The Philadelphia Phillies made a move that was a long time coming on Thursday, Sept. 10th when they fired general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. close to the end of his seventh season with the team. On the whole, Amaro had a very successful time with the Phillies showing a record of 573-539, three NL East titles, an NL pennant, and a World Series appearance. However, it’s a tale of two eras for Amaro.
The fulcrum year was 2012 where Philadelphia finished with a perfect 81-81 record and missed the playoffs. Since Pat Gillick retired after the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, Philadelphia lost the 2009 World Series, lost in the 2010 NLCS, lost in the 2011 LDS, and finally hit 81-81. The year they lost the LDS to the St. Louis Cardinals was, incidentally, the year they won 102 games—the best record in baseball.
Since falling off the mountain top, the Phillies have a 281-345 record, a team filled with several bloated and aging contracts, and a farm system that has only recently started to rebound after Amaro begrudgingly decided against a rebuild for years. These three issues were likely the keys behind Amaro being relieved of his post with the refusal to rebuild possibly chief among them. Possibly.
We weren’t in meetings with management. They may have been so against the idea of rebuilding that they communicated to Amaro that a rebuild would spell his end and so he did everything to find a way to reboot the team without tearing it down. It’s certainly possible. We just don’t know and even if it was, it didn’t work. Now the Phillies are one of the worst teams in baseball and looking at a bleak immediate future. Picture the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros before their respective successful rebuilds. The future may seem bright if a tear down occurs, but it isn’t guaranteed to work out like it has in Chicago and Houston. Ask the Seattle Mariners (much bigger issues than just a rebuild there), Milwaukee Brewers, and Colorado Rockies.
The farm system has been on the upswing, though that is an inexact science. Baseball Prospectus had them ranked at #20 on their preseason organizational rankings, up from #25 in 2014.1 This is a system built on top-end talent mostly in its current state with two top-10 prospects, SS J.P. Crawford and SP Aaron Nola, in BP’s Mid-Season Top-50. They will continue to rise, but the failure to strike while the iron was hot on guys like Carlos Ruiz, Ben Revere, and Cliff Lee is one of the chief complaints against Amaro’s tenure. Ryan Howard was and will continue to be an albatross that the Philadelphia will struggle to rid themselves of and they may just continue to pay him in lieu of spending assets to rid themselves of him.
However, the sale of guys like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels has helped immensely in building the farm system. That’s the hallmark of a rebuild. You get prospect talent through selling off established stars. Much more volatile talent than major leaguers sure, but much more potential upside. E.g. the Cubs, Astros, and New York Mets. In the end, it was too little, too late and Amaro may have been doomed if a rebuild was required no matter what.
The Phillies will almost certainly be in touch with some of the bigger name general manager candidates like former-Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, Rays VP of Baseball Ops Chaim Bloom, etc.
For now, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock has been given the reins, though likely in a very limited fashion. Ownership will almost certainly require approval before any trades/signings once the season ends, if Proefrock holds on to GM duties that far into the offseason at all.
Until a new head man is put into place, the much more likely scenario is that Proefrock is the interim in name only and former Phillies GM and current Phillies President Pat Gillick will tend to the baseball operations department. It may finally be time for a rebuild in Philly, but you never know, it could be time to shell out some money for the best hitter and pitcher they can afford on the market. They’re not that far off after all . . . right? Right?2