In the midst of an alarmingly bad month for the Phillies, GM Ruben Amaro met with the media yesterday to discuss several issues. He insisted the team will be fine, noting (among other things) that the return of SS Jimmy Rollins, SP J.A. Happ, and RP Ryan Madson is near and should provide a boost.
Amaro also made it clear that the Phillies will not make a major deadline trade in 2010. Sorry fans, but Cliff Lee is not coming back. I take Amaro at face value. After all, the Phillies have depleted their minor league resources to the point where OF Dominic Brown would need to be involved to bring a major piece to the club. That, I hope, is not happening. Brown is quite likely Jayson Werth's 2011 replacement.
While the purpose of Amaro's meeting was to look forward, I'd like to check the rearview mirror and begin assessing Amaro's tenure as team GM.
Amaro has, in my view, made two wise moves in the free agent market, allowing both Pat Burrell and Pedro Feliz to walk in favor of signing Raul Ibanez and Placido Polanco. Ibanez has been a headache this season, but had a great 2009 and signed a reasonable contract (3 yr./30 m.). Pat Burrell, meanwhile, was atrocious in Tampa Bay and was released earlier this season. Polanco came at a decent price (3 yr./18 m.) and currently leads the team in hitting. Pedro Feliz, with all due respect to his game-winning hit in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, stinks.
The two most controversial decisions Amaro has made are the 1) Roy Halladay for Cliff Lee, etc. trade and 2) the long-term Ryan Howard contract extension. Neither move, in my opinion, appears wise. For today, however, I'll just focus on the former.
Halladay is a better pitcher than Lee, I agree. He was easier to sign for a shorter period of time, agreed. The problem that I have is that the Phillies traded Lee to the Mariners arguing that they needed to re-stock a depleted farm system. The logic, in my view, is defensible. The problem is that they received prospects that few believed were top notch. In fact, not one was ranked in the Top 100 of MLB prospects by Baseball America. The top piece of the deal, Phillippe Aumont, currently has a 7.43 ERA in Double-A with 38 walks in 49 innings. Simply put, he is a long way from Broad & Pattison.
If they needed to trade Cliff Lee, the Phillies should have been able to get more in return. Now, the Phillies are without Lee or a replenished farm system. One could argue that the Phillies needed to do the deal regardless because they could no longer afford Lee for 2010 (The price-tag was about $9 million). Nonsense. Pure and simple. The Phillies could have non-tendered Joe Blanton, but instead gave him a back-loaded 3-year extension worth $24 million. It's early, but at this point, that isn't looking wise. Further, if the Phillies were hoping to save money, they probably could have shopped Raul Ibanez (and the over $20 m. he was due for 2010/11) and received decent return (maybe even similar to what they got for Lee). Given his production thus far in 2010, he is now un-tradeable.
Anyways, these are not new arguments. But with a few months of baseball now under our belt, it's useful to assess them in light of events on the ground.
Photo source: MLB.com