Ruben Amaro Doesn’t Want to Rebuild, Either

Earlier, I discussed how president David Montgomery feared going into a full rebuild because attendance could fall, even though it’s already been falling and will continue to fall until the team gets better. The Phillies’ brass must be sending out the big guns in an attempt to sway public sentiment, as GM Ruben Amaro joined the morning team on 94 WIP and discussed the prospect of rebuilding.

Via The 700 Level:

“It’s a little different in this market. For us to say ‘okay, guys, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to stop winning, or trying to win for the next five or six years and we’re going to try and build a team from the ground up, or rebuild it from the ground up.’ I think that’s something that in our market place and with what our fanbase is all about, I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair to them. I don’t think it’s fair to the organization, I don’t think it’s fair to the players on the field. My philosophy has always been, and you’ve known me a long time, I always want to win. I always want to put our team in a position to try and win every single year. There may be years, and we may be coming up on that, type of transition where we may have to say to ourselves, ‘okay, we may need to take a couple steps back to move forward.’ But for us to do a total blowup, I agree with David [Montgomery] in that regard, that it’s just not something that our fans deserve or something necessarily that we need to do. What we do need to do is improve and get better and work on that everyday.”GM Ruben Amaro on 94 WIP

That Amaro is in line with the club president is no surprise. However, he was being a little disingenuous in suggesting that a rebuild would cause the team to be a non-contender for “the next five or six years”. If you’re the Houston Astros with an eight-figure payroll and rebuilding the farm system from the ground up? Yeah, that’s an accurate range of time.

But the Phillies signed a huge TV deal worth billions of dollars during the off-season. Their minor league system is no longer a shambles the way it was several years ago, after paying premium for Hunter Pence. The Phillies placed 14th in Keith Law’s annual organizational rankings, after coming in at 27 the year prior.

Cole Hamels is signed through at least 2018. Domonic Brown still has plenty of time to turn it around. J.P. Crawford looks like the clear successor to Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies will likely have another protected top-ten pick in the first round. 2014 first round pick Aaron Nola is expected to be a big leaguer sooner rather than later. Hopefully, the Phillies will be able to get a legitimate prospect or two in this summer’s — and this off-season’s — wheeling and dealing. And that’s just the building blocks. The Phillies will have a $150-$190 million payroll (or more, if they feel like ignoring the luxury tax penalties like the Yankees and Dodgers) to fill in around the edges.

The Phillies’ rebuilding process should only take two or three more years, not five or six. It could even be quicker if the Phillies are finally on the receiving end of some good fortune from Lady Luck. Yes, TV ratings will dry up, attendance will fall, and prices will have to be lowered (that they haven’t already may be a contributing factor to declining attendance), but two or three years of that beats an entire decade of it as a result of being too stubborn to admit publicly that the window has closed.

Amaro says that a rebuild is “not something that our fans deserve”. He’s wrong. What the fans don’t deserve is to see a consistent 75-to-81-win team that doesn’t bring any real hope of contention. They don’t deserve to watch a group of veterans in their mid-30’s feebly try to avoid the minefield that is injuries and declining production. They don’t deserve the roster inflexibility that they bring, resulting in having to rely on players like Jayson Nix and Ronny Cedeno. Phillies fans certainly don’t deserve having to watch one of the most underachieving teams in baseball history.

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21 comments

  1. tom b

    July 01, 2014 07:12 PM

    i know klaw ranked the phillies farm system in middle of the pact but i wonder if he still thinks that. as far as the company line well, sure if amaro admits the team needs to do a complete rebuild he is admitting he has trashed his team. not sure how the good luck you are looking for is owed to the phils. i always believe you make your own luck mostly. wasn’t bad luck that killed this team, but bad decision after bad decision by these chumps

  2. Pencilfish

    July 01, 2014 11:08 PM

    It’s not only the Houston Astros who will take a decade to rebuild. If you want a franchise more comparable to the Phillies, why not look at the Mets? How long has it taken them to rebuild? 5 years and counting? How’s the Mets’ attendance going since 2009? Besides the TV contract and ticket sales, the Phillies also get revenue from concession stands, advertising, MLB merchandise, etc. If they conduct a Sam Hinkie-style firesale, who’s going to want to advertise at CBP or buy a Cesar Hernandez (instead of a Utley) jersey?

