Evaluation from the Inside
Even the scouting department.
“Just like in any other part of our organization, everybody is being evaluated,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “Everybody.”
“Oh, I would think so,” he said.
Every organization has hits and misses throughout the year: good and bad free agent signings, good and bad trades, a player released that should not have been released, a player that got promoted that surprised everybody, etc.
The trick is minimizing the misses.
The Phillies have had some misses lately. They released right-hander Jason Grilli in July 2011. He had a 1.93 ERA in Triple-A Lehigh Valley at the time. He signed with the Pirates, and had a 2.91 ERA in 64 appearances this season. They acquired outfielder John Bowker from the Pirates in Aug. 2011, considering him a better bench option than Lehigh Valley outfielder Brandon Moss. Bowker went hitless in 13 at-bats, while Moss, who had a fantastic season in Lehigh Valley, signed a contract with Oakland in December. He has hit .287 with 21 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .947 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 258 at-bats this season. They signed Laynce Nix to a two-year, $2.5 million deal in December, despite the fact he had never signed a big-league contract before and had a lengthy history of injuries. They signed Chad Qualls in January, despite terrible splits away from PETCO Park. He stunk, and the Phillies traded him to the Yankees on July 1. And one wonders why they did not have legitimate interest in somebody like Josh Willingham, who looks like a steal with the three-year, $21 million contract he signed with the Twins.
Now, the Phillies signed Juan Pierre to a Minor League contract, which was a big bargain. He has hit .310 with 37 stolen bases and has been a positive presence in the clubhouse. They acquired left-hander Jeremy Horst from Cincinnati for Wilson Valdez in the offseason, which looks like an absolute steal. Horst is 2-0 with a 1.19 ERA in 31 appearances, while Valdez (but … but … but … he was the team MVP in 2010!) is hitting .203 with a .458 OPS with the Reds. Other Minor League free agent signings like Kevin Frandsen and Erik Kratz played well enough that they could be on next season’s Opening Day roster. The signings of Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins also worked out well in their first seasons, although a contract can never truly be judged until the end. But Papelbon did his job, and Rollins will finish among the top third of shortstops in baseball in OPS.
“We evaluate all those things,” Amaro said of the good and bad moves. “We don’t hit on every single guy. At the same time I think we’ve done a very good job hitting on most. I have a great deal of trust in Mike Ondo, who heads up our pro scouting staff. He’s as thorough and as good as there is. I think Mike and his people did a great job at the Trade Deadline. We got some very, very good players. We came away with some players that we believe really helped our organization and are going to make some impact on our club pretty soon.
“Listen, we’re talking about human beings here. When you try to make moves that you think will work out and don’t for whatever reason, a lot of the stuff is not under your control. I feel pretty confident in the people that we employ to be the eyes and ears of our organization. I think we have as good a group of people in our baseball ops department as any club in baseball.”
One thing is certain: the Phillies need more hits this offseason. They need to find the next Willingham. They need to sign a relief pitcher or two where, unlike Qualls, they don’t have to cross their fingers and hope things break right for them to have good seasons. They need to find the right solution at third base, despite almost no attractive options.