Ruben Amaro took over as the Phillies GM, the day after the Parade in 2008. He was handed the reigning World Series Champions who were just 13th in payroll and were stocked full of young players in their prime. Now just 6 years later, he has assembled one of the oldest teams in baseball with the 3rd highest payroll and they are on their way to their 3rd consectitive season failing to finish above .500.
I may seem to be being too harsh on Amaro but a team that had so much promise has been less successful every year than the previous one.
2009: Lost in World Series
2010: Lost in National League Championship
2011: Lost in Division Series
2012: Missed Playoffs, 3rd Place (81 Wins)
2013: Missed Playoffs 4th Place (73 wins)
2014: 5th Place (on pace for 69 wins)
If the Phillies would have been able to cash in in 09,10, or 11. We may have a different perspective on Ruben, but his willingness to mortgage the future has earned him the nickname Ruin Tomorrow Jr. I decided I would make a list of the 10 worst moves made Amaro. I know I'm being the "Monday Morning QB" but some of these moves were highly criticized when he made them.
10. Not Resigning Werth (2010)
No, I'm not saying that Amaro should have come close to matching the massive deal that the Nationals eventually gave Werth. But I would have to think that a deal could have been struck before Werth hit free agency (And switched to super agent Scott Boras) that wouldn't have broke the bank. A player with his injury past might have taken a deal similar to the one that Pence (more on him later!) received last off season.
Werth was a key cog in the Phillies offense. He gave their lefty heavy lineup a big right handed bat and he was one of the only hitters who could work the count and make the pitcher work. Getting on base seems to be something that Amaro doesn't value. Maybe you could argue that the team was maxed out on payroll at the time, but the reason the team may have been maxed out was bad decisions made by Amaro on other contracts.
9. Not promoting Grilli or Moss (2011)
Amaro and the Phillies weren't the only ones who didn't see Grilli's potential. The reliever played with 5 other team's before he signed a minor league deal in 2011. He posted a dazzling 1.93 ERA in 32.2 innings with the Pigs. His contract had an opt out clause that let him pursue a chance with another team if he wasn't on the 25 man roster by a certain date.
My criticism isn't that they didn't "see" his potential but that they didn't give him a chance to prove himself. Instead they opted for younger relievers (who also had success at AAA) like Scott Mathieson, Andrew Carpenter and the Big Mike Zagurski. I don't know why you couldn't promote Grilli and if he fails you still have the young arms there. Instead they released him and he went on to become an All Star closer for the Pirates and now those "young arms" are not longer with the organization.
Like Grilli, Brandon Moss was a minor league journeyman who success in 2011 with the Pigs when he hit 23 home-runs. Late in 2011, the Phillies needed a cheap left handed bat off the bench. It seemed logical that Moss would get his chance. But instead the Phillies opted to trade for minor leaguer John Bowker who went on to go 0-13 as a Phillie.
While Moss went on to sign a minor league deal with the A's in 2012 and has hit 66 home-runs over the last 2+ seasons (15 this season). Again, both Bowker and Moss had success in 2011 in the minors. But why not give both a chance to at least fight it out if not giving the benefit of the doubt to a player in your system.
8. Blanton Extension 3yr/$24 million
Joe Blanton pitched a lot of meaningful innings for the Phillies. But guys like Joe Blanton are not hard to find. At the time, he was a back end of the rotation innings eater. That's about it. They could have just went to arbitration and take their chances the following season when he hits FA. But instead Amaro wanted to hand him a 3 year deal. This is just one of the many cases that Amaro put himself in a future hole for absolutely no reason. Paying a guy like Blanton $10.5 million in 2011, is one of the reasons you couldn't afford to pay Werth.
7. Hamels Extension 6yr/$144 million
This is one that I have a hard time criticizing because it was a really tough decision. With all of the money invested in this team, could Amaro have afforded to let his "young ace" leave town. That would have been instant bad PR for Ruben. But looking at it almost 2 years later, it looks like it was the wrong choice. I'm sorry that I have to be the one to say it, but Cole Hamels is not an elite pitcher in this league. He is a very good one, but he isn't a top 10 pitcher he is being paid to be.
At the very least, the Phillies should have traded Hamels at the deadline in 2011 and then try to resign him in the offseason. Hamels deal ended up being very similar to the deal that Zack Greinke recently received. So its not like the Phillies got a team friendly deal by locking Hamels up before he made it to FA. But it's not a deal that was really criticized at the time so its hard for me to really bash it. It's a deal that most GM's would have made, but the fact that it may end up looking really bad in a few years puts it on the list.
6. Moyer Extension 2yr/$16 million
Jamie Moyer was a crucial piece in the Phillies World Series run in 2008. He started game 3 against the Rays and despite receiving a no decision, he pitched very well. Amaro faced a difficult decision after 2008, Moyer was a hometown "kid" and was an obvious phan phavorite. But Moyer had also just turned 46 and his time had to come to an end at some point.
So what does Amaro do, he gives a 46 year old a TWO year deal! I don't think there was a team out there that would have given him $8 million on one year and Amaro thought it would be good to give him 2 years. The following season the now 46 year old struggled to get hitters out and was eventually forced to the bullpen. He won 12 games but posted a 4.94 ERA and followed that up with a 4.84 ERA in 2010. This is just another case Amaro put himself in a corner for no reason. I like Moyer but no other GM would give a 46 year old a guaranteed years!
Bad moves by Amaro are not the only reason the Phillies are where they are, its been a combination of poor scouting, poor drafting and poor player development that have put them in this position. But at the end of the day, Amaro is the man on top and it falls back on his shoulders. These 5 moves are far from crippling, but they mostly show a series of small mistakes that could have been easily avoided. There are times a team will have to take risks but making unforced errors has put him in the position to have to take chances on some moves. Moves 6-10 won't get a GM fired, but moves 1-5 should!