    The Phillies have already started the rebuild by drafting J. P. Crawford, Nola, Franco, etc. It’s a well-known fact that many players are not easily traded because of their contracts (ie, Howard, Pap), 5/10 rights (Rollins, Utley), poor play (ie, Brown, Revere) or injury (Lee, Ruiz, Adams). The Phillies tradeable assets at the July 31st deadline are probably Papelbon, Bastardo, KK and Byrd. The Phillies won’t get much in return for these guys, even if it eats most of their remaining contracts.

    It’s not hard to understand why Monty and RAJ want to have the cake and eat it too.
    Trading the above-mentioned players won’t substantially improve the farm or ML team in the short-term, so they figured it’s better to take your lumps now and then draft (rather than trade for) talent. There is really no other way out.

    • hk

      July 02, 2014 07:12 AM

      Did anyone actually suggest a Houston Astros-like rebuild? The Phillies should and would never have to go to those depths because of their ability to spend on payroll. It is very sad that this front office has led this team to such depths just six short years after the World Championship, we are even having this discussion.

      I think Bill Baer, you and most fans are on the same page that the Phillies should avoid a Houston tear-down. As you suggest, they should trade Byrd, Kendrick, Bastardo and Papelbon – and I’d add Burnett – for the best prospects return, even if it means eating salary. In the unlikely case that Lee or Ruiz is healthy enough to bring a sufficient return, trade them, too.

      • hk

        July 02, 2014 07:30 AM

        Upon looking at Cot’s, it seems to me that Papelbon’s vesting option – did they really have to give a 5th year vesting option? – will make him even harder to trade than I originally thought. Any team trading for Papelbon to be their closer this year has to look at his remaining commitment as 2.5 years for $32.5M because it will be tough to make him the closer this year, then drop him to a set-up role next year to avoid having him finish the required number of games. Upon seeing this, it would not surprise me if Papelbon remains a Phillie through the 2016 season.

      • Pencilfish

        July 05, 2014 08:11 PM

        hk,

        BB said the following on a post titled “David Montgomery Doesn’t Want to Rebuild Because Attendance Will Fall” on July 1st:

        The Phillies should take anything they can get for Howard, Ruiz, and Kyle Kendrick.

        From my perspective, this sounds like an emotional reaction advocating a fire sale. Since Ruiz is injured, KK has been KK-like and Howard hasn’t produced much, we would be getting almost nothing in return for these guys–maybe a few middle relievers, AA players and/or bench pieces at the ML level, even assuming the Phillies eat most of Ruiz and Howard’s contracts. This does not even address who would take their spots…

        This doesn’t negate the fact that the Phillies are in a terrible spot, but advocating a panic-induced fire sale doesn’t help. If the goal is to get better in the medium to long-term, a less-emotionally charged analysis needs to be done.

      • hk

        July 06, 2014 06:48 AM

        Pencilfish,

        There’s a difference between a fire sale of players who return something small if you pick up part of their salaries and a Houston Astros like rebuild. If you are going to rebuild like Houston, you have to also trade players who are still fairly young, under team control and still performing relative to what they are earning / expected to earn (e.g. Pence and Bourn). An Astros-like rebuild would include trading Hamels and paying part of his salary, something that Bill and very few, if any, others have suggested.

        Let me ask you a question, in the unlikely scenario that a team offers a B level prospect for Howard and $50M of the ~$75M he’s still owed, would you take it if you owned the team and the GM presented the offer for your approval?

      • hk

        July 06, 2014 08:09 AM

        What would be “panic-induced” about trading a replacement level 1B in exchange for some financial relief that could be spent (hopefully more wisely) over the next few years? Coming into this season, I was hoping Howard could put together a 1.5 to 2 WAR season and make himself the best option at 1B for the team. Unfortunately, I’m now resigned to the fact that I was most likely being too optimistic.

