Revisiting Ruben’s Free Agent Outfield Decisions


June 1, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels right fielder Josh Hamilton (32) watches game action during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I will be the first to admit that I don’t like the job Ruben Amaro has done of late as the general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. The list of mistakes is long and distinguished and does not need to be fleshed out in its entirety here.

Delmon Young is enough to suffice for now.

The Phillies came into the 2013 season with a few glaring weaknesses. They needed two outfielders, a third baseman and bullpen help. So, Amaro went out and traded Trevor May and Vance Worley for Ben Revere. He traded Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla for Michael Young. He signed Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million contract. He signed Chad Durbin for who cares how much money. And he signed Delmon Young to a free agent contract worth $750,000 to be the everyday right fielder.

So far, none of the players that have joined the team have been all that successful (although to be fair, none of the players traded away appear to be much of a loss, either). Revere has been a part-time player, still unable to get that on-base percentage over .300. Michael Young, while adept at hitting singles and providing the team with its only decent on-base man, has struggled to provide any extra-base power and has been a GIDP machine. He’s also played a pretty mediocre-to-bad defensive third base. Mike Adams has been hurt, then largely ineffective, and now is hurt again. Chad Durbin predictably blew up.

And Delmon Young. Delmon Young. Sigh. Delmon Young.

In other words, the Phils’ off-season signings did not make them a better team.

The outfield situation has been particularly distressing, and was the one area during the free agency period where there seemed to be a lot of impact answers. Guys like Angel Pagan, Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, B.J. Upton, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Cody Ross were all available for the right price.

Yet Amaro didn’t bite on any of them.

So, did he make the right decisions? Was he wise in not offering the kind of cash that it would have taken to land any of these players, and a couple others?

Honestly, the answer is yes. Amaro was wise to hold his powder. Let’s look at the numbers.

  • Angel Pagan             204 PAs .262/.314/.374 OPS .688 wOBA .302 3 HRs 24 RBIs
  • B.J. Upton                 212 PAs .158/.257/.277 OPS .534 wOBA .241 6 HRs 12 RBIs
  • Shane Victorino     147 PAs .280/.338/.356 OPS .694 wOBA .310 2 HRs 10 RBIs
  • Josh Hamilton         260 PAs .212/.273/.377 OPS .650 wOBA .282 8 HRs 18 RBIs
  • Nick Swisher            239 PAs .239/.339/.420 OPS .758 wOBA .331 7 HRs 22 RBIs
  • Michael Bourn        169 PAs .302/.343/.403 OPS .746 wOBA .328 2 HRs 10 RBIs 9/14 SB
  • Cody Ross                 175 PAs .253/.309/.342 OPS .650 wOBA .288 2 HRs 16 RBIs
  • Jonny Gomes          141 PAs .211/.340/.342 OPS .683 wOBA .307 3 HRs 12 RBIs
  • Melky Cabrera        268 PAs .279/.323/.377 OPS .700 wOBA .308 3 HRs 23 RBIs
  • Nate Schierholtz    169 PAs .288/.315/.519 OPS .834 wOBA .354 7 HRs 23 RBIs

As you can see, that’s a lot of poo-poo platter there.

Pagan (4 year, $45 million), the guy I was hot on the Phillies signing, is on the 15-day DL and has been a middling-type player so far this year. The Phillies dodged a huge bullet by missing out on Upton (5 year, $75 million) who has been among the worst players in baseball and was almost sent down to the minors by Atlanta. Hamilton (5 year, $133 million), the guy I predicted would be the biggest disappointment in baseball this year, has been pretty much exactly that, with an OPS of just .650 and a scant 8 HRs.

May 13, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Nate Schierholtz hits a single against the Colorado Rockies during the first inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Victorino (3 year, $39 million) has a decent average and on-base percentage, but his slugging is way down and has just 2 homers so far this year. He has also spent time on the DL. Ross (3 year, $26 million) has been a non-factor with just 2 HRs and a .650 OPS. Gomes (2 year, $10 million) has a low batting average and hasn’t hit for much power, but has been an on-base machine and really didn’t cost much.

Swisher (4 year, $56 million) would have required the Phils to give up their first round pick this year and cost them a bunch of money. His .758 OPS would be fourth on the team (trailing Domonic Brown, Chase Utley and John Mayberry) and his 7 homers would tie him for third. Frankly, his numbers don’t justify his salary or the draft pick required to get him, although his bat would have helped a little.

Same goes with Bourn (4 year, $48 million), who definitely would have been the team’s best option in the leadoff spot (.343 on-base percentage), but again, his salary, the commitment in years, and the relinquishing of the #16 pick doesn’t make him worth it.

Frankly, based on the numbers, the Phils’ best option would have been to re-sign Schierholtz (1 year, $2.25 million), who likely would have cost a little less in arbitration than he signed for with Chicago. He’s hit 7 home runs in just 169 plate appearances and has an OPS of .834. He would easily have been the best bang for the buck and would have likely made for a splendid platoon in right field with Mayberry.

But in looking at it objectively, despite the myriad of options in center field, there really were no good ones. Even Denard Span, who Washington acquired via trade with Minnesota, hasn’t been all that great (.274/.325/.372 6 steals in 9 attempts at $4.75 million this year and 6.5 million next year), and hasn’t provided the value the Nationals were expecting.

So, when we complain about how the Phils have no one in center field who can do anything, that likely would have been true if Amaro had gone in any other route. Fans could have been spared Delmon Young by holding onto Schierholtz, that much is true. But at the end of the day, there were really no impact players that would be significantly helping the Phillies right now.

The Phils were relying on Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay to have big bounce-back years. It hasn’t happened.

That may have been Amaro’s biggest undoing, but really, what choice did he have?

There. I’m done defending Ruben Amaro. Which is good, because I felt a little dirty doing it.