospects. To be sure, these prospects will be highly touted, but prospects are prospects, for all that, as Robert Burns never said. Without Hamels, the Phils will not have one certified front line pitcher.
The counter argument is that Hamels will be the lone member of a pitiful staff come next year and will find even less run support from the cast of has-beens and never-weres surrounding him than he has the past two seasons. Hamels soldiers on, but he has allowed in public he isn't thrilled with the Phillies' offense. It won't get better in the foreseeable future. How much losing can Hamels endure? For his sake, I hope he is traded to a winning team. For our sakes I hope he remains; as Matt Gelb pointed out the other day, at least every fifth day should provide some hope with Hamels on the team.
Ruben Amaro has shown a strong willingness to overspend for and misjudge talent, so one can hardly be sanguine about the prospects he would acquire by trading Hamels or any other commodity of value on the current roster. Some in town are giving him credit for not panicking last week and making some bad deals. If these people want to keep score, Amaro's sudden caution hardly evened his ledger.