I, as well as many other bloggers who follow and write about the Phillies, have been giving it to Ruben Amaro pretty good lately.
The last year and a half has not gone well. The team has seen its stock drop significantly in the National League, and the players Amaro has brought in to help supplement an aging and injury-prone lineup have not helped the Phillies get back to the World Series.
This offseason was particularly frustrating as numerous players who could have helped the Phils’ offense in 2013 were there for the taking, but were not taken. Instead, Amaro brought to the Phillies Ben Revere and Michael Young via trade, and signed free agents Delmon Young, Mike Adams, Chad Durbin, as well as a series of other players who will probably provide nothing more than AAA depth.
Some of these guys are just bad baseball players. Some are potentially good players coming off a bad year or injury. What help they will provide this year remains unknown.
However, Amaro does deserve a little credit, and it’s time to give him some. He avoided doing something everyone assumed he would do, something he has done numerous times in the past.
For the first time since becoming General Manager of the Phillies, Ruben Amaro did not flush money down the toilet, and he did not lock the team into contracts that will be detrimental to the team in future years.
There were no overpays. There was no bidding against himself. For better or worse, Amaro looked at the free agent market and decided it was best not to dole out gobs and gobs of cash and years of commitment for players he felt weren’t worth the money.
Former GM and ESPN Analyst Jim Bowden ranked the offseason for all 30 teams yesterday, and surprisingly gave the Phillies a relatively positive grade for their offseason, ranking them 11th. That’s a high number considering the vitriol Amaro has received in these parts.
Winners of the off-season include those teams that built for the future at the expense of today: espn.go.com/video/clip?id=…
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) February 12, 2013
And while Bowden was a bit higher on the signing of Delmon Young and the acquisition of Revere and Michael Young than most, his point remains valid.
Amaro avoided signing Josh Hamilton to a contract way longer than would have been beneficial. He avoided signing B.J. Upton to a deal that was much richer than he was worth. He avoided giving Angel Pagan, who seemingly would have been a perfect fit for the top of the lineup, a contract that would have locked a player into a Phillies uniform well into his mid-30s.
He avoided the Raul Ibanez-type deal, the Placido Polanco-type deal. He avoided signing another veteran well past 30 years old to a deal that would make him a senior citizen by the time his contract was up.
This is something Phils fans have been screaming about for years.
Of course, the current roster played a role in those decisions. Amaro is already dealing with some unfortunate contracts (Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon) that were his own doing, and perhaps if the Phils’ payroll commitments were a little less bloated, he would have made a stronger offer to Upton, Pagan or Hamilton.
Amaro still has his flaws, to be sure. His refusal to bring players aboard the roster that know how to get on base, his reluctance to allow young players like Domonic Brown enough time to get a legitimate shot at a big league job, his belief that a bullpen needs to be filled with veteran arms rather than young, hard throwers, and his decision to hire bad baseball players to play for his team, are frustrating.
The team has gotten steadily worse each year since he’s taken over as general manager. Some of that has been his fault.
But for once, Amaro listened to everyone who said he spends money foolishly. Every move that was made was done with the idea of maintaining payroll and roster flexibility in the years to come.
It’s not as much fun as tearing him down, but it’s only fair to give Ruben Amaro a little credit for a spendthrift offseason.
How that translates into wins and losses in 2013 is a horse of a different color.