Results tagged ‘ Ruben Amaro Jr. ’

Amaro Encouraged with MAG

Alfredo Miguel GonzalezThe Phillies have tempered expectations for Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez since they signed him to a $12 million contract in August.

He allowed two hits, one run, walked four and struck out two in 1 2/3 innings yesterday in his Phillies and Grapefruit League debuts against the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. His fastball hit 93 or 94 mph once, depending on the radar gun, but otherwise sat in the 89-91 mph range. He showed some quality offspeed pitches, particularly his breaking ball, but couldn’t command his fastball.

It was his first time pitching in a game in two years.

“He was rusty and he wasn’t throwing a lot of strikes,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said this morning at Bright House Field. “But I think stuff-wise it was encouraging. He probably threw better with his stuff as far as his velocity and breaking ball since he’s been in camp. It’s a process. We’ve got to let him develop from there. But I was encouraged by his poise. I was encouraged that his stuff was better than it had been in his sides. And hopefully it will continue to progress in a positive way.”

Scouting reports before Gonzalez signed said he threw in the mid-90s.

So where is the heat?

“I think he’s still building it, just like all these other guys,” Amaro said. “It just takes time for guys to build arm strength. I’m not as concerned about the velocity as I am the command and making sure his stuff is consistent. It’ll build.”

Amaro said Gonzalez had some tightness in his arm earlier in the spring, but said Saturday it was not an issue.

“There have been no issues with him thus far,” Amaro said.

It’s An Old Age Question

Ruben Amaro Jr.If you have not read the story yet, the Phillies held a press conference last night to announce Carlos Ruiz‘s three-year, $26 million deal. Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed the risks of signing Ruiz, who turns 35 in January. But last night’s news conference was old news. The story broke Monday, and Ruiz’s agent Marc Kligman (@MLBAgent) confirmed and discussed the deal on Twitter and elsewhere. By the time the official announcement came, most people already had their fill of how the deal went down.

The real news is what’s next for Amaro? I wrote the other day that unless he makes a trade to free up a spot in the field, Marlon Byrd and Ruiz could be the only tweaks to next season’s lineup. (And Ruiz can’t be considered much of a tweak because he isn’t new.) So here are Amaro’s answers to questions about the team and what’s next.

Q: Could there be more changes to the lineup?
A: It is possible. We’ve had a lot of dialogue with a lot of clubs. We’ve kept our minds and our eyes open as far as our lineup is concerned. We hope to try to continue to improve it, or change it, somehow.

Q: Five of the eight everyday players will be 34 or older on Opening Day …
A: I think we can win. It’s really a matter of getting the guys on the field. If they’re on the field, they will produce. Unless something drastic happens over the next several months, I fully expect these guys to be on the field and performing.I also think we have some better depth because we have some kids who got a chance to play last year. If we do have breakdowns, I think we have better depth to fill in some spots. Yes, they’re older but they’re also very good when they’re playing. That’s important. I think it was (Yankees general manager) Brian Cashman who said, ‘I don’t care about the age so long as they’re good.’ I believe in our players even though the core group is getting older. There’s no question about that. I can’t deny that. We hope to get them on the field. And if they’re on the field, they’ll produce

Q: So what’s next?
A: Well, I think we are still – as we talked about before – the pitching remains a priority for us. If we can still improve the rotation and our bullpen, we will try to do that. We’re still looking for ways to maybe improve, tweak  our lineup. We’re looking for more depth in the outfield, some athleticism. We’re just trying to get ourselves so we can cover all the bases a little better than we did last year when we had breakdowns in the infield and outfield. We had a lot of six-year free agents pitching in the rotation, so we’re going to try and create some depth on the pitching side and in the field as well.

Amaro: We’ve Already Made Offers

Ruben Amaro Jr.,The free-agent market opened yesterday and Ruben Amaro Jr. wasted no time.

“We’ve already made offers on several players,” he said from Arizona, where he is watching some of the organization’s top young talent in the Arizona Fall League.

