Results tagged ‘ Ruben Amaro Jr. ’
Ruben 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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Late 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.
“I can’t,” he said. “I’m busy today.”
He spoke later, but Amaro is probably busy with plenty of things, considering the Trade Deadline is next Wednesday and the Phillies entered tonight’s series finale against the Cardinals with a four-game losing streak. But CSNPhilly.com also reported Amaro has been talking with Chase Utley about a contract extension, which seems more likely to happen than not at this point.
“Come on, you know me,” said Utley, when asked about any negotiations.
“We don’t talk about those things,” Amaro echoed later.
But asked if he expects Utley to be in a Phillies uniform beyond Wednesday’s Trade Deadline, Amaro said, “Oh, I think so.”
Utley spoke with MLB.com about his future with the Phillies just before the All-Star break. He said then he would open to negotiations during the season.
“I think we have a good relationship,” he said. “We understand each other. Whatever is best is best, if that makes sense.”
Before the Phillies opened their 10-game homestand last weekend Ruben Amaro Jr. said a 5-5 mark “probably” would not cut it.
They’re 5-2 after taking two of three from the Braves last weekend and three of four from the Nationals this week. The Phillies open a three-game series tonight against the White Sox with an excellent opportunity in front of them. They have won 7 of 10, they are at home and they are playing a team with the third-worst record in baseball. The White Sox have the second-worst offense in baseball, averaging 3.78 runs per game, and rank 18th with a 4.07 ERA.
It lines up perfectly.
And there’s the rub.
A couple people literally told me before the homestand, “Watch, the Phillies will take two of three from Atlanta, three of four from Washington and get swept by the White Sox.” (The nerve of them.) What a disaster that would be. Asked about avoiding a letdown against Chicago, Charlie Manuel said last night, “We’ve got to play hard. We’ve got to outplay them. We’ve got to do the same thing against the Chicago White Sox as we did against Washington and the Braves. We’ve got to play as hard or harder. You don’t let up. You stay right at it.”
Take two from the White Sox and the Phillies enter the All-Star break with a boatload of momentum and .500. Sweep the Sox and it’s even better.
But they’ve got to avoid the trap.
But the situation remains fluid.
“No one is running away with it,” Amaro said of the National League East and Wild Card races. “No one is invincible.”
The Phillies last season stood at 37-50 at the All-Star break, 10 games behind the Wild Card leaders and 14 games behind the Nationals in the division. They entered Thursday’s series finale against the Nationals 45-47, 6 ½ games behind the Wild Card leaders and 7 ½ games behind the Braves in the division. The All-Star break begins following Sunday’s game against the White Sox.
“I actually considered us less of a contender last year than we are now,” Amaro said. “Weren’t we 10, 11 games under .500 last year?”
Fourteen at one point, actually.
“I think if we were 14 we’d be doing the same thing we did last year,” he said.
Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday afternoon the Phillies were leaning towards buying before the July 31 trade deadline.
Feelings about this team seem to change by the hour (or pitch … just check Twitter). If the Phillies win tonight’s series finale and take 2 of 3 from the White Sox this weekend they will enter the All-Star break at .500. It would be tough to think about selling at that point. On the other hand, does it make sense to trade quality Minor League talent to acquire a reliever of two when the team has been so inconsistent much of the season?
That is what the Phillies are asking themselves: How good are we really? The Phillies have won 6 of 9 to get to improve to 45-47. They are 7 1/2 games behind the Braves and 6 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second NL Wild Card. Yesterday I blogged about some very encouraging offensive numbers. But I also mentioned some scary numbers about the pitching staff, including some wretched numbers about the bullpen. If the Phillies acquire a setup man for the stretch run at a significant price and the Phillies still fall short of the postseason they will have wasted an opportunity to improve for 2014 and beyond. In fact, they will have hurt their chances to compete in the future.
“I would assume things would go down to the wire, unless we reel off 10 out of 11 or we lose 10 out of 11,” Amaro said. “Then we’ll have a clearer picture. Right now, we’re just not sure. I would assume like most years, it would go down to the wire.”
So even if the Phillies finish the homestand 7-3 to enter the break .500, it doesn’t mean they’ll buy. They return from the break with a nine-game road trip against the Mets, Cardinals and Tigers. The Cardinals have the best record in baseball, while the Tigers lead the AL Central. It seems to me a good homestand can only buy the Phillies more time, while that road trip after the break is going to make the decision. In the meantime, the Phillies are going to get everything lined up so they’re prepared to buy or sell whenever the time comes.
But even if the Phillies buy it doesn’t make a ton of sense to sacrifice quality prospects for a short-term run with so many issues facing them in the offseason. It might be best to do what they can with what they’ve got, unless they can find somebody relatively inexpensive (i.e. J.C. Romero in 2007 or Scott Eyre in 2008).
Sell! Sell! Sell!
But the Phillies entered tonight’s game against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park winners of six of their last eight games and playing in a division that is arguably the weakest in baseball. So he seemed buoyed by the news Ryan Howard had successful surgery earlier in the day.
Howard had a debridement of the left medial meniscus. His timetable to return is six to eight weeks.
“After (Phillies physician Michael) Ciccotti went in there and went in with the scope, it was a little better picture then we thought,” Amaro said. “I think the player is feeling better about it, we’re feeling better about it. As news goes, this is as good as we can get.”
Amaro said it probably changes the season’s outlook “because we’ll have him back. There’s a reasonable chance we’ll have him back at some point. We still have a lot of question marks about where we’re going to go in the next couple of weeks. Right now, the team is making decisions a little harder on me which is fine and which is good. I’d rather be in this situation than thinking about 2014 right now.”
Amaro met with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, the Phillies coaching staff and others in the organization Tuesday, although he declined to call it an organizational meeting.
Regardless of what one calls it, the organization’s decision makers met to discuss the team leading to the July 31 Trade Deadline.
“There were no real revelations,” Amaro said. “We are playing better baseball and putting ourselves in a position to be buyers. But there was nothing new out of it.”
So they are leaning toward buying at this point?
“Yeah, I think we’ll try to do that,” he said.