Five crucial questions for Phillies

If the Phillies aren't in contention by the All-Star break, Cliff Lee should be on the move. Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

When Ruben Amaro Jr. took over as general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies following the 2008 season, he inherited a club that had just won the World Series. He went back to the World Series the next year, then made it back to the playoffs the following two seasons.

A year ago, I predicted the Phillies would miss the playoffs after five straight first-place finishes, and sure enough, they went 81-81. Now, for the first time as Phillies GM, Amaro finds himself in a really tough spot. With age, injuries and lack of depth catching up to his club, he has to start thinking about tearing down a team that is no better than the seventh-best in the National League.

It’s basically four months or bust for Amaro and the Phillies. If his team is not contending by the All-Star break, he must gut the team and start dealing his veterans while they retain some value and acquire young talent to replenish a depleted farm system. If Amaro decides to tear it down, everyone but Cole Hamels should be available via trade.

Thus, the following are five crucial questions Amaro’s team must answer within the first four months of the season. Otherwise, he should get to the task of tearing down and rebuilding the Phillies.