Amaro declined to divulge names, but he can be aggressive. He moved quickly in Nov. 2011, when he signed closer Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million contract. Knowing there is a lack of power hitters available, perhaps Amaro is making a push to sign one. They need right-handed hitters in the worst way.

Nelson Cruz, 33, fits the bill. He hits right-handed, although he served a 50-game suspension last season and is not a defensive stalwart. Amaro has stressed the Phillies need to improve its outfield defense.

Carlos Beltran and Mike Morse also are free agents. The Phillies have tried to acquire them in the past. (Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said yesterday on SiriusXM that one team already has made an offer to Beltran.) The two biggest free-agent outfielders are Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, but they are expected to sign elsewhere.

Amaro said in September resigning catcher Carlos Ruiz was a top priority, but he couched that possibility this week.

“Well, we’re fortunate now that it’s kind of opened up,” Amaro said of the free-agent market. “There are several candidates that could be our catcher next year. We’ll see what happens. I mean, we’re in the open season.”

If the Phillies cannot resign Ruiz, there are options like Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski. But McCann hits left-handed and seems destined to join an American League team. Pierzynski also hits left-handed, and Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter that has a career .599 OPS hitting from the right side.

The Phillies could sign a less expensive catcher like Dioner Navarro, which would allow them to spend money elsewhere. But Ruiz seems like the best of the bunch, although he turns 35 in January and is coming off his worst offensive season since 2008.

The Phillies also are trying to upgrade their pitching staff, but if Amaro is trying to be aggressive, improving an anemic offense – the Phillies tied for 26th in baseball with just 610 runs scored – might be the place to start.

*

The Phillies have hired Scott Freedman to be their analytics guy.

UPDATE: Wanted to clarify something about Freedman. He is not a full-time Phillies employee. MLB is paying his salary as part of a partnership with the Phillies, although the Phillies have the opportunity to hire him permanently once his externship concludes before the beginning of the regular season.

Roger, Roger: Pitching Coach Search Heats Up

Ruben Amaro Jr.’s search for a pitching coach is heating up.

Pitching coach Roger McDowell’s contract with the Braves expired at midnight Thursday, which allows the Phillies to formally contact him.

It is a near certainty they have.

MLB.com reported as early as Oct. 22 the Phillies and McDowell could get together. The Braves have invited McDowell to return next season, but he still has not signed a contract. (Sources said McDowell is one of the lowest-paid pitching coaches in the game.) Meanwhile, the Phillies have interviewed at least six candidates for the job, but the fact they have not hired anybody indicates they have been waiting to speak to somebody.

That somebody is McDowell.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman wrote yesterday that McDowell met this week with Braves general manager Frank Wren. Bowman wrote “the meeting did not lead to an immediate resolution.” If the Phillies make McDowell an offer, he certainly can circle back to Wren, get a much-deserved raise and return to Atlanta.

But the Phillies are going to make a run at him anyway.

It would be a nice coup for the Phillies, who are replacing Rich Dubee after nine seasons. McDowell, who pitched for the Phillies from 1989-91, has been Atlanta’s pitching coach the past eight seasons. The Braves had several notable injuries to their pitching staff this season, but still posted a big-league best 3.18 ERA.

*

Former Phillies prospect Adrian Cardenas wrote a great essay for The New Yorker about why he quit baseball. The Phillies traded him to the A’s in July 2008 as part of the Joe Blanton deal.

Finding a Numbers Guy

Amaro Talks Werth, Getting Old and MoreRuben Amaro Jr. grabbed the attention of Phillies fans last month when he mentioned the team planned to hire an analytics person to help with player evaluation.

Sabermetrics had not interested the Phillies in the past, but Amaro said they “owe it to ourselves to look at some other ways to evaluate.”

Amaro said recently they are getting close to hiring somebody.

