Despite being the reported frontrunner for the services of Yasmany Tomas for months, despite being the first team to invite him to private workouts, despite flying all over Latin America to see him play, despite meeting with his agent at the GM meetings last month, the Phillies were apparently never terribly serious about signing the Cuban slugger.
The first signs that the Phils were "cooling" on him came when the team openly worried about his defense and conditioning. And when the Diamondbacks signed Tomas to a six-year deal for $68.5 million, with a player opt-out after four years, it made sense that the Phillies decided to pass on that kind of a contract.
But the agent for Tomas, Jay Alou, told reporters on Monday that the Phillies never made a formal offer to his client.
Jay Alou said Monday the Phillies showed constant interest but never submitted a formal contract offer. Alou believed Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had to "clear salary" before making a substantial commitment to Tomas.
"His hands were tied," Alou said. - via the Inquirer's Matt Gelb
I'll wait until the steam has finished pouring out of your ears.
Before we jump to conclusions, let me first note that there is no way to know if what Alou says is true. As is their policy, the Phillies did not comment on Alou's assertion specifically.
Amaro declined to characterize his talks with Alou. He would not confirm nor deny the existence of an offer.
"The only comment I can make about that is we don't really discuss our negotiations," Amaro said. "But it was clear the Diamondbacks valued him higher than we did."
That's not exactly a denial. And there is also the question of why Alou would make something like this up. Sure, picking on the Phils is the "thing" to do nowadays, but Alou's job is to have a good relationship with teams he may do business with in the future. Making up some dirt on the Phils and then publicly airing it doesn't make sense from a business perspective.
If true, this is a troubling revelation.
Look, this issue is more than just about Tomas. Yasmany carried a certain amount of real risk and there were good reasons why the Phils chose not to sign him. Just because many Cuban players before him have been successful doesn't mean Tomas will be. And an opt-out clause after just four years is something that didn't make any sense from the Phils' perspective.
But Alou is saying the Phils didn't even counter with a proposal for more years of team control for more money. They never made any offer of any kind. And Alou indicated that Amaro wanted to act, but was restricted from doing so by the front office, because the team's goal this off-season was to shed payroll.
Amaro's "hands were tied." Ugh.
If this is true (and that is a very big "if"), then we could be headed back to the "bad old days" of the 1990s and early 2000s, when the Phils' primary objective was to pinch pennies.
Here's where the rubber really meets the road. The Phils are trying to rebuild and trade away veteran players for prospects. And the more money the team is willing to eat, the better the prospects they get back will be.
But if the main goal is to chop cash off the payroll, it's unlikely the team will absorb any dead money in exchange for better prospects. Which, of course, does nothing to help the rebuilding effort.
I sure hope Alou's comments are off the mark. I sure hope the Phillies didn't make an offer to Tomas for reasons other than "shedding payroll." I sure hope the Phils aren't operating with a "money-first" mentality once again.
That's how things worked in the past, and a return to that way of thinking will only prolong what promises to be an already substantial rebuilding process.