Ruben Amaro’s Disastrous Off-Season


Oct 16, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Delmon Young hits a solo home run against the New York Yankees in the 4th inning during game three of the 2012 ALCS at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Ruben Amaro is lost, guys.

This off-season has been, at best, a monumental disappointment, and at worst, a complete and utter disaster. And Tuesday’s free agent signing of rotten human being and terrible baseball player Delmon Young was just the icing on the cake.

Yes, the Phillies have signed outfielder Delmon Young to a one-year, $750,000 contract that, while team friendly, is also an indication that Amaro and the Phils’ front office has completely lost control of this off-season.

It’s also proof that the Phils’ philosophy regarding the type of players needed to build a successful team are totally antiquated.

All bow to the mighty RBI.

At Tuesday’s press conference announcing the Young deal, Amaro said they expect their new acquisition to become the everyday right fielder.

"“While obviously Delmon’s got a lot more track record as far as success in the major leagues, he still can be competing for playing time,” Amaro said. “Ideally, he’d be playing right field every day for us but that’s not etched in stone. That will happen when he shows that he can play every day in right field for us.”"

Young has not played right field since his rookie season in 2007. That was six years ago.

The iPad hadn’t been invented yet.

Since then, in the rare instances in which he’s actually put on a glove and manned a defensive position, he has played left field. However, he only did that 30 times in his 151 games last year, and when he did do it, he did it very, very poorly.

Even though Young’s contract is cheap, the simple fact is that he is not a good baseball player. In 608 plate appearances last year, Young hit .267/.296/.411 for an OPS of .707 and a wOBA of .305, with 18 HRs and 112 strikeouts. For his career, Young’s on-base percentage of .317 and OPS of .742 makes him nothing more than a replacement-level type player, as his career 0.6 WAR would indicate.

In short, Young does not get on base, does not work pitchers, does not hit for a whole lot of power, possesses no speed and plays terrible defense.

Not only that, Delmon Young has had a turbulent off-field history as well, suspended 50 games in 2006 in the minors for flinging his bat at an umpire, and was suspended last year after being accused of shouting an anti-Semitic slur outside a New York hotel. Young pleaded guilty of aggravated harassment and served a seven-game suspension from Major League Baseball.

Oh, and he’s still injured, too.

Amaro said there is a chance he could start the season on the disabled list after undergoing micro-fracture surgery on his right ankle just after the World Series.

The only redeeming qualities Young has is that he is young (27), has performed well in the playoffs (ALCS MVP last year for Detroit), and signed a very team-friendly contract.

One could call this move “low-risk, high-reward,” but the chances of that “high reward” seem so remote, it’s barely worth considering.

The larger issue is that the addition of Young continues an off-season that has seen the Phillies fail to improve in any real way offensively. In fact, Amaro has only compounded the biggest problem that has hounded this team since 2010.

By bringing aboard Ben Revere, Michael Young and now Delmon Young, the Phillies have added three players who demonstrate terrible plate discipline.

Last year, in 608 plate appearances, Delmon Young walked 20 times. Michael Young walked 33 times in 651 plate appearances. And Revere walked 29 times in 553 plate appearances.

By contrast, Domonic Brown walked 21 times in 212 PAs.

Amaro either has tremendous disdain for current baseball analysis and metrics, or he doesn’t understand the importance of them. Confusingly, Amaro himself has loudly complained about how Phillies hitters routinely make life too easy for pitchers. Phils’ batters all too often give away at bats, fail to make pitchers build up their pitch count, and don’t get on base nearly enough to be consistently productive.

So what did he do? He brought aboard three players with low on-base percentages and an inability to work the pitcher.

If he had gotten a lot of power in exchange for that lack of plate discipline, that would at least be somewhat defensible. But that is not the case.

In addition, Amaro has weakened the team significantly in other areas.

Up the middle, the Phils’ defense will still be very strong with Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Revere. On the corners, however, it’s going to be a nightmare.

With Michael Young at third, Ryan Howard at first, Delmon Young in right and either Darin Ruf or Domonic Brown in left, any balls hit near the foul line are going to be adventures.

What is most clear, and perhaps this is the most important point, is that Ruben Amaro badly misjudged the outfield market heading into this off-season.

Amaro entered the off-season thinking he would have no problem signing one or two of the free agent outfielders available. But after huge deals were paid out to Angel Pagan, B.J. Upton, Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, Cody Ross, and Nick Swisher, and with Michael Bourn apparently still looking for a five-year deal that is too rich for Amaro’s blood, Ruben was left reaching for scraps.

The signing of Young proves Amaro was caught completely unprepared for the spending spree that was to come, with no viable back-up plan in place.

This was a move of desperation, plain and simple. Sure, Amaro has done a good job not throwing good money after bad by signing Victorino to a contract like the one he signed with Boston. And sure, Delmon Young will likely cost the Phils almost nothing financially.

But Amaro’s desperation to do something, anything, low-cost as it is, proves he is scrambling. And when a general manager is left scrambling, that usually means he was either caught unprepared, or simply screwed up.

In this case, it’s both.

August 11, 2012; Philadelphia, PA USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown (9) reacts after scoring a run in the bottom of first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

In addition, the acquisition of Young has all but assured that either Domonic Brown or Darin Ruf will not see the playing time needed to truly gauge whether or not they are bona fide Major League players in 2013.

It’s possible both players could play left field in a platoon role this year. The more likely scenario is that Brown will be shipped out of town or that Ruf will start the season at AAA.

What is clear is that the Phillies have absolutely no faith in Brown. None. And maybe they’re right. Brown has not done much in his 492 Major League plate appearances to generate any real excitement, and if there is anyone who should know intimately whether or not Brown has a big league future, it’s the Phils’ talent evaluators.

At least, that’s what one would like to think.

But it still seems like Brown has never really been given a fair shot to win a job at the Major League level. Part of that is on him, of course. Injuries have helped prevent him from seizing any opportunities. But it seems highly unlikely that opportunity is going to come this year as well.

If Brown is traded and develops into the type of player many believe he can be, this series of moves could cost Amaro his job.

Is it really unreasonable to think that either Ruf and/or Brown couldn’t have matched Young’s 2012 numbers this year? Isn’t it reasonable to think either player could hit .267/.296/.411, post OPS of .707, and hit 18-20 HRs in 2013?

Amaro is sacrificing the development of his young outfielders for a player who will not provide anything more than what those players would have likely given him.

It’s obvious the Phils are going to depend on their three $20 million-plus starters, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, to repeat their 2011 performances and hope they can make up for an offense that looks like it’s going to have a lot of trouble scoring runs consistently.

And frankly, that’s unfair. It’s unfair to ask these three pitchers to pitch in so many high-leverage situations year after year. These three guys have had to go out for every start reasonably certain they couldn’t give up more than two or three runs if they wanted to win that night.

They’re now being asked to do it again.

With the Phils’ off-season now almost certainly finished, it’s clear Amaro was caught with his pants down. He has not made the Phillies better.

If the Phillies are going to improve on their 81 wins from a year ago and fight for a playoff spot, they’re going to have to depend on their existing big-money players to perform up to their contracts. Or, they’re going to have to hope they’re still in the mix long enough to add a real piece to the lineup at the trade deadline, if things go as many expect them to.

Ruben Amaro screwed up this off-season. By terribly misjudging the free agent market, ignoring the value of getting on base, disregarding current baseball metrics and the importance of taking quality at bats, marginalizing the young talent already on hand, and hanging his vaunted starting rotation out to dry, this off-season by Amaro appears, as of now, to be a complete disaster.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?