Ruben Amaro is All Talk; No Walk

Posted: December 10, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Let’s get this out of the way first. I like Ruben Amaro. I’ve met the man and enjoyed a worthwhile conversation with him about baseball, my past, and my future. However, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the Phillies’ GM has dug himself a hole that he just cannot get out of. Even worse, as Amaro attempts to dig and pry himself out of the massive chasm, he can’t seem to figure out which direction to go.

Earlier this offseason, the Phillies seemed to be going with a “stay the course” strategy. Despite back-to-back seasons with no “Red October,” Amaro and the Phillies binged on multi-year contracts with Marlon Byrd (36) and Carlos Ruiz (34). By spending $42 million over the next three years on two aging players, Amaro signaled to Philadelphia that he and the organization were going to attempt to contend for one or two more seasons under the current core. This coincided with the team’s decision to resign 34-year old infielder Chase Utley and not trade 35-year old LHP Cliff Lee during the regular season.

Now, less than a month after the resigning of Ruiz, the Phillies are reportedly shopping 26-year old OF Domonic Brown along with Lee and fellow southpaw Cole Hamels. Does this really mean that Amaro is dramatically shifting the strategy for this team in the short and long term? Or, is it just more posturing from a front office that appears to be drastically over their heads? The latter would be the correct conclusion.

This isn’t the first time that Amaro was “shopping” various impact players. Lee has been on the proverbial trade block for nearly two years now, as his massive contract continues to impede the team’s attempts at rebuilding. Hamels, who was resigned to the largest contract for a pitcher in team history in 2012, is “reportedly” on the chopping block for the first time. It’s just another sign that Amaro doesn’t understand what to do with the mess that he himself has created.

Of course, the team’s reported hesitancy to absorb any of Lee’s or Hamels’ contracts will obstruct their ability to deal either of them. Few organizations are able to afford a $20+ million pitcher, let alone a 35-year old with at least $62.5 million coming his way in the next 2+ seasons ($25 million in ’14 and ’15, plus a $27.5 million option for ’16 with a massive $12.5 million buyout). The Phillies have made it known that they expect to receive impressive compensation for Lee. That, combined with the previously stated conviction against including any money in the deal, makes the possibility of a Lee trade highly unlikely.

As for Hamels, the best home grown pitcher in team history, a trade also seems unlikely. But, for different reasons. Despite the soon to be 30-year old’s massive deal ($132.5 million over the next six years), teams would undoubtedly be interested in the lefty’s services. Still in his prime, Hamels has struck out at least 200 batters in three of the last four years. He’s also a workhorse, having started 31+ games in each of the last six seasons. If Philadelphia were actually interested in rebuilding, Hamels would be a prime target for trade. But, the backlash from the fan base, the impact on the team’s success and, perhaps more importantly, ticket and merchandise sales, would be disastrous. Amaro knows this, and, unless he receives true major league ready impact talent like Giancarlo Stanton, will not trade Hamels this offseason.

As for Brown, the Phillies seem unlikely to unload the 26-year old unless they receive “two or three” young pitchers in return. That’s just not going to happen. Granted, the Angels just received that type of ransom in this afternoon’s three team deal for Mark Trumbo. But, the latter’s track record dwarfs Browns at this point. Any chance of Philadelphia dealing Brown seems remote unless they are absolutely wowed by an offer.

But, that’s just not going to happen. The Phillies aren’t going to trade any of Lee or Hamels unless they absorb at least some of their contracts. The same contracts that Amaro wrote and signed less than three years ago. Instead, Philadelphia will continue to pander to the rebuilding crowd by suggesting that they’re “open” to trading veterans like the two pitchers. After all, Ruben Amaro has made it abundantly clear that he can talk-the-talk. But, he cannot walk-the-walk.

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