We knew for a while now the Phillies were working on getting Chase Utley under contract and prevent him from hitting the free agent market for 2014. Utley is now reported to be under contract through 2015 after agreeing to a two-year contract extension worth between $25 and $30 million according to multiple reports, which secures the infield core of Jimmy Rollins, Utley and Ryan Howard for 2014 and perhaps 2015. Now that Utley's contract is taken care of, what's next for Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro? Will other free agents to be receive a contract extension before the free agent market opens up? If so, which players are coming back to try and make one more run under this core? Or is it time for the franchise to begin looking to the future?
Here are some questions Amaro and the Phillies need to address between now and the end of the regular season, before free agency opens.
1. Is Charlie Manuel still the manager?
Many believe Charlie Manuel is on his last ride as Phillies skipper. Manuel, who managed the Phillies to their second World Series in franchise history and is all-time leader in manager wins for the franchise still most known for losing (Phillies are 147 games over .500 with Manuel as manager), was signed to a two-year contract prior to the 2012 season. Ryne Sandberg was added to the team's coaching staff this season as a third base coach after managing the triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs and it has the appearance the team is grooming Sandberg to take over as manager if and when it comes time to move on from Manuel.
With the Phillies far from removed from the postseason discussion, a change of manager could be a realistic possibility before the end of the regular season. Manuel will forever be honored his role in the glorious 2008 season and one of the top eras in franchise history for years to come, but if a change in leadership is deemed necessary then ties should be severed before 2014.
What I would do: I am in favor of a change of manager, although I see no reason to cut Manuel loose before the end of the year. Perhaps there is something to be gained by evaluating Sandberg as a potential manager in September but ultimately I am not sure it would make a difference in the eventual outcome. I would allow Manuel to finish out the season and then have a long, hard discussion on whether or not he is the right manager for the future.