The Philadelphia Phillies officially signed Ruben Amaro Jr as their next General Manager today, a three year deal. Amaro had previously served as an Assistant GM for both Ed Wade and Pat Gillick, and had actually interviewed for the Houston GM opening last year prior to Wade landing the position. It is an interesting situation because his first year at the helm will follow a World Series championship, and there are definitely some personnel issues within the organization that need addressing.
With Amaro signing on, Assistant GM Mike Arbuckle, who was largely responsible in building the farm system that produced the likes of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson, and Brett Myers, will be leaving the team. He wants to pursue opportunities elsewhere, and rightly so. He likely would have made just as solid a GM as Amaro, and will definitely earn the position sometime in the near future. At the very least, he will help build up another franchise’s farm system.
As mentioned, Amaro has some personnel issues to address. The most pressing of them is whether or not to re-sign Pat Burrell. Burrell has more than made it clear that he wants to stay in Philadelphia. He has mentioned giving a “hometown” discount. He also seems like a genuine guy that is truly happy where he is at now, so if a deal finds its way into his hands, less lucrative than elsewhere, but in the same vicinity, he would very likely stay in red pinstripes. The initial offer of 2-yr/22 mil was declined, because he wants a third year on the deal. If Amaro bumps it to something like 3-yr/34 mil, Burrell will be back manning leftfield next season. He stinks in the field, but he is very consistent and potent offensively. Three true outcome players tend to decline rather quickly, but he still has another couple of good years left in him.
After Burrell, the Phillies only have four free agents, just two of which are notable: Tadahito Iguchi, Rudy Seanez, Jamie Moyer, and Scott Eyre. Eyre could be had for cheap and would be a great signing. Acquiring him during the season gave the Phillies another lefty out of the ‘pen, which allowed JC Romero to become more of a specialist than an entire inning pitcher. Moyer has mentioned he wants to pitch at least one more season and would love to return to his literal hometown. He could also be signed to a reasonable contract, but it is very unlikely that Jamie would repeat his regular season performance from this past season. A 1-yr deal for 5 mil, maybe, but anything more than that would be ill advised.
Outside of free agency, several Phillies players with great seasons are arbitration eligible, which is going to hogtie their payroll and prevent them from going after players like Derek Lowe. Joe Blanton, Greg Dobbs, Chad Durbin, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Ryan Madson, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth are all arbitration eligible, and are all going to see raises this off-season. Durbin may have had a career year never again to be repeated, but he will end up seeing his stipend rise. Hamels made next to nothing this season so he will see a substantial raise. Howard did hit 48 home runs, but I cannot imagine his raise will be as record-setting as the result of his arbitration entering the 2008 season. Victorino and Werth should also see substantial raises, and deservedly so.
This team was good enough, and hot enough, to win the World Series, and most of the key components will be returning. Other than those coming back, Amaro will also have to make decisions regarding which players will not be returning. The options of So Taguchi and Tom Gordon were already declined, but Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton are still under contract. With JA Happ and Carlos Carrasco waiting in the wings, Kendrick would have to have one hell of a Spring Training to even be considered for that fifth spot. After a somewhat successful rookie campaign, he faltered as predicted in 2008. He does not strike anyone out, issues free passes regularly, and serves up too many gopherballs. That is not a formula for success. And Eaton, well, he just stinks.
If Ruben Amaro wants to really impress Phillies fans, just release Adam Eaton now, or buy him out. He serves no purpose to this team and actually has a fourth year mutual option for 2010. If they opt not to bring Burrell back, Amaro could look to the free agent bargain bin and bring in an effective right-handed outfielder capable of platooning with Geoff Jenkins, leaving Victorino in center and Werth in right. Additionally, he could win the city’s GM-love by inking Hamels to a big deal and not doing the same for Howard. Even though most of the team will be returning in 2009, Ruben Amaro Jr still has plenty on his plate in his rookie year as a general manager.