      • Pencilfish

        July 06, 2014 01:04 PM

        Bill,

        I know that you have advocating a fire sale for years, and that’s fine if you were consistently doing that. But then you say the Phillies will be competitive in a couple of years. Perhaps you hope the team’s competitiveness will improve when Howard, Rollins, Pap, Lee, etc are off the books and whatever the Phillies got in trades will make an impact at the major league level. Yet recent historical evidence is inconclusive at best. Marlins and Rays are positive examples, but the Mets, Pirates, Astros, etc are teams still negative examples. I’m sure there are more, but for argument’s sake, I’m only mentioning these, and they show no evidence that a fire sale increases the odds of a more competitive team in the short-term (2-5 years).

        RAJ and Monty are hoping to rebuild while remaining semi-competitive. This may be a fool’s errand, but unlike us, they must mind the bottom line. The Phillies are a major market, and fielding 90+-loss teams filled with nobodies is not a realistic option. You may argue we are already fielding a 90+-loss team filled with overpaid and under-performing veterans, but the money is a sunken cost, so frankly that’s better than the alternative. The Phillies are going to get another top-10 pick next June. A few judicious trades in the next six months (Pap, Burnett, KK, Mayberry, Brown) will bring some bench help, RP, a back-end SP and maybe a few mid-level AA/AAA prospects. We should get used to living with this until 2016/2017 when most of these expensive contracts run out and hope that guys like Nola, Biddle, Franco, Crawford, etc pan out. Otherwise, the Phillies will be in baseball purgatory for a long time.

      • Bill Baer

        July 06, 2014 06:01 PM

        Pencilfish, I think we basically agree. It seems there’s just a semantic disagreement over the term “fire sale”.

  3. Depressed fan

    July 02, 2014 12:07 AM

    “Domonic Brown still has plenty of time to turn it around.”

    Sarcasm?

    And despite KLaw being more bullish on our system, the pitching at the lower levels is horrendous.

    • Ron

      July 02, 2014 12:27 AM

      Domonic Brown will be non-tendered or traded before he hits free agency.

      • Websters

        July 02, 2014 12:37 AM

        “Sophomore Slumps” – it happens to a lot of “breakout” youngsters. What’s the big rush to label someone a “bust” before you have to?

  4. Ron

    July 02, 2014 12:26 AM

    Everyone’s been dancing around the edges of the very basic reason why Montgomery, and by extension, Amaro, won’t do a full rebuild: They will not pay significant $ to have their overpriced players playing elsewhere.

    They may be willing to pay the bulk of the 2014 price tag on anyone they deal, but they will not contribute toward future years of Papelbon, Lee, Utley, Rollins, Byrd, Ruiz and certainly not Howard.

    The main reason for that is that as bad as it is to watch the current team, everyone knows that having something like a $130 million payroll to watch Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis and Cameron Rupp play every day is untenable. It will cost the Phillies more money in terms of an even steeper attendance decline and a broadcast ratings decline that will force ad rates down and prompt advertiser give-backs that will hurt the team long-term.

    The reason this isn’t working isn’t so much that the veterans are gobbling up payroll – it’s that the young, cheap guys rounding out the team STINK. A full-on rebuild means promoting more guys who STINK. If the young guys didn’t STINK, the team would be on the fringes of contention, and that may have been enough to appease the fans.

    That’s what Montgomery means when he says it’s not fair to the fans…it’s not fair to subject them to the failures of the front office to draft and develop players (for what has been about 10 years since they struck gold repeatedly with what is now their aging core) by fielding a team of horrible non-prospects while paying almost the same payroll for their better players to play elsewhere. And if they refuse to eat contract $, there practically no one that they will be able to trade. If they only eat 2014 contract $, they will basically be able to trade Kyle Kendrick and maybe Jimmy Rollins (if he’s willing to go) and Hamels (whom they won’t deal) and Burnett (to a short list of teams in the NY-DC corridor). The window closed on giving Lee to the Dodgers via waivers last year. No one will take Papelbon, Utley, Byrd, Ruiz or Howard without significant contributions to their future pay.

    Amaro simply didn’t get it that veteran players getting paid the full ticket are most valuable in trade in the FINAL season of their contracts – and now he’s learning the painful lessons that in his haste to lock up the veterans to long, bloated contracts…he’s choking on them and his bosses won’t allow anyone to perform the Heimlich maneuver because the hospital bills would be too steep.