“I think it’s just a matter of getting more information,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to change the way we do business, necessarily. We still plan to be a scouting and player development organization, but I think it’s important to get all the information and analyze not just what we’re doing but how other clubs are evaluating players when we talk about possible trades and other sorts of things.”

The Phillies have been working with the Commissioner’s Office during their search. Major League Baseball’s Labor Relations Department works closely with teams and has helped make personnel recommendations in the past. The LRD also has developed resources for baseball operations staffs, including former employees like Pirates president Frank Coonelly and a number of assistant general managers.

Asked if he looked back at recent personnel decisions and wondered if analytics would have helped steer him toward or away from particular players, Amaro said, “Not specifically, no. Again, we believe in our scouts and the things that they recommend. We’re not going to be 100 percent right all the time. But we want to be more right than wrong. We just have to do a better job of targeting the right guys.”

How much the Phillies use analytics or value the new hire’s findings remains to be seen. But there will be plenty of information to consider.

As an example, when the Phillies signed Delmon Young to a one-year, $750,000 deal in January, they mentioned he had 74 RBIs in 2012 hitting behind Tigers sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the implication being Young “produced” and would have had more RBIs had Cabrera and Fielder not taken RBI opportunities from him. But if they had examined the numbers more closely they would have discovered Young actually ranked 20th in baseball in 2012 with 415 runners on base when he came to the plate. He knocked in just 13.5 percent of those runners, which ranked 96th out of 135 qualifying players.

In other words, he had a ton of RBI opportunities in 2012, even with Cabrera and Fielder in the lineup, but did a poor job knocking them in.

That is just one small example of how numbers can help. Maybe regardless of those numbers — including Young’s low on-base percentage (21 points lower than the average outfielder from 2006-12) and OPS (29 points lower than the average outfielder from 2006-12) the Phillies sign Young anyway because it was a low-risk deal. Or maybe they say, “Hey, the odds are against Young helping us like we need him to help us,” and they look in a different direction.

Will they delve deeply into Roy Halladay‘s numbers this offseason? Doc’s 5.15 ERA the past two seasons ranks 161st out of 169 qualifying pitchers in baseball. Fangraphs.com found pitchers over 35 — Halladay turns 37 in May — who went on the DL for any sort of shoulder injury only averaged 59 innings the rest of their career. Halladay pitched 27 2/3 innings following right shoulder surgery in May. Do the Phillies consider those numbers and pass? Or do they believe Halladay’s reputation as a “gamer” and hard worker is enough to beat the odds?

It will be interesting to find out.

*

Random things from the past week:

  • I’ve plenty on Twitter today about Domonic Brown wearing a Cowboys jersey at yesterday’s game at the Linc. (Gasp!) I think what’s funny is absolutely nobody noticed Mike Adams standing over his right shoulder.
  • Everybody has seen the photo of Bryan Cranston wearing a Phillies jersey during an outtake of Breaking Bad. Once the photo hit Twitter word quickly spread (with plenty of Philly-based news organizations picking it up) that Cranston wore the jersey because he is a Phillies fan. Of course, a simple Google search showed Cranston is a diehard Dodgers fan. I contacted AMC publicity about the photo. Its response: “The shot was taken during the World Series of 2009 (Yankees vs. Phillies). Bryan is definitely a Dodgers fan, but I believe he was rooting for the Phillies in that series. As a gag, (while shooting ep #307 “One Minute”) he did a take with the jersey on.”
  • A report the Phillies resigned Michael Martinez is not true.
  • Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported the Phillies will interview bullpen coach Reid Cornelius for their pitching coach vacancy. Former Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee interviews tomorrow with the Orioles.

Amaro Feels the Heat, Talks Future

Amaro Talks Werth, Getting Old and MoreRuben Amaro Jr. settled into one of the blue seats a few rows from the field Saturday afternoon at Turner Field. He munched on sunflower seeds as Scott Proefrock, one of his assistant general managers, sat in the row behind him.

