CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury reported today that Ruben Amaro has denied a clerical error was made when including Domingo Santana in the Hunter Pence deal back in 2010.
"There was no mistake," Amaro said. "If someone said that, they are misinformed because it's absolutely, unequivocally wrong. It's false."
"There were three names that they had to have," explained Amaro, referring to Cosart, Singleton and Zeid. "There was a list of three or four more guys from which they could choose one. I think they wanted more time for evaluation. Santana was on the list because Ed asked for him to be placed on the list. There was no mistake."
In other words, the Phils would rather have us know that they needlessly threw in a legitimate prospect as a player to be named later rather than someone made a bumbling clerical error. I have no reason to believe it isn't the truth, because frankly, this makes the Phillies look even worse, in my eyes.
Phillies fans have been wishing they could take back the Hunter Pence trade for years now. They gave away Jonathan Singleton, Jared Cosart, Josh Zeid, and Domingo Santana, all good-to-great young prospects who are either in the big leagues or on the verge of getting there, for what amounted to a season of Pence in right field.
On Friday, a report in the Houston Chronicle by Jose de Jesus Ortiz had this little nugget in it...
Less than two months after they picked George Springer from the University of Connecticut, the Astros sent Pence and cash to the Phillies on July 29, 2011, for Cosart, Singleton, Zeid and a player to be named, which ended up being Santana. In spring training, a Phillies official admitted that Santana wasn’t actually supposed to be on the list that was given to the Astros to pick from to satisfy the final piece on Aug. 15, 2011.
Santana, a 6-foot-5, 224-pounder from the Dominican Republic, has usually been one of the youngest players at each minor-league level. He’s 21 now at OKC hitting .292 with nine home runs, 36 RBIs and an .858 OPS over 58 games. It wouldn’t be surprising if he’s up in the majors this year.
Yes, you read that correctly. According to de Jesus Ortiz, Santana was included on the PTBNL list due to a clerical error. The Phils apparently gave away what has become one of the better young prospects in the game by mistake.
The Phillies have not officially responded to this report and given their side of the story, so a hard and fast judgment cannot be made yet. But if this is true, there are reasons to be furious, as well as reasons to be a bit relieved as well.
First, I would like to know all the details of this "clerical error." Who made it? How did it happen? What was the nature of the error? If a person was responsible, were they disciplined? Could something like this happen again? What safeguards have been put in place to make sure that it doesn't? This was an egregious error that should not be taken lightly.
Second, for a front office that is already fighting a public perception, rightly or wrongly, of general incompetence, this only gives ammunition to the folks who want to see changes made. It makes the organization look stupid, and bumbling, and most certainly amateurish.
But here's the thing. If Santana was added as a PTBNL by mistake, it is actually just a bit reassuring as well.
Think about it. Everyone was operating under the assumption that the Phillies saw such little value in Santana that they threw him into the Pence trade as an afterthought. When it was revealed that Santana was the player to be named later, folks who follow Phillies prospects closely were in shock. They knew the kid had a future and it was galling that the Phils front office was ignorant of his value.
However, if the Phillies lost Santana because of some faulty paperwork, that is the buffoonery of one or two paper-pushers, and not a gross, system-wide mis-evaluation of talent. A paperwork-related mistake is far more palatable than an error in talent evaluation, because the clerical error is a one-time, fluky mistake that probably would never happen again.
Yes, it's incredibly depressing and frustrating that the Phillies could have lost a solid young prospect because of a stupid clerical mistake. But the alternative is a player development and scouting department that didn't realize what they had sitting right in front of them. That's far worse, because those people are still in charge today, making the same kinds of decisions that will shape the future of a Phils team that is clearly beginning the rebuilding process.
At the end of the day, the Astros got a great young prospect for free, from a Phillies team that needs every decent prospect they can get.
And that is maddening and infuriating, no matter how it happened.