Can't blame anyone else. - Jeff Zelevansky
The first in a multi-part series trying to answer the basic question -- what exactly is Ruben Amaro, Jr. good at? He's been the Phillies GM for 4 years now. Is there anything he does well? In this first part, I explain why the current Phillies team is decidedly Amaro's responsibility.
On November 3, 2008, just days after the Phillies paraded down Broad Street with their second World Series trophy, the team announced that Ruben Amaro Jr. would take over as General Manager from Pat Gillick. Amaro originally was given a three year contract, but he signed an extension in March 2011 for another 4 years.
That contract means Amaro, barring being fired, will be the team's GM through the 2014 season. But should he be fired? Stated differently, four years into the Amaro administration, is there really any reason to keep him around?
That's what I'm going to explore in this series of articles. Over the course of this series, I'm going to look at what has happened to this team from the franchise glory of October 2008 ("World Fucking Champions!") to the start of the 2013 season, when most analysts are, at best, relying on cautious hope that the team bounces back or, at worst, predicting the team falls under .500 for the first time in over a decade (80-81 in 2002).
In this first article, I want to take a particular look at whether we should hold Amaro accountable for where the team is at the start of 2013. The answer to that question is an absolute and unqualified yes. This is Amaro's team.
From 2008 to 2013, the Phillies have changed drastically. This is not unusual in baseball, as I would bet that most teams turn over most of their roster over the course of 5 years.
Of the 41 Phillies currently on the team's 40-man roster (the extra player is because of Carlos Ruiz's suspension), 34 were added to the big league team by Amaro. Of those 34, Amaro acquired 21 of them through trade, free agent signing, or minor league draft. He is, without any analysis, certainly responsible for those players.
That leaves 13 players that Amaro did not acquire who are on the roster now but weren't on the roster in 2008. Those players -- Antonio Bastardo, B.J. Rosenberg, Cesar Hernandez, Domonic Brown, Freddy Galvis, Jake Diekman, Joe Savery, Jonathan Pettibone, Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimer, Michael Stutes, Sebastian Valle, Tyler Cloyd, and Zach Collier -- were property of the Phillies before Amaro became GM, as they were drafted in amateur drafts (or signed as minor league free agents) before Amaro's tenure.
At this point, these players are Amaro's responsibility too. Although he was not responsible for their original acquisition, he has been responsible for their development in the minors, promotion through the minors, and ultimate ascension to the big leagues. Also very important, he has been responsible for not trading them to other teams. As we all know, Amaro is more than happy to trade away minor league talent for major league players. That he has kept these 13 players and not traded them away has been his decision.
With 21 players acquired by Amaro and 13 more his responsibility for moving through the minor league system to the majors after the 2008 season, that leaves 7 players who are on the major league team this year who were on the team in 2008 as well: Carlos Ruiz, Chad Durbin, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Kyle Kendrick, and Ryan Howard.
The only player on that list who Amaro has absolutely no responsibility for is Chase Utley. Utley was drafted in the first round in 2000, long before Amaro's tenure as GM. The Phillies signed Utley to a 7-year extension in January 2007, when Pat Gillick was the GM. That contract runs out after this season, and Amaro has done nothing (that the public is aware of) about it at this point. Utley is not Amaro's responsibility.
But everyone else is. Durbin left the team after the 2010 season and was re-signed by Amaro as a free agent just last month. Amaro signed Ruiz, Hamels, Kendrick, and Howard all to extensions before their base contracts were up. He signed Ruiz to a 3 year extension with a fourth year option in January 2010; he signed Hamels to a 6 year extension in July 2013; he signed Kendrick to a 2 year extension in February 2012; and he signed Howard to a 5 year extension (that wouldn't even start until his then-current contract was up) in April 2010. All five of these players, though acquired before Amaro's time, remain Phillies because of Amaro's decision to extend their contracts.
That leaves Rollins, who did not receive a contract extension. Rather, he became a free agent at the start of the 2011-2012 off-season. Amaro waited over two months to sign Rollins as a free agent, inking him to a 3 year deal in December 2012.
Thus, this team, other than Chase Utley (arguably the team's best player), is all Ruben Amaro Jr.'s doing. It is made up of Amaro's players. Whether by trade (Roy Halladay, Ben Revere, Michael Young), free agent acquisition (Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams), or minor league promotion (Darin Ruf, (also a trade)), over half the team is purely Amaro's doing. The rest are his because he has been responsible for promoting, retaining, extending, or re-signing players acquired before his time.
Which means that we are in a great position to evaluate Ruben Amaro Jr. as a GM. The 2013 Phillies are his responsibility.
(Pretty much the same analysis applies for the team in 2012, at least at the end of the season. The only major and relevant roster differences with 2012 were that Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino, both on the 2008 team, started the 2012 season with the Phillies. However, not only were both of those players traded in the middle of 2012, both of them also were extended by Amaro in January 2010.)