An Evaluation of Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr.
The 2012 MLB trade deadline has come and gone.
Just like each of the last three years, Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. has made moves involving a few valuable players.
The only difference this year? He was a seller.
This past Tuesday, Amaro traded outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, two moves that have been met with mixed reviews.
Since then, the idea of firing Amaro has been a more prevalent issue raised in the world of Philadelphia Phillies fandom.
Could this be a logical solution to the Phillies' 2012 woes?
In order to determine whether or not Ruben Amaro, Jr. should or should not keep his job, let’s examine the most prominent moves in his body of work since taking over following the team’s 2008 World Series championship.
July 2009: Acquires Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians
In an effort to make a second consecutive World Series appearance, Amaro traded four prospects for the then-reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, and Outfielder Ben Francisco.
Amaro gave up Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Jason Knapp.
Carlos Carrasco is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery. He is a career 10-15 pitcher with a 4.93 ERA.
Jason Donald’s career numbers look like this: .265 AVG, 15 HR, 36 RBI.
Lou Marson, at the time, was a highly-touted catching prospect who never lived up to the hype. In the majors, he is a lifetime .224 hitter with five HR and 55 RBI.
Jason Knapp, who is currently in the minors, has a career record of 6-10 with a 3.63 ERA.
However, in 2009, Cliff Lee led the Phillies to a second consecutive World Series berth.
He finished the season 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA. And, in the playoffs, Lee turned in an other-worldly performance, going 4-0, including two wins in the World Series.
Meanwhile, Ben Francisco finished out the 2009 season with a .278 AVG with five HR and 13 RBI. But, he wasn’t much of a contributor in the playoffs.
Nonetheless, Amaro went on to win the 2009 MLB This Year in Baseball Executive of the Year award.
December 2009: Acquires Roy Halladay
At the time, this move was a bit of a head-scratcher.
Ruben Amaro, Jr. traded the second-best pitcher in baseball and acquired the best pitcher in baseball when he sent Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners for JC Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont, and Tyson Gillies, and traded Travis D’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, and Michael Taylor for Roy Halladay.
Right now, the only player that Amaro gave up in this move who has a significant amount of Major League potential is Travis D’Arnaud.
During this season, his minor league numbers look like this: .333 AVG, 16 HR, 52 RBI. D’Arnaud also appeared in the 2012 MLB All-Star Futures game.
Kyle Drabek’s 2012 season ended prematurely as he underwent his second Tommy John surgery. Before that, he was 4-7 with a 4.67 ERA.
Michael Taylor is still in the minors. Thus far in 2012, he is batting .301 with 11 HR and 57 RBI.
None of the prospects the Phillies acquired for Lee are doing much of anything right now, and they are all in the minors.
Roy Halladay, on the other hand, went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA in a 2010 season that included a perfect game, a no-hitter postseason debut, and a Cy Young.
Since coming to the Phillies, Halladay has been as dominant as ever.
Although he has struggled lately due to a lat muscle injury, there is no reason to believe Halladay’s best years are behind him.
April 2010: Locking Up the Big Piece
On April 26, 2010, Ruben Amaro, Jr. signed former Rookie of the Year and MVP Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125 million contract extension.
Locking up Howard was critical in maintaining a team that had been, and would continue to be, a favorite to win the World Series.
Although he is not as much of a force as he once was, Ryan Howard continues to be one of the game’s best run producers.
He is currently shaking off the rust and recovering from Achilles surgery.
But, The Big Piece’s eminent return to form is far from out of the question.
Although he probably won't this season, let’s not forget that Howard has finished every season since 2007 among the NL’s top five leaders in RBI.
July 2010: H2O
In July of 2010, Amaro traded JA Happ and prospects Jonathan Villar and Anthony Gose to the Houston Astros for Roy Oswalt.
This move was essential in the Phillies’ attempt to win a third consecutive NL championship and World Series berth.
Although the team ultimately lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS and did not capture the NL title or make it to the World Series, Amaro assembled one of the best postseason pitching rotations in recent memory with this move.
Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt—or "H2O"—posed a formidable threat to opposing hitters. In the end, though, it was a lack of offense that ended the Phillies 2010 playoff run.
Oswalt finished the 2010 season with a 7-1 record and a remarkable 1.71 ERA.
Of the two prospects Amaro traded, Anthony Gose is the only one currently in the majors. He was recently called up by the Blue Jays.
December 2010: Cliff’s Back
On December 15, 2010, Ruben Amaro signed Cliff Lee to a five-year, $120 million contract seemingly out of nowhere.
Ruben Amaro, Jr. had never looked like such a genius.
He would send the Phillies into the 2010 season under Charlie Manuel with one of the most hyped pitching rotations of all time, featuring Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and Joe Blanton, who was also a World Series Champion.
Not to mention a lineup with MVPs Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, and All-Stars Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, and eventually Hunter Pence.
July 2011: Hunter Pence
In what was regarded as a necessary move at the time, Ruben Amaro, Jr. acquired Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros for prospects Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid, and a player to be named later—ultimately Domingo Santana.
This move has been scrutinized more since last Tuesday than it had been since it happened.
