A few caveats before I get into the substance of this post. First, I don't listen to talk radio or follow discussions on grit and hustle blogs, so if this is already out there in some other form on the airwaves or the interwebs, I apologize. Second, this post is not at all normative (not about what I think should happen) and is entirely predictive (about what I think will happen). These are two very different things. Third, I have absolutely zero inside information about the Phillies (other than about their view of how many wins Gene Mauch had as a manager, and I already shared that with you).
So, with those preliminaries out of the way, let me be very clear about what I think will happen with the Phillies this off-season - they will not re-sign Jimmy Rollins and will instead sign Jose Reyes to a six-figure five- or-more-year deal. The simple reason I believe this has nothing to do with need or what is best for the Phillies. Rather, I think it's quite clear that one of the signature characteristics of Ruben Amaro Jr.'s reign as Phillies GM is that he goes for the splashiest acquisition he can at every opportunity.
Let's review his history with the Phillies during the two most important points during the year for acquiring major league talent - the off-season and the trade deadline. Amaro was named the Phillies GM November 1, 2008. He has presided over three off-seasons and three trade deadlines. Below is a list of the biggest moves made at each of these six points in time:
2008-09 off-season: signed Raul Ibanez.
2009 trade deadline: traded for Cliff Lee.
2009-10 off-season: traded for Roy Halladay.
2010 trade deadline: traded for Roy Oswalt.
2010-11 off-season: signed Cliff Lee.
2011 trade deadline: traded for Hunter Pence.
There's a very strong argument that, except for the 2008-09 off-season, Amaro acquired the top talent available at each of those periods in time. There's no doubt that trading for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt and signing Cliff Lee as a free agent were the biggest talent acquisitions for those periods in time. Trading for Hunter Pence this past trade deadline is probably in competition with the Braves acquiring Michael Bourn, but it's a close call.
The only acquisition that was clearly not the top talent available at the time was Raul Ibanez in 2008-09. Jason Bay, CC Sabathia, and Adrian Beltre were all available. Ibanez was a high level talent that off-season, but he wasn't the best.
Nonetheless, I think a pattern is evident here. Amaro likes splashy acquisitions, and his definition of splashy is to go for the brass ring. The only clear exception was in Amaro's first year when a) he was getting his feet wet and b) his team was coming off a World Series win.
But every other time he's had the opportunity to acquire talent, he's gone for the best out there. This is a pattern. This is what this man does. And, if this man's pattern holds true this off-season, we'll see Jose Reyes in a Phillies uniform next year.
Let me be clear though - Reyes is not the top free agent out there this year. The top is undisputed - Albert Pujols. Behind him is Prince Fielder and then probably C.C. Sabathia. However, the Phillies are not going to acquire another first baseman, nor are they going to sign another high-priced starting pitcher.
Jose Reyes is next, and, lo and behold, the Phillies need a short stop. Reyes is four years younger than Rollins. He had a year in which he got on base at a clip 0.046 higher than Rollins and slugged almost .100 points higher. Yes, he's been injury prone, but so has Rollins. He's decidedly more of a splashy acquisition.
What's more is that Amaro is probably going to feel pressure to "shake up the team" this off-season. I've already made clear that I don't think this is necessary, but I think Amaro is going to take that to heart and do what he's done before - add one of the top talents in baseball.
Jose Reyes, welcome to the Philadelphia Phillies. Jimmy Rollins, sad to see you go but you're a victim of a very powerful man's ego.