The Phillies had two games remaining in their disappointing 2013 season, their first losing season since 2002, but it seemed as good a time as any to look back at the team’s misfortunes and discuss ways they can improve the future. In a wide-ranging interview with the team’s traveling beat writers, Amaro discussed everything from the heat he is feeling from fans, increasing the organization’s use of analytics in player evaluation, finding an everyday right fielder, payroll and making sure they do not enter next season crossing their fingers and hoping a multitude of things go perfectly to have a chance to win.

“I always feel under the gun,” Amaro said. “I put myself under the gun. I don’t listen to a lot of it. But listen, I’m the GM of the club, so I fully expect to take heat for it. I’m the one making the decisions on player personnel. I’m accountable for the things that have happened. I didn’t have a very good year; our team didn’t have a very good year. I think we win as a team and lose as a team. The fact of the matter is that I should take a lot of heat for it. I need to be better, and our guys need to be better. We need to evaluate better, we need to make better decisions and try to create a little better mojo overall.”

The front office has missed in its player evaluations in recent seasons. Once Jayson Werth left as a free agent in 2010, the Phillies entered subsequent seasons counting on Ben Francisco, John Mayberry Jr. and Delmon Young to be productive right-handed bats in the outfield.

Since they signed relievers Chan Ho Park and Jose Contreras to one-year contracts before the 2009 and 2010 seasons, respectively, free-agent relievers Danys Baez, Chad Qualls, Chad Durbin and Mike Adams haven’t panned out. The Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million contract a couple years ago, but they found no takers before the July 31 Trade Deadline as his velocity and performance have dipped.

In the midst of that, the Phillies released reliever Jason Grilli from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2011. He has been a force in the Pirates bullpen the past three seasons.

“We’re going to make some changes,” Amaro said. “I think we’re doing some stuff analytically to change the way do some evaluations. Look, we are going to continue to be a scouting organization. That said, I think we owe it to ourselves to look at some other ways to evaluate. We’re going to build more analytics into it. Is it going to change dramatically the way we go about our business? No, but we owe it to ourselves to at least explore other avenues. We may bring someone in from the outside, but we have not decided that yet.”

(more…)

Dodgers in Town, Amaro Talks Lineup, Bullpen Misses

Charlie Manuel, Ruben Amaro, Jr.The Phillies did not play yesterday, which is probably a good thing.

Everybody could use a break.

They have lost 19 of 23 as the ridiculously white-hot Dodgers roll into town. The Dodgers were 30-42 and last in the National League West on June 21. They are 40-8 (.833) since, which is easily the best record in baseball. The Phillies were 49-48 and second in the NL East on July 19, but are 4-19 (.170) since for easily the worst record in baseball. I know anything can happen any night at the ball yard, but this could be a really ugly weekend.

A couple things from yesterday:

Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke about next season’s potentially left-handed heavy lineup and the organization’s string of misses the past few years with free agent relief pitchers.

Roy Halladay made his first rehab start yesterday in Clearwater.

Delmon Young Released

Delmon YoungThe Phillies made a low-risk, high-reward move in January when they signed Delmon Young to a one-year, $750,000 contract with awards and performance bonuses.

They released him today when he refused an assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Young was designated for assignment Friday when the Phillies decided rightfielder Darin Ruf needed regular playing time as they evaluate their needs entering the offseason. Ruf could be an everyday player in 2014 as he is one of the only right-handed bats in the lineup. He has been productive to this point, hitting .274 with seven doubles, six home runs, 11 RBIs and an .888 OPS in 124 plate appearances.

Young hit .261 with 13 doubles, eight home runs, 31 RBIs and a .699 OPS in 291 plate appearances.

He made about $1.75 million from the Phillies.

“He ended up having a couple different streaks where he swung the bat OK, but he really didn’t do the things we hoped he would do,” said Ruben Amaro Jr., who indicated he would take a shot again with Young. “I’ll say it again. I think at some point he may end up being a much better hitter. I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes back next year for somebody and has a much better year. You just don’t know how guys are going to react to certain situations or certain opportunities.”

