I’m not sure what Phillies fans expected to happen at the trade deadline. It seems like there was an expectation that they would trade away everyone besides the Phanatic, and come away with a haul of prospects that would soon develop into the team’s next championship core.
Unfortunately, as general manager Ruben Amaro learned, it takes more one than one team to make a deal.
When speaking to reporters, Amaro revealed that he was surprised by the lack of trades made:
More surprised that there wasn’t more aggressive action from the other end. We have some pretty good baseball players here.
There is a feeling that other general managers felt Amaro was under pressure to make a deal and that he would eventually lessen his demands:
I’ve made it very, very clear that we didn’t have any pressure to make deals. What our goal was to try and make our club better. So if there’s a deal to help us get there, we would’ve done it. There really wasn’t a deal we felt comfortable with or a deal that we were going to acquire talent that was compensatory to the talent.
Based on what happened around baseball, there weren’t a lot of teams giving away prospects in deals. The biggest name traded at the deadline was David Price. By most reports, the return received by the Rays was decent, but not the overwhelming group of prospects that an ace pitcher might have fetched in the past.
Amaro commented on the trend of teams choosing to hold on to their prospects:
I think one of the most over-coveted elements of baseball are prospects. I don’t know how many prospects that have been dealt over the last several years have really come to bite people in the ass.
Critics are jumping over Amaro for his inactivity, but he is right about one thing: If other teams wanted any of the Phillies’ players, the onus was on those teams to make a deal happen.
The immediate fate of the Phillies isn’t going to be changed much whether or not they trade Marlon Byrd, A.J. Burnett, or any of the other players rumored to be available. Either way, the Phillies are likely going to be a lousy team next season.
For instance, if the Phillies head into next season with Marlon Byrd as their right fielder, then they’ll have a good right fielder being paid a price appropriate for his production. That’s not the worst thing in the world.
On the other hand, there is considerable pressure on a contending team to make a move that will get their team into the playoffs. If a contender in need of a right-handed bat doesn’t trade for Byrd, and they end up missing the playoffs, doesn’t the non-trade look like a huge mistake?
Mid-level prospects – and let’s be honest, that’s the best the Phillies could have hoped for in exchange for any of their players – are nice to have. But if a general manager’s team misses the playoffs, they’re going to have to explain themselves to the fans. It’s tough to say that they didn’t make an upgrade because they wanted to keep a guy who might project as a starting outfielder some day.
I give Amaro credit: If he is truly under as much pressure as some people suspect, then he probably would have made a move, just for the sake of doing something. Even though that something might not have actually helped the team in any way.
It’s still possible this works out well for the Phillies. While it is more difficult thanks to the waivers process, trades can – and often do – happen during the month of August. And now, other teams might be more willing to meet Amaro’s asking prices.
If other general managers thought Amaro was desperate, his inactivity should demonstrate that he’s comfortable standing pat. Meanwhile, as the pennant races start heating up, the pressure on other general managers may continue to increase.