There is a critical question that needs to be asked about Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., that question being: Is he a better GM than he was an actual player? In eight seasons as a big league player, Amaro Jr. posted a career .235 batting average with a .310 on base percentage. Six years in as general manager and Amaro Jr. has managed to take the Phillies from contenders to irrelevance (almost).
Of course, one does not have to play professional sports in order to be a general manager or to evaluate talent. In Amaro’s case, he did play professional baseball and you’d think he would not make some of the moves he has, having played the game himself. Amaro is a smart guy. He graduated from Stanford and was good enough to make it to the big leagues, but neither of those two achievements back up what he has done with the Phillies organization, especially throughout the 2013-2014 off-season.
Instead of getting younger and adding to the farm system, Ruben has signed old veterans out of their prime putting the possibility of having any prospects play out of the window. Is Marlon Byrd an awful player? Not if you are in desperate need for a corner outfielder. But, not only did Ruben overpay Byrd, he overpaid a guy who is taking away playing time from Darin Ruf. What’s the difference between Ruf and Byrd? Nothing, absolutely nothing, except for age and price. Ruf is much younger and costs way less for the same production.
Amaro Jr. has also brought in right-handed pitcher Roberto Hernandez, formally known as Fausto Carmona, for 4.5 million dollars! What did Hernandez do last year to earn 4.5 million dollars? Oh, that’s right, he went 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA. An explanation from Ruben himself on these signings would be appreciated, and not just one of those statements where the GM just tells the fan base what they want to hear.
Ruben also brought in relief pitcher Chad Gaudin, which is not a terrible move considering Gaudin was signed to a minor-league deal. Who knows, Gaudin may actually make the Opening Day roster considering he’s better than most of the stiffs Amaro already has in the bullpen.
John Mayberry Jr. avoided arbitration with the Phils as Ruben signed him to a one-year deal worth 1.5 million dollars. Like Hernandez, Mayberry Jr. has done absolutely nothing to earn any of that 1.5 million. The fact that he can play any outfield position along with first base and hit the occasional homerun is the only reason why he got 1.5 million. It’s sad to think that Mayberry could’ve gotten more in arbitration but regardless he should not have a job in professional baseball.
The 39-year old former, now current Phillie in Bobby Abreu was just brought in by Ruben as well. This signing shocked many Phillies’ fans and the immediate reaction was continued ridicule on Amaro for it. Although there are many reasons to bash Amaro, as you can tell from the previous signings he’s made this off-season that have been mentioned, this move is not one of them.
You may say that Abreu is 39 years old, and the Phillies need youth. Yes, that is correct, but lets give Amaro credit for getting a guy who in his last big league season two years ago had a higher on-base percentage (.361) than any Phillie had last year. As old and out of his prime as Abreu may be, he has to be the best signing Amaro has had so far in the off-season.
The Abreu signing does not make up for the atrocious moves Amaro has made since the 2013 season concluded. With 23 days until pitchers and catchers report, and less than three months until Opening Day, there is very little Amaro can do to give Phillies’ fans a glimpse of hope. But, to answer the question raised in the opening sentence, Ruben Amaro Jr. is a worse GM than he was a player. As a player you can be traded, released, or sent down to the minors, and there is no lasting impact if you’re not good. However, as a GM, you do make a lasting impact, and Amaro has certainly done that in a negative sense.