PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies need a miracle to make the postseason, so it seemed reasonable to think they would trade a player or two before Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline to retool for next season and beyond.
But the deadline passed without a peep from Philadelphia.
"I don't see it as a missed opportunity," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "How many actual trades were made [so far] for people to really improve their club? It is difficult to make a trade. Teams covet, very, very strongly, their players, particularly their young players because they know how volatile the free agent market is; they know how expensive it can be. And so we're one of those clubs. I didn't feel like it was the right time to move any of those players because we need to keep them for Philadelphia at some point."
What about somebody like Michael Young? Young is a free agent after the season and seems unlikely to return. The Phillies were limited in their ability to trade him because Young has a full no-trade clause and reportedly only would accept a trade to the Rangers, Red Sox or Yankees.
"The bottom line was we didn't find anything that was satisfactory," Amaro said. "Nothing we thought was going to improve us. So we decided not to do anything. The reason why we didn't make a trade in this situation wasn't necessarily about [the no-trade clause]. It was more about not feeling like we were going to get any talent back that was going to upgrade our club."
Young said he was happy to stay in Philadelphia, but why? Young is 36 and still pursuing his first World Series championship. It seems he would have a better chance of accomplishing that elsewhere.
"First of all, you're talking to a guy that has probably the most experience of knowing that a World Series is not guaranteed," said Young, whose Rangers lost the World Series in 2010 and '11. "There's really no guarantees with that. A good team is a good team that has a shot. I'm not a free agent. I play for the Phillies. If they decide to trade me because it worked out for the betterment of this organization, then that's the way it was going to be. If not, then I'm happy to be here and play as hard as I can."
Amaro said the Phillies had "very little" discussions about Cliff Lee.
"To be frank, we would have to be snowballed, someone would have had to bowl us over to do something on Cliff," Amaro said. "He's a top-of-the-rotation [guy] who would be very difficult to replace. However much money he's making, it's not a money issue for us. He's a guy that can produce, and not too many left-handers or pitchers in the game can produce as well as he can."
He also said he didn't get much interest on Jonathan Papelbon.
"Things were pretty slow with Pap," he said. "He's a guy that if you're a winning club, he's perfect. Right now, his value isn't as great because we're where we are in the standings. That doesn't mean he's not very valuable for us moving forward. I fully expect us to be contending if not at the end of this year then certainly in 2014 and beyond."
So what's next for the Phillies?
First, they can still make trades before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline.
"We will continue to try to improve the club somehow," Amaro said. "Our job is to continually try to do that. Obviously it makes it a little more difficult beyond July 31."
Second, they will try to sign Chase Utley to a contract extension.
"If you look at the body of work of what Chase does as a productive player, you have to understand he is still one of the best and most productive players in the game," Amaro said. "And so when he's on the field and doing it, obviously, as we talked about, we have to be aware of his health and what has happened over the last several years. But I also have to be cognizant that the man is out there playing like a 28-year-old right now. So for me, it's about producing. I'm not sure he's a guy you can replace at second base with the kind of production that he can get us."
Third, they will evaluate young players like third baseman Cody Asche and first baseman/left fielder Darin Ruf.
But at the moment it seems like the Phillies could be carrying plenty of "ifs" into Spring Training 2014 like they did into Spring Training 2013.
If this goes right ...
If that goes right ...
"My job is to put ourselves in a position to have a lot less holes," Amaro said. "We have a lot of time to do that. If we start looking toward 2014, some of the things this season may allow us to do is to take a look at Cody Asche and see if he can be a viable option for us at third base. We get a chance to see Darin Ruf play. There is some benefit to seeing and trying to move forward with these young guys. We get an opportunity to see how they handle being in the big leagues and whether or not they can have a positive impact on our club. It's not the ideal situation, but I think it's a good situation for them to be here in the big leagues.
"Our job is to be a contender every year. That is what my job is -- to make sure the Philadelphia Phillies are contending for a championship every year. We're not contending right now. We aren't completely out of it, but we aren't in the position I'd like us to be in, clearly. I have to think about 2014, and when I think about 2014, I don't think about coming in second or third or fourth place. I think about trying to win our division and trying to put us in a position to do that. Whether we can do that with younger players or older players or experienced players, that remains to be seen. That's part of our job, to design the club so that we can be a better club and contending club."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.