PHILADELPHIA -- The magic number is 15.
The Phillies have 15 games to play before the July 31 Trade Deadline. That is the maximum amount of time that they have to convince the front office they should be buyers, not sellers. In reality, it could be less time than that if the club continues its losing ways after the All-Star break.
If the Phils, who lost 10 of 11 games before the Midsummer Classic, are going to make a run at a sixth consecutive postseason berth -- and if they want to ensure Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino and others will be in red pinstripes next month -- they need to start winning Friday in Colorado.
It is hard to believe the Phillies are even in this position, just a season removed from a franchise-record 102 victories.
Could it really happen? Could the Phils really be sellers?
Of course, if the Phillies get hot enough, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. could be a buyer. If that is the case, he almost certainly will be looking for bullpen help. He will want a veteran reliever or two to complement closer Jonathan Papelbon and setup man Antonio Bastardo, who has been inconsistent while he struggles with his confidence.
But here is a look at the names that could be moved at the Deadline:
Cole Hamels: He would be a huge prize for any team. Hamels is regarded as one of the best left-handers in baseball, and he is battle tested, earning World Series and National League Championship Series MVP honors in 2008. He is 7-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 postseason starts. Excluding his forgettable '09 postseason, which was an anomaly, he would be 6-2 with a 1.72 ERA in nine postseason starts.
Philadelphia is considering trading Hamels because he can become a free agent after the season, he remains unsigned and there are no indications the Phillies are close to an agreement. If Hamels hits the open market, they might not be in position to match a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have new owners and are ready to spend. Because of that, and the Phils' need to be competitive next season, they could trade Hamels for talent ready to play in 2013, rather than collect a couple compensatory draft picks that won't be able to help until '15 or later.
But because of a new rule in the collective bargaining agreement, teams can't offer salary arbitration to players they acquire midseason. That means another club couldn't collect Draft picks if Hamels leaves after the season, which means they might be reluctant to ship top talent to the Phillies for his services in the first place. That puts Philadelphia in a difficult position. But one thing is certain: If it does trade Hamels, the organization needs to hit big. The Phils can't miss like they seem to have missed on the Cliff Lee/Seattle Mariners trade.
Shane Victorino: The Pirates or Indians could be a fit, according to FOXSports.com. Victorino can become a free agent after the season. He is looking for a five-year contract, which the Phillies almost certainly will not give him. Victorino is struggling this season, but he would be valuable to a team looking for help offensively and defensively.
Hunter Pence: The outfielder has value because he remains under team control through 2013, but if Amaro meant what he said last week when he said the Phils would "retool" for next season, it might not make sense to trade him. Pence is the only right-handed power bat in the lineup, and manager Charlie Manuel needs a power bat hitting fifth or sixth next season. But if the club gets blown away with an offer, that could change.
Lee: Say what? It probably is a long shot, but if the Phillies could trade Lee, they would free up a ton of money to sign Hamels to an extension and fill in other holes around the diamond. But Lee is owed $87.5 million following this season. He also has a partial no-trade clause. Is there a team out there willing to take that salary? And would he say yes?
Juan Pierre: The Phils signed Pierre to a Minor League contract, but he could have value to teams looking for outfield help, especially because he costs next to nothing. Pierre won't get anywhere near the haul of somebody like Hamels or Victorino, but maybe he could get Philadelphia a middle reliever.
Joe Blanton: He could have value for a team looking for rotation help, especially if he pitches well in July. Nobody thought much of Blanton when the Phillies acquired him in 2008, but he stabilized the rotation (good bye, Adam Eaton) and helped the club win a World Series. Blanton becomes a free agent after the season. It seems doubtful if Philadelphia would get much in return, but it would provide salary relief.
Placido Polanco: The veteran has a $5.5 million club option for next season, but a team looking for a second or third baseman might be interested. Of course, who would play third base if the Phils traded him?
Ty Wigginton: The utility infielder has a $4 million club option for next season. He would be a nice addition for a team looking for pop with some versatility in the infield.
Mike Fontenot: He could provide a team infield depth.