UTLEY, LEE ARE THE PHILS' BEST BARGAINING CHIPS

By Sam Bush

For the Phillies, once the best team in the National League, their slide to the bottom continues unabated.

The Phillies were world champions in 2008, and National League champs in ’09. They won 102 games as recently as 2011.

But they went 81-81 in 2012, 73-89 last season and find themselves with a 42-53 record and in last place in the mediocre NL East heading into the All-Star break.

They don’t hit much. Their pitching is sporadic. Moreover, their team is ancient — five regulars are 34 or older, and three members of the starting rotation are 33 or older — so it appears things are going to get worse before they get better.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has already said they will be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and closer Jonathan Papelbon has said he will waive his no-trade clause to go to a contender.

Second baseman Chase Utley (the team’s only all-star, photo above) and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, Phillies their entire careers, are more reluctant to leave, and can veto any deal that is not to their liking.

Left-hander Cliff Lee is another player who would appear to be attractive to a contender, though he has been on the disabled list since May 19 with a strained elbow. The 35-year-old Lee will make another rehab start today, and is scheduled to start against San Francisco on July 21.

Depending upon how healthy and effective he is, it looms as one of his last appearances for the Phillies, and others seem certain to follow him out the door. Nothing that happens between now and the end of the month will change that.

“That decision’s already been made, things that they want to do,” Rollins said, referring to the front office. “Regardless of how we play, they’re still going to make their decisions for the future of the team, not just now. We go out there, we play ball, we win, good things happen. And if that makes things difficult, then it does.”

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