Jonathan Singleton, who recently played in the 2012 MLB All-Star Futures Game, is one of the best prospects in baseball.
He is 20 years old and this season in the minors he is hitting .284 with 14 HR and 57 RBI.
Jarred Cosart’s career minor league numbers are 24-22 with a 3.82 ERA.
Josh Zeid’s career numbers in the minors are 20-12 with a 4.38 ERA.
Domingo Santana is just 19 years old. He is currently in high A, and he is batting .291 with 17 HR and 79 RBI.
It looks like Amaro traded two extraordinary prospects in Singleton and Santana.
But, at the time, Hunter Pence’s right-handed bat was desperately needed in the Phillies lineup, especially if the team wanted to contend for another World Series.
And, although Hunter Pence was not the player that Amaro and the Phillies needed him to be, he was nonetheless a necessary contributor on the 2011 team.
Moreover, Pence was already an established big leaguer with a seemingly bright future, which is more than anyone could have said about any of the players Amaro gave up to get him.
Did Ruben overpay for Pence? Probably.
Did he need to get him? Yes.
Did fans care at the time? Not really.
November 2011: Pap
On November 11, 2011, Ruben Amaro, Jr. signed stud closer Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million deal.
This was an unprecedented contract for a closer.
However, Amaro had built his team around pitching. What would that have mattered if he didn’t lock up a big time closer like Papelbon?
Sure, Ryan Madson was a nice surprise in 2011, but it was only one year.
Ultimately, Madson went to the Reds for one year at $8.5 million and suffered a season-ending injury before the 2012 season began.
Did Amaro need to sign Papelbon? Yes, he did. What good is his pitching staff if there is no one to close games?
Did Amaro overpay for Papelbon? Probably. But, with a budget like his, how does one not sign the best reliever on the market?
July 2012: Hamels and the Future
Throughout the 2012 season, rumors flew about a possible Cole Hamels trade and the possibility of the Phillies losing the World Series MVP at the end of the season.
Ruben Amaro, Jr. put those rumors to sleep on July 24, 2012 when he signed Cole Hamels to the second biggest contract ever awarded to a pitcher. The deal was for six years and $144 million.
Prior to the start of the 2012 season, Amaro said that Cole Hamels was not worth the kind of money that Cliff Lee was.
He ultimately went back on that statement.
This move was key to laying the foundation for a solid pitching staff in the future.
Right now, the team’s ace is undisputedly Roy Halladay.
But, on most other teams, the number one would be Hamels, which is how it will be in Philadelphia when Halladay’s tenure as a Phillie is over.
2012: Breaking Up the Band
The Philadelphia Phillies 2012 season has, to this point, been a failure.
In what could only be recognition of that, Ruben Amaro, Jr. traded fan-favorites Shane Victorino, who was a part of the 2008 World Series team, and Hunter Pence, one of the most unorthodox players in recent memory.
The Victorino move could have been seen coming from miles away.
He was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitching prospect Ethan Martin and reliever Josh Lindblom, a bullpen asset the Phillies desperately needed.
When this move was announced, it seemed unlikely that Amaro would trade Hunter Pence, whose name was also whirling around the rumor mill.
But, the move came to fruition shortly after the Victorino deal.
For Hunter Pence, Ruben Amaro, Jr. acquired catching prospect Tommy Joseph, who appeared in the 2012 MLB All-Star Futures game, pitching prospect Seth Rosin, and big league outfielder Nate Schierholtz.
Following the trades of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, the future of the Philadelphia Phillies looks dismal and uncertain.
The team has gone from perennial division champs and World Series contenders to the basement of the NL East in what seems like the blink of an eye.
Is this Ruben Amaro’s fault? Yes, of course it is. He is, after all, the team’s general manager.
But, where did you expect the team to be? How could have Amaro prevented this?
The answer is that he could not have done much of anything. The man made all the right moves at the right times.
Sure, he gave up a few key prospects in the process but he got players that helped the team when he needed to get players to help the team.
A common criticism lately has been that Amaro could have been more creative. How? What does that mean?
How do you maintain a team like the Phillies over the course of four years without mortgaging the future and compromising the farm system?
Trading Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were the right moves to make.
Shane Victorino is one of baseball’s best defensive players and also a dangerous offensive weapon. But, among his problems are baserunning and inconsistent plate discipline. He will also be a free agent at the end of the season.
Hunter Pence is, to put it lightly, unorthodox.
He throws sidearm from the outfield, and swings as hard as he can at the plate every time he swings the bat, which is often. He is virtually uncoachable.
Moreover, he is one of the game’s worst hitters with runners in scoring position.
Trading Pence, as unlikely as it may have seemed, was Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s way of acknowledging the fact acquiring him in the first place was ultimately a disappointment.
In recognition of this, he got rid of him. What was he supposed to do, let a player like that continue to hurt his team?
In summation, Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s moves have been necessary. Though he gave a bit too much a few times, he never really had any other options. He has consistently made his club better.
The real test will come with the 2012 offseason.
We need to wait and see what Amaro will do to fix the team, rather than condemn him for giving the team what it needed when it needed it. He hasn't even really begun to deal with the consequences yet.