  5. Websters

    July 02, 2014 12:32 AM

    Sounds to me like BB & Amaro are basically talking about doing the same things, but just using different terminology.

  6. edwin

    July 02, 2014 05:48 AM

    Although I do not agree with the direction the club has taken in the last 2 years and the Hunter Pence trade was bar none the worst trade this team has ever made, I can see the point of management. What this teams should consider is the concept of ‘disruptive innovation.’ Other pro teams have been doing it and it works. Look at Manchester United or even the Red Sox and Cardinals they consistently dump players like Beckham and Pujols. That being said, I think it would be folly for the Phils to just off load everyone at the trade deadline in what some call a fire sale just for some prospects. The Crawfords, Nolas, and perhaps some others might be able to help turn it around long enough to keep us interested and when this happens the team might be able to exercise this disruptive innovation to greater affect.

    Better deals may await in the off season. Sure get rid of Kendrick, Papelbon and Bastardo, but do you really trust Amaro to do the right thing and pull a Sabean? They never get anything but prospects and we should all know what prospects are – prospects. A lot of guys look good on paper and in the minors yet never ever reach the big leagues. When you have a fire sale someone gets burned…usually us. Also, remember Montgomery was saying the same things about Ed Wade the season prior to his firing. I know patience is not a Philadelphian quality, but it might be wiser than rashly dumping Hamels, Lee, Utley and any others one cares to add to the list.

  7. hk

    July 02, 2014 07:20 AM

    One thing that the Phils have been doing and should continue doing is searching the waiver wire for small upgrades to their talent level. For instance, the Orioles just DFA’d Nolan Reimold, who is a 30 year old, injury prone OF, who doesn’t show a platoon split (he actually hits RHP’s better than LHP’s). He’s due ~$500K for the rest of the season and would be a perfect bench upgrade now (over Gwynn) and potential reclamation project replacement for Marlon Byrd should he be traded. Believe me, I don’t expect Reimold to reach whatever heights were predicted for him earlier in his career, but a team that employs Tony Gwynn, Jr. should be giving a chance to a player with potential to contribute.

  8. Carmine

    July 02, 2014 09:00 AM

    To me the biggest disappointment is that I thought the Phillies had finally found a way to build a perennially competitive team like the better franchises in the game and sustain it with their resources. Instead, they are reverting to historical form. A golden era is ending. Get ready for 20 years of sustained mediocrity with perhaps an occasional fluke good year thrown in.
    Bill, you argue that the rebuilding won’t take that long but then cite facts that indict Amaro’s tenure as GM. The fact is that as long as he in charge of operations, the franchise is going nowhere, except perhaps down.

  9. Pencilfish

    July 06, 2014 01:10 PM

    hk,

    “Let me ask you a question, in the unlikely scenario that a team offers a B level prospect for Howard and $50M of the ~$75M he’s still owed, would you take it if you owned the team and the GM presented the offer for your approval?”

    Of course I would, but I disagree with you that this is an unlikely scenario. It is an impossible scenario. This belongs to a fantasy scenario, really.

  10. Pencilfish

    July 06, 2014 02:05 PM

    Over the years, I noticed that no one has discussed how the greatest Phillies team ever (in my opinion) was assembled. Guys like Utley, Howard, Ruiz, Rollins, Hamels, Burrell, Madson, etc were all drafted by the Phillies. Victorino and Werth were low-risk signings and Lidge was a savvy trade. Two issues stand out: 1) the high-draft picks were a result of all the bad Phillies teams in the mid 1990’s, and 2) the Phillies were both skillful in drafting them and lucky that all of these guys stayed healthy and reached their peak together.

    Whether we conduct a fire sale or not, the next generation of players must be skilled (obviously) but also healthy for the future Phillies to be competitive. From this perspective, injuries to Morgan, Galvis, Joseph and Quinn and the ineffectiveness of Brown and Biddle are not good signs. Given that our minor league system is mostly barren, and trades (except Hamels) will only add marginal talent, it looks like 90+ loss teams will be the only effective way to re-stock the farm.

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