Phillies GM Ruben Amaro took steps—as misguided as they were—to maintain a talent base in the minor league system by trading Cliff Lee for a bunch of prospects simultaneously to trading for Roy Halladay. Those prospects have yet to work out and, in fairness to Amaro, nor have those he traded to get Halladay.
In response to the blowback from making that deal and as the Phillies were struggling at .500 at mid-season 2010, he traded prospects for Roy Oswalt to fill the hole that was created by the trade of Lee and was rewarded with a division title and a trip to the NLCS; this season, he felt he needed a righty outfield bat and went and got Hunter Pence for more youth.
Amaro bolstered the big league product and put a team together that’s contending for a World Series and should continue to do so at least through next season.
In addition to that, by getting Lee back as a free agent, he corrected the original mistake that started all the fuss.
The public outcry was probably less of a reason for the switch from one tack to the other than the struggles of the youngsters he got in the Lee trade—Phillippe Aumont; J.C. Ramirez; and Tyson Gillies.
Amaro smartly shunned that strategy and sought to win now with established players.
When doing that, of course the developmental side of the organization is going to suffer.
That was Chuck LaMar’s department.
For the record, Aumont has pitched well in Double and Triple A this year.
Now, LaMar has resigned; the decision stems from the Phillies inability to pay the bonuses for drafted talent required to keep the pipeline as productive as its been.
You can read about the LaMar point-of-view here on Philly.com.
On the surface, it seemed to be a capricious, ill-thought-out move; a mistake not in the Jim Riggleman realm of self-immolating and stupid, but a mistake nonetheless.
It’s easy to understand where LaMar is coming from in his frustration of not being able to draft and sign the players he wanted because of finances; but look at it from Amaro’s position: the Phillies are not the Yankees or the Red Sox. If the Phillies are spending $165 million on big league payroll, they’re not going to have the money to maintain a farm system as they did on the way to building this current team; part of maintaining that farm system is spending money on bonuses.
When drafting, teams can get lucky with players who were selected in the lower rounds and didn’t require a heavy bonus, but that’s a byproduct of a myriad of factors that can’t be counted on to happen on a regular basis.
It’s likely to remain this way for the next several years because, as they shave the likes of Raul Ibanez and Oswalt from the bottom line, they’re going to have to pay Cole Hamels, Pence and decide what to do with Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Madson.
LaMar wanted more money to sign drafted players and to find undrafted talent; but if the money’s not there, it’s not there.
Obviously the Phillies are eventually going to pay the practical price on the field for having a star-studded, aging big league club and neglecting finding young talent, but in the process they might win this year’s World Series and will contend for more in the foreseeable future. That’s worth a few lean years of rebuilding because of the issues that spurred LaMar’s resignation in the first place.
3 thoughts on “Chuck LaMar’s Resignation And Defending Ruben Amaro”
I tend to think that the Phillies have been very pragmatic about what they’ve done. It is very easy for people to say things about why can’t teams build winners at the major league level while still spending on the development of players. But, the fact of the matter is that you have probably five teams that can do both:
3. Red Sox
I think you could possibly include the Giants in there, but I am not 100% sure about that. I think they are sort of in a middle ground.
I also think that Amaro has been an exceptional GM, not because of any one move or the other. C’mon, trading for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt isn’t some kind of gem in the mud thing. Its the fact that when he has made bad moves, he has quickly been able to acknowledge his error and move on. That’s something as a Mets fan that I wish that I had seen in Flushing over the last few years. Now that Sandy is around, it seems to be the norm in Flushing too.
It is very easy to be fooled about Amaro, but the real truth is that he’s been a failure as GM for the Phillies. Remember that during his first year as GM, which started in November of 2008, the Phillies continued to employ former GM, Gillick, as his “advisor” for one year. Thus, before you bestow accolades to Ruben for acquiring Lee and Halladay, remember that fact and compare those 2 deals with ones he made later when Gillick was out of the picture.
The Phillies organization is to blame. They threw away Arbuckle, his scouts and Lamar who had been instrumental in bringing in the core of the team that won the WS in 2008. They decided to put their $$$ on long term contracts for veteran players, some who were still quite good, but were slightly past their golden prime. Pay now for a quick boost and forget about the brains of the organization who had brought them so much young talent. Thus, the farm system died, and their salary structure was way out of balance.
Instead of a dynasty, they are now faced with an unenviable job of building up a depleted team. The same thing happened back in the early 1980’s when they lost their brain trust and went into oblivion for the next decade.
I’m no defender of Ruben Amaro Jr. Trust me. Gillick is still technically an adviser to the Phillies, but I don’t get the impression he’s interfered with Amaro at all. Amaro’s trades have been pretty good overall. He didn’t give up anything to get Oswalt and Gillick’s record was also hit or miss on trades (see Freddy Garcia); Arbuckle left when he didn’t get the GM job. We don’t know what the real reason for him being passed over was. Perhaps they thought Amaro would handle the everyday stresses of the job better; or they could’ve felt that Arbuckle is an amateur talent evaluator and not a big league GM. No one else has hired him as a GM either. LaMar left in a snit after putting his foot down about developing talent for the future, but was apparently borderline insubordinate about it and if Amaro was going to maintain control, he couldn’t let that pass.
You’ve pretty much had a dynasty. In today’s game, 5 straight division titles and 2 straight pennants is a dynasty. They got picked off in the playoffs 3 times amid a half decade of dominating the NL. If they have Lee, Halladay and Hamels next year, they’ll be a contender. Be happy with that.