I've never been a lame duck before, but it sure doesn't seem like a whole lot of fun.
Ruben Amaro enters the 2015 season on the final year of his contract. An extension has not been agreed to (or even offered as far as we know), and as the situation currently stands, when this season is over, he will no longer be the general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Which is an interesting set of circumstances, seeing as how he has been tasked with beginning a multi-year rebuild of this once-proud franchise.
Last summer, I wrote about the possibilities of Amaro getting a contract extension in 2014, before the off-season. I figured it would make sense that, if the Phillies were not going to fire Amaro after the '14 season, then they should give him at least a one-year extension that would take him through 2016.
After all, everyone knew this rebuild wasn't going to be finished by the end of this year.
Yet here we are, days away from the start of the 2015 season, and Amaro appears to be a lame duck GM. And in an interview with MLB.com's Todd Zolecki Wednesday, Phils president Pat Gillick said it doesn't appear as if Amaro's status is going to change anytime soon.
Question: Ruben's contract expires at the end of the season. Will you address it before the end of the season?
Gillick: I think it's something that could go through the end of the season. At this point I don't think it's going to be addressed. I think it would probably be at the end of the season.
Question: You've maintained your support for him throughout. Does that still hold true?
Gillick: Absolutely. Absolutely. As I've said, we're in this together. He has to make the ultimate decision. He's the point guy. He's the one that gets all the heat, but we've all had a hand in making these decisions. So consequently, I think we all share responsibility.
Gillick seems to be leaving open the possibility that Amaro could get an extension at the end of this year, although that could be a hard sell to a fanbase that is likely to see their team approach 100 losses this season.
Much of Amaro's future could be tied to whatever he's able to get in exchange for Cole Hamels before the trade deadline. Will he sell Hamels cheap, feeling the pressure to save his job and get something for him? Or will he continue to hold out on dealing his ace until he gets what he wants, even if that means ending the season with Hamels still on the roster?
An objective analysis of Amaro's last off-season would indicate he did a decent job, despite what the national writers might tell you. He got seemingly good returns for Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo. He's been trying to trade Ryan Howard, but there's very little trade value there. And Chase Utley has 10-5 rights, which takes all the power out of Amaro's hands.
Ruben's mistakes came long before last off-season, and it would be totally fair if his job security was based on those mistakes. The team was too slow to recognize the rebuild was coming and held onto too many veteran players, Cliff Lee in particular, for too long.
But if the Phillies were going to judge him on those errors, why wouldn't they have fired him before this off-season, before the real rebuilding job was underway?
It would have made more sense to either extend Amaro for another year or two and make him the architect of the rebuild, or fire him after last year and let someone else take the job. Changing horses midstream after this season seems like the least effective of the three options.
And perhaps Amaro will stay. Much of his future is undoubtedly tied to the future of Gillick himself, who has not said how long he plans to stay as team president. Gillick has said in the past he's not interested in doing the job long term, but that could always change too.
Either way, it sure sounds like Amaro is going to go through the entire season doing his thing without a net. And I'm not sure that's good for anybody.