Is Ruben Wade Jr. exactly the GM the Phillies need?

Drew Hallowell

The FrankenGM has been in place for a little less than 2 years, and a lot has changed in that time. Is it for the better?

Ed Wade began his career in baseball as a Temple University Senior serving an internship in the Phillies PR Department in 1977. Twenty-one years later he was named GM. You know that old Hollywood cliche of the guy who goes from Janitor to CEO of a multi -billion dollar company? Wade lived it. The only difference is that in the Hollywood version Wade would have been GM for the 2008 World Series, riding on the lead float and the final scene would have been a freeze frame of him with a big smile hooting it up with Pat Burrell. In reality, he was in Houston trying to resurrect another long moribund franchise that had spent too long trying to wring wins from an aging core.

During his time in Philly, Wade drafted in the First Round the follwoing players: Pat Burrell, Eric Valent (supplemental 1st round), Brett Myers, Chase Utley, Gavin Floyd, Cole Hamels and Greg Golson. Sure there are a few misses there, but that's a damned good winning percentage on Top picks. Beyond the First he also drafted Michael Bourn, Ryan Howard, JA Happ, Lou Marson, Kyle Kendrick, Marlon Byrd, Jason Michaels, Ryan Madson and Vance Worley. Wade also hired 3 Managers: Terry Francona, Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel. Two out of three ain't bad and even Bowa was successful for one season before wearing out his welcome with the players. He was also responsible for signing Jim Thome.

Wade's weakness was at the MLB level where he traded Schilling for Omar Daal, Vincente Padilla and Travis Lee. Padilla and Lee never quite put it together, though Padilla was effective in stretches. He signed David Bell to a big contract, extended a mid-30's Mike Lieberthal, traded Polanco for a psycho-killer/bullpen help and generally avoided trading any minor leaguers for Major Leaguers. Wade also wasn't perfect at developing minor league talent, especially Pitchers, it has long been noted that attempts to change mechanics and/or repertoire for both Floyd and Duckworth made them different pitchers, for the worse. However, for Wade's flaws at developing Pitchers, overvalueing relievers and extending or signing the wrong free agents, he clearly had a good eye for talent and his refusal to trade off Hamels, Utley or Howard played a large role in allowing the Phillies to build the core that won so consistently from 2005-2012.

If Wade's story seemed Hollywood, Amaro's got him beat, having started as a bat boy and risen to the top job in Operating the team. If Wade started as a the proverbial Janitor, Ruebn got his start on the proverbial take your kid to work day. Ruben took over after the 2008 season when the Phillies won the World Series. His First Round picks have consisted of Jesse Biddle and Larry Greene, Jr.. Beyond the First he has also drafted Kelly Dugan, Adam Morgan, Cody Asche, Roman Quinn, Cameron Rupp, Darin Ruf and Aaron Altherr. It's too early to make a call on most of them, but several high picks are already out of baseball (Kyrell Hudson, Matt Way, Gauntlett Eldemire, Tyler Greene) and several prospects were traded. None of those subjects has amounted to much yet, but a few look like they could come back to haunt us (Singleton, D'anaud, Cosart, Villar).

In Free Agency Amaro has extended an old, slow, injury prone Ryan Howard before he needed to and for far too much. Paid too much in Free Agency for Raul Ibanez, Jon Papaelbon and Placido Polanco. In the process he surrended draft picks that may have netted Nick Franklin, Brett Jackson, Matt Davidson, Rex Brothers, Garrett Richards, Tommy Joseph, Billy Hamilton, Nolan Arenado or Jason Kipnis.

All those questionable moves occurred prior to December 2011. In December 2011 Ed Wade was hired by the Phillies as a Special Consultant to the GM. Ruben Amaro since then? His biggest Free Agent signing is probably Delmon Young, an unpopular, but very low cost move (Papelbon was signed in November when Wade was still officially GM of the Astros). The only prospects traded were a modestly regarded Reliever and a middle rotation Starter with sinking strikeout numbers and control problems (traded for Michael Young and Ben Revere, respectively). The Drafts have turned out a top Pitching prospect in Shane Watson, a fire baller with a high risk/high reward profile in Mitch Gueller and a current possible Top 100 prospect in J.P. Crawford.

To a certain extent Amaro and Wade may offset many of eachother's weak areas. Wade was reticent to ever trade any Prospects, Amaro, at timnes, seemed willing to trade anyone except Brown. Wade had a tremendous draft record and is well reknowned for his eye for amatuer talent (that Astros farm system seen as being in good shape now? Much of that is thanks to trades and drafts by Wade. Wade is responsible for Castro, Keuchel, Delino De Shields, Foltynewicz, Springer, Singleton, Wallace, Villar, Cosart and Santana). After the mistake of the Bell signing, it's possible Wade may have become a bit more risk averse on free agents, sticking to safer names like Thome. I'm not as sure about that. I do however think that it's possible that after watching the mid-90's Phillies and mid-00's Astros try to hold on for too long with aging cores while not trying to rebuild that he may have pushed more for trading Victorino and Pence for prospects.

It's not perfect, as neither seems competent at assembling a bullpen or bench. Those were both seen as strengths of Former GM and consultant Pat Gillick. Perhaps a three-headed monster is the best way to go. Is there a case here to retain Amaro? Not necessarily. Ruben has done some things well, such as his negotiations for new contracts with Halladay, Utley, the Lee Free Agent signing, the Rollins deal is sensible. He may or may not have spearheaded the Howard contract, but he almost certainly spearheaded those bad Ibanez and Polanco deals. Even with Wade and perhaps Gillick to spackle over Amaro's weaknesses, it still leaves the Organization at an analytical disadvantage as Catz points out this week. I certainly think the Phillies would be better off with a more forward thinking GM like Friedman, Jocketty, Luhnow, Mozeliak, Hoyer, Cherington, Beane, etc., but I think they're better off today with Amaro and Wade than they were two years ago.

That said, the Cardinals, who Catz used as an example, went from a rather traditional Org. to a fairly analytical one without a change in Ownership or even a change in GM. Walt Jocketty had been GM prior to DeWitt purchasing the Franchise in 1995. He was fired in 2007 and replaced by Mozeliak. During that entire transition from traditional to analytical, there was no Ownership change, no GM change (until the end) and no fall-off of product on the field, beyond the typical ebb and flow all teams go though. I for one am okay with keeping the Wade/Amaro team together, while the Org builds more analytical infrastructure internally. That is unlikely to happen, but changing out the GM solely for the sake of changing the nameplate might only make things worse.

For all Ruben's and Wade's flaws, Wade proved adept at acquiring amateur talent and Amaro brought some top pro talent to the team. Look at the Royals who went from John Shuerholtz, who built them into a solid contender to Herk Robinson who kept them competitive for a number of years, to Allard Baird who traded away most of the roster with nothing to show for it in the end, leaving Dayton Moore with a completely empty cupboard to start from. You know what your current leadership's weaknesses are, and you can shore up those areas and play to their strengths. Whomever you bring in next is unlikely to have the same amount of data behind them. This is a case of the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. I know this devil.

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