Ruben Amaro, Jr. Proving to Be Tough Negotiator for Phillies
It was just a couple of days after the Phillies' 2008 World Series win when it was announced that Ruben Amaro, Jr. would be the team's new general manager.
Pat Gillick left on top of the world, a ring on his finger and a wonderful story to ride off into the sunset with.
Amaro, now 45 years of age, had been the team's assistant GM since 1998 and had been a part of both the Gillick and Ed Wade eras.
Hired after Gillick's retirement, not many people knew what to expect from Amaro.
We knew he had been handling much of the dirty work, including contracts, arbitration, and the grunt work of trades and roster movement.
We might not have known, however, that Amaro would be a "my way or the highway" type of GM.
He's a tough negotiator, as evidenced by the recent developments with Chan Ho Park.
In an article yesterday in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Park lamented the fact that he would not be returning to the team as part of the bullpen.
The bottom line is that Amaro did not allow Park to dictate the Phillies' offseason.
The Phillies offered a one-year, $3 million deal to Park to return to the pen, but Park looked around the league for a starting job.
He didn't find it, and that is Park's fault and his fault only. He signed a one-year, $1.2 million deal last week with the Yankees, losing out on a lot of cash and an opportunity to come back to the team he truly wanted to play for.
Give credit to Amaro, though, for going out and replacing Park with Jose Contreras and Danys Baez, two players whom manager Charlie Manuel spoke highly of.
Manuel took veiled shots at Park in a press conference last month about the right-hander's inability to pitch on back-to-back days, another quality the Phillies were looking for in their bullpen.
That being said, Park had his chance, and Amaro moved on.
When Cliff Lee and the Phillies opened talks this offseason, Amaro already saw where the discussions were going.
Lee wanted a long-term contract, likely in the neighborhood of $120 million over six or seven years.
Amaro moved quickly, acquiring Roy Halladay from Toronto and locking him up for three years at an average annual value of $20 million per year.
Lee was moved to Seattle, shocking many fans around the league, not to mention Lee himself.
At first, it was a lot to process. Now, however, the shock value has subsided.
The team has established that they will rarely go above three years on a contract with a pitcher.
There was little chance Lee would accept a deal with terms that short, so Amaro was left with little choice.
He made the right moves and got what he wanted: an ace pitcher locked up in the long term.
It was after the 2008 World Series win that Amaro's first test came: Offer arbitration to Pat Burrell and Jamie Moyer, risking payroll if they accepted?
Nope. Amaro declined to offer arbitration to either Moyer or Burrell even though they were both Type-A free agents.
The Phillies could have received draft pick compensation for both, but Amaro feared that both players would accept the arbitration and come back to the team on terms that would be decided by an outside source.
Amaro never wanted an arbiter to decide how much either would make. In the end, Moyer did come back to the team, but Burrell jettisoned his way to Tampa Bay.
Amaro then pounced on free-agent outfielder Raul Ibanez, who had a stellar start to 2009 but tailed off in the second half of the season.
It's become a trademark of Amaro's tenure as GM. He is a wheeler and dealer, and he will not allow players to dictate his thoughts.
Many Phillies fans have taken to calling Amaro "smug." It may be the best fit for him, his bravado and confidence always beaming.
Some may even argue he is bordering on cocky, but that's alright. He'd have it no other way.
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