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The Phillies are rebuilding, but they don't have the right architect

The Phillies finally used the dreaded "R"-word, but they're keeping GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. around. Let's rank his moves as a GM and see if we can learn anything.

Drew Hallowell

SB Nation 2014 MLB Bracket

The Phillies are rebuilding. Don't take my word for it. Here's Pat Gillick:

Patience is kind of thin these days. But I think this is going to be more of a rebuilding, more of a restructuring than a reloading.

This quote came in an interview that was Fed-Ex'd from 2013 to the present day. Gillick, the Phillies' interim CEO, was responsible for building the championship team that was slowly, painfully, disassembled in recent years by Ruben Amaro, Jr. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008, and they've been slipping and slipping ever since, going from the championship to the pennant to the NLCS to the division to .500 to 89 losses. I'm not even going to bother with the graph. You can probably see in which direction it's pointing. Amaro took over after 2008.

At least, that's my knee-jerk reaction, that Amaro has done his share of bungling and mungling over the years. Perhaps that's unfair. Perhaps that's the view of an outsider, someone who just picks up on what the shrillest voices on Twitter are shrieking via 140-character bursts. When I think of Amaro being the guy in charge of the Phillies' rebuilding, I think of Gary Cherone sitting down and figuring out how to restore Van Halen to their glory days.

Again, perhaps that's unfair! To figure this out, it makes sense to list every single transaction the Phillies have made since Amaro took over and rank them. Everyone loves an ol'-fashioned ranking. Except Ruben Amaro, maybe. According to an inside source with knowledge of the situation, Amaro took over the day after the Phillies had their championship parade. Let's look at the moves he's made and rank them. I mean, not all of them. "Purchased Mike Sweeney from the Seattle Mariners," was one of the moves I found, for example. Here are Amaro's major moves since then, ranked:

  1. Traded Jason Knapp (minors), Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson to the Cleveland Indians. Received Ben Francisco and Cliff Lee

  2. Traded Travis d'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor to the Toronto Blue Jays. Received Roy Halladay and cash

  3. Traded Anthony Gose, J.A. Happ and Jonathan Villar to the Houston Astros. Received Roy Oswalt

  4. Signed Cliff Lee as a free agent. (five years, $120 million)

  5. Signed Marlon Byrd as a free agent (two years, $16 million)

  6. Extended Chase Utley (two years, $27 million with vesting options)

  7. Re-signed Jimmy Rollins (four years, $44 million)

  8. Signed Raul Ibanez as a free agent. (three years, $30 million)

  9. Traded Roberto Hernandez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Received Victor Arano, Jesmuel Valenti

  10. Signed Jamie Moyer as a free agent. (two years, $16 million)

  11. Signed Juan Pierre as a free agent (minor league deal)

  12. Signed Pedro Martinez as a free agent. (one year, $1 million)

  13. Signed Jose Contreras as a free agent (one year, $1.5 million)

  14. Signed A.J. Burnett as a free agent. (one year, $16 million)

  15. Traded Domingo Santana, Jarred Cosart, Jon Singleton and Josh Zeid to the Houston Astros. Received Hunter Pence and cash.

  16. Traded Jim Thome to the Baltimore Orioles. Received Gabriel Lino and Kyle Simon

  17. Traded Trevor May and Vance Worley to the Minnesota Twins. Received Ben Revere

  18. Traded Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Received Stefan Jarrin, Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin

  19. Signed Roberto Hernandez as a free agent (one year, $4.5 million)

  20. Traded Joe Blanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Received Ryan O'Sullivan

  21. Traded Michael Young and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Received Rob Rasmussen

  22. Signed Mike Adams as a free agent (two years, $12 million)

  23. Signed Miguel Gonzalez as a free agent (three years, $12 million)

  24. Signed Jim Thome as a free agent. (one year, $1.25 million)

  25. Signed Grady Sizemore as a free agent (minor league deal)

  26. Signed Chad Qualls as a free agent (one year, $1.15 million)

  27. Signed Jonathan Papelbon as a free agent (four years, $50 million)

  28. Signed Placido Polanco as a free agent. (three years, $18 million)

  29. Signed Delmon Young as a free agent. (one year, $750,000)

  30. Traded Lisalverto Bonilla and Josh Lindblom to the Texas Rangers. Received Michael Young and cash

  31. Traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Received Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin and Nate Schierholtz

  32. Extended Ryan Howard (five years, $125 million)

  33. Traded Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners. Received Tyson Gillies, Phillippe Aumont and J.C. Ramirez

Phew. That was intense. I'm sure I accidentally missed one, so be nice in the comments. It loses something without pieces of the specific chronology, though. Via


Solid. That is a solid couple months.

Considering that Cosart and Singleton haven't done that much yet, and that Pence is at least a legitimate major league talent, I'm kinder to that trade than I might otherwise be. And while Burnett and Adams were flops, I at least get the idea behind them. Disclaimers aside, I'd guess the list starts to get less impressive at Jamie Moyer, 10 moves in. Then there's a muddling mix of could-have-worked-outs that were neither harmful nor exciting. Then there's the Jonathan Papelbon cutoff, at which point things get murky and/or ugly.

This is all a long-winded way to get to the point. Amaro's hits have to do with established talent. Cliff Lee for prospects. Cliff Lee for money. Roy Halladay for prospects. Roy Oswalt for prospects. He nailed those, absolutely nailed those. They were responsible for the big 2010 and 2011 seasons that could have turned out better, but were still some of the better seasons in franchise history. Any honest evaluation of Amaro has to include the top few moves up there. He excelled at acquiring established talent to put on the pile, at going out and being fearless when he wanted to reinforce a roster with a chance at a championship.

Now look at the moves you don't like, and see if there's a common pattern. I'll help you out: Amaro is absolutely rotten when it comes to anything forward-thinking. When it comes to thinking one, two, three years in the future, he's a blue screen of death. Why trade Cliff Lee the same day you acquire Roy Halladay, only to reacquire him a year later? What sort of ... wait, is that a four-year deal to a closer? Is that a three-year deal for a bad hitter? Why would you give a monster extension to an aging slugger two years from free agency? That guy's old and bad. That guy's old and bad. That guy's old and bad. That guy's ... an ageless lizard person, but he doesn't play defense. Did you know that Delmon Young played 500 innings in the outfield last year? That doesn't quite fit with the forward-thinking part, but it was too amazing to ignore.

There's a list of 33 moves up there. I'll argue that absolutely none of them, save some of the recent veteran-for-prospect deals that still might pan out, helped the future in any capacity. If they weren't win-now, win-now, win-now moves, they were either inconsequential (the flurry of moves at the '13 deadline, most likely) or actively harmful (trading Lee to the Mariners).

So if the plan is to rebuild, and Amaro is the GM behind the plan, he'll have to show off a skill he's never exhibited before. It's like converting a questionable third baseman to catcher in the middle of the season. It might work. Or your future might be nothing but passed balls and tears.

The Phillies are rebuilding. You probably could have guessed when they traded Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton, but now it's official. There probably isn't another A.J. Burnett type of shot-in-the-dark coming this offseason. They're going to start tilling the soil, and there will be some long, difficult seasons ahead.

I just can't fathom why Amaro would be the right GM for the situation, though.