The Phillies Future Is Not Now, but 2013

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. says he hasn’t given up on this season. Now only if his team could follow suit.

Before Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Amaro refused to wave the white flag.

“I remain optimistic that we have a chance to get back in this,” he said.

Then it seemed that realism hit.

“It is still a daunting task,” Amaro continued. “The opportunities to get back in the race, particularly the wild card race, will be difficult.”

He didn’t use the word “impossible” although the fan base may feel that way. The Phillies (47-59) are 16 games out of first place in the N.L. East and 13.5 out of the second wild card spot.

And while the players and Charlie Manuel talk about winning as many games as possible, everybody understands that full-fledged auditions for 2013 are under way.

At least the general manager still believes in his personnel.

“We still have a lot of talent on this club,” he said.

Players have echoed this thought, but a team 12 games under .500 can’t be overstocked with talent. Or maybe stretching the point, it is faded talent.

The Phillies have gotten old in a hurry.

Amaro feels the trades that rid the team of the salaries of Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and now Joe Blanton will give them financial flexibility for next year.

He had a chance to rid himself of Cliff Lee’s contract when the left-hander was claimed off waivers, but Amaro insisted before the game that Lee isn’t going anywhere. While it’s a popular notion to unload Lee’s contract and the estimated $95 million remaining, he still appears as if he can be a quality pitcher. For a team that has too little power and speed, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have pitchers who can keep his teammates in a tight game.

Even though Amaro feels there is talent, he isn’t going into this with blinders. He understands there are several holes to fill.

And there isn’t that much money, regardless of the 255 consecutive regular season sellouts.

As Inquirer Phillies beat writer Matt Gelb has pointed out, the Phillies have $132 million invested in nine players in 2013.

Even if they go over the $178 million luxury tax threshold next year, the money can go fast, especially if spent on a highly regarded free agent.

Before going to next year, Amaro says that he is still addressing this season. He said the team has put in some waiver claims for players.

“We are still trying to improve our club for this year and beyond,” he said.

Looks like beyond is the much better strategy at this point.

Everybody can talk about this year, but despite not wanting to make it look to the fans as if the Phillies have abandoned 2012, every move made should be with 2013 clearly in mind.