The fall of 2008 was a happy time for Philadelphia Phillies fans. Jimmy Rollins’ prophecy of being the team to beat had finally come true, and Pat Gillick’s genius shined thru and brought the team’s second world title in franchise history. We were on top of the world. As the future Hall of Famer stepped aside from the game, Ruben Amaro seemed primed to be next in line to take over the reigning World Champions. Since then, Amaro returned the Phillies to the World Series, but luck (and health), has not been on the team’s side. In the meantime, let’s look at the top ten moves the current GM has made to keep this team successful.
10: Not finalizing Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez’ contract
Near the end of July, news spread all over baseball that MAGs had agreed to sign with the Phillies to a deal that was potentially worth fifty-nine million dollars over seven years. It was highly criticized at that time, with rumors of the Cuban defector having elbow issues related to bone spurs. Scouts were also concerned that the pitcher had not pitched competitively in over two years. Amaro kept mum on the situation, and he prevailed. Just over a month later, the two sides agreed on drastically reduced deal that went from a guaranteed six years and forty-eight million, down to a three-year, twelve million dollar deal. While the ramifications have yet to be determined, being able to keep costs is definitely a step in the right direction.
9: Eliminating mistakes
There have been some questionable trades/free agent signings under Amaro’s watch. Amaro has shown the ability to at least try to resolve them by releasing ineffective ones. After two horrendous years, and one World Series ring later, Adam Eaton was jettisoned. Also released were the notorious Chads (Qualls and Durbin), J.C. Romero, and more cast offs than on Gilligan’s Island. Being able to correct mistakes, and the mistakes of others (Eaton was Gillick’s guy), is definitely a quality a good GM should be able to make.
8: Signing below the radar types
They can’t all be all-stars, right? Every team has two types of players: the core and the supporting cast. While guys like Rollins, Howard, Utley, and Hamels are supposed to lead this team and prop this window open for a couple more seasons, it’s the below the radar successes that help this team going. Juan Pierre, Wilson Valdez, Kevin Frandsen, and Jose Contreras all fall under this category. All were either nobodies or has-beens. Pierre proved he still had it. Valdez turned out to be the ULTIMATE super sub, playing all over the infield and even pitching, earning the win, in relief. With a lot of high payroll players, these inexpensive types keep the train rolling.
7: Just saying no to Ryan Madson
After the 2011 season, Ryan Madson had set himself up to be one of the top free agent relievers heading into 2012. Initial reports leaked that Madson had agreed to a four-year deal worth forty-four million dollars. Almost as soon as the reports surfaced, Jonathan Papelbon was signed to an even larger deal. How is this good for the Phillies? Madson hasn’t pitched one major league inning since. As much as people have concerns over Papelbon’s deal, the Madson one would have proved to be exponentially worse.
6: International signings
The Phillies have never really been known to dip heavily into the international market, but that has seemed to change for the better under Amaro’s watch. Players like Maikel Franco, Severino Gonzalez, Jose Pujols, Carlos Tocci, and Luis Encarnacion have all been signed since Amaro took over. Franco is arguably a top 25 prospect in all of baseball, and could potentially be knocking on the door by the end of 2014.
5: Pedro Martinez
In 2009, Hamels was struggling and the Phillies approached the trade deadline hunting Amaro’s Moby Dick in Roy Halladay. Mid-July came and the Phillies were rumored to be looking at adding the former Met-Red Sox ace. While the Halladay deal fell through and then Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi was ultimately fired, Martinez did join the team. All he did was pitch to a mid-3 ERA over nine starts. It potentially could have been a high-2 to low-3 ERA if not for some unfortunately timed rain delays.
4: The arrival of Cliff Lee
The 2009 Phillies were the defending World Series champions and World Series MVP Cole Hamels was scuffling to say the least. Even after signing Pedro Martinez, Amaro was determined to fortify the starting rotation. After weeks of failing to come to an agreement to acquire Toronto ace, Roy Halladay, Amaro fell back to Plan B. Enter Cliff Lee. Lee was the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. While it may have seemed higher than necessary at the time, the Phillies sent shortstop Jason Donald, catcher Lou Marson, relief pitcher Jason Knapp, and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. Donald’s claim to fame was being the blown call in Armando Galaragga’s perfect game. Marson has been nothing more than a back up catcher at best. People who know me, know that, even at the time, I thought Carrasco to be nothing more than right-handed Oliver Perez. Knapp never pitched in the majors and has been out of baseball since being released by the Indians in August of 2012.
3: Jayson Werth’s two-year deal
After turning a career-high 3.7 WAR and playing an integral part in winning the 2008 World Series, Amaro signed Werth to a two-year deal worth ten million dollars. He was paid just 2.5 million in 2009 and 7.5 in 2010, his last year with the club. Werth produced a 9.1 WAR during the two-year deal, a value of closer to 45 million dollars than the ten he signed for. The Phillies have had trouble producing from the right side of the dish since, but Werth’s deal was by far Amaro’s best offensive move.
1a: Enter Roy Oswalt
Unfortunately for fans, acquiring one ace came at the cost of another. Ultimately, Amaro came to the conclusion that the Phillies did need the added resources in the rotation and the Astros made their ace, Roy Oswalt available. The Phillies sent rising prospects Anthony Gose, Jonathan Villar, and rookie of the year runner-up J.A. Happ to the Astros at the request of one of Amaro’s mentors, former-Phillies GM Ed Wade. Villar is a stopgap for super prospect Carlos Correa and Happ and Gose have made their way to the Toronto Blue Jays. Meanwhile, Oswalt’s 2010 campaign with the Phillies entailed a 7-1 record with a 1.74 ERA over twelve starts.
1: The other Roy
Who else besides Roy Halladay could even remotely be the best acquisition? Halladay came at the cost of Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis D’arnaud, but of the three, only D’arnaud would be considered a loss. Taylor was flipped to Oakland and fizzled out in AAA Sacremento and Drabek hasn’t been able to stay healthy or effective. Halladay exceeded the value that was sacrificed to acquire him. I mean when a guy can throw a perfect game in a season, you consider that a success. When a guy can throw a no-hitter in the post-season, you consider that a success. When a guy wins the National League Cy Young Award, you consider that a success. Luckily for Phillies fans, Halladay was able to do all three in 2010.
While Amaro has made questionable moves, he hasn’t always done the wrong thing.
Tags: Carlos Tocci, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Jayson Werth, Jose Pujols, Luis Encarnacion, Maikel Franco, Michael Haftman, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Pat Gillick, Pedro Martinez, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Ruben Amaro, ryan madson, Severino Gonzalez, TSP