Quiet Deadline for Phillies?

Michael YoungThe Phillies have spoiled fans with plenty of action at the trade deadline in recent years, one way or another.

Let’s look back, shall we?

  • 2006: Traded Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle, Rheal Cormier, David Bell and Sal Fasano and DFA’d Ryan Franklin in a fire sale.
  • 2007: Acquired Kyle Lohse and Tadahito Iguchi.
  • 2008: Acquired Joe Blanton.
  • 2009: Acquired Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco and signed Pedro Martinez.
  • 2010: Acquired Roy Oswalt.
  • 2011: Acquired Hunter Pence.
  • 2012: Traded Shane Victorino and Pence.

This might be the quietest deadline since 2005, when the Phillies got Ugueth Urbina in June. I say that because last night the Red Sox acquired Jake Peavy from the White Sox, which means Lee isn’t going to Boston or anywhere else. So I believe at this point it’s Michael Young or nobody. The Phillies are not going to trade Lee just to trade him. Why do that? They don’t need to shed payroll, and they’ve already been burned once on a Lee deal. Teams aren’t beating down doors for Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz or Delmon Young either, so they probably aren’t going anywhere. Ruben Amaro Jr. has said Chase Utley isn’t leaving as they’ve discussed a contract extension, so that’s basically it. It’s Michael Young or nobody, unless something crazy happens in the next few hours.

Huge Risk for Phillies in Gonzalez Deal

gonzalezLate last month, Ruben Amaro Jr. sat in the visitors dugout at Dodger Stadium and answered a few questions about the Phillies’ interest in Yasiel Puig.

He said they took a look and had some interesting conversations with his people, but in the end the Dodgers took a “huge risk” and signed him to a $42 million contract.

“It paid off, so far,” Amaro said.

It turns out $42 million is nothing. A source told MLB.com last night the Phillies have agreed to terms with Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to a six-year, $48 million deal, which includes an $11 million option in 2019. Yep, that’s more than Puig got from the Dodgers. It is also more than the A’s gave outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who signed a four-year, $36 million deal, and the Cubs gave outfielder Jorge Soler, who signed a nine-year, $30 million contract.

It’s a considerable risk. The Phillies have never paid an international player more than $1.2 million, and that happened in 2001 with South Korean right-hander Seung Lee. He proved to be an enormous bust, and just from being around the team since 2003 I always got the feeling Lee’s failures (as well as the failures of South Korean right-hander Il Kim, who got $800,000 from the Phillies in 2001 and also bombed) made the Phillies reluctant to go big on international players.

This is a sign the Phillies don’t plan to go into a true “rebuilding” phase or “blow up” the roster and start from scratch, even if they sell a couple pieces before Wednesday’s trade deadline. They still plan to spend money to help them win next season and beyond. That might be what Chase Utley, Roy Halladay and other potential free agents need to see as they consider their options for the future.

But there certainly is plenty riding on this. The Phillies have not had a great run recently with personnel decisions. No team is perfect, but this is a results business and talent evaluations big and small haven’t worked out particularly well: the talent acquired from Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade, releasing Jason Grilli, letting Nate Shierholtz walk, choosing John Bowker over Brandon Moss, Chad Qualls, Danys Baez, betting Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr. could be everyday outfielders, not developing a player in the minors that can help them more than Michael Martinez or an outfielder that would be better than carrying three catchers out of the All-Star break, etc. They certainly have had some successes, but the team is on its way to missing the postseason for the second consecutive year. Now would be a great time for Amaro’s scouts to hit big.

“You hope those things work out,” Amaro said last month. “Hideki Irabu didn’t work out. [Jose] Contreras worked out on certain levels. [Rey] Ordonez. Dice-K [Daisuke Matsuzaka]. It’s a risk.”

Which way will Gonzalez fall? It will be fascinating to find out.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 294 other followers