Baseball, more than any other sport, is almost always ripe for trade talk. Because the Philadelphia Phillies are currently living up to (down to?) mixed expectations, a transaction that goes beyond minor league maneuvers could transpire before summer arrives.
'Roster flexibility' was a key phrase general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. and manager Ryne Sandberg used during the off-season and in spring training. 'Ryno' has already shown that he's open to experimentation within his starting lineup and in the bullpen. Those efforts are partially steeped in his developing major league managerial style and in a set of restricted options.
With a mature roster and many seemingly untradable contracts, the Phillies task this season appears to be rather daunting. How can Sandberg push an aged core and a modest bunch of supplemental men to the .500 line, let alone toward playoff contention?
The Phillies' newest skipper needs to balance playing time for numerous non-pitchers in an attempt to ensure their physical survival through the fall, while also not creating inconsistent production through his daily selections. Plus, he needs to learn how many young bullpen arms are effective, while not damaging their development.
Combining last year and this April, Cody Asche has worn a Phillies' uniform for less than one-half of a big league season. While possessing potential and a gritty on-field demeanor, no one is comparing him to number 20, whose name doesn't even need to be mentioned within this paragraph.
Asche could become an entrenched starter at some point in his career. Then again, Maikel Franco could be standing in his spot at Citizens Bank Park long before September arrives, which makes number 25 a marketable commodity. This type of initial deal wouldn't confirm a major roster overhaul was underway.
The Phillies' feelings about Amaro's future may be revealed during this season, based upon what he's allowed to do and when. If the Phillies truly tank within a month, someone like Cliff Lee, or A.J. Burnett, could easily be sent to a contender. However, that type of trade would signal the official start of a major rebuild. And hardcore fans have to wonder if this GM will be permitted to initiate those sensitive proceedings.