The countdown is on. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to be reporting to the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, FL next Wednesday, February 18th. It’s been an offseason where we’ve all asked “when” more times than we can count. When will the Phillies trade the likes of Hamels, Rollins, Utley, Byrd, and Papelbon? When will we as fans finally get to see the passing of the torch from Ryan Howard to Maikel Franco? Heck, when will Ryan Howard just be released? When will Ken Giles get his opportunity as the closer? When can we expect this team to be competitive again? All of these questions center around and lead us to reason #10 to watch the Phillies in 2015: Ruben Amaro Jr.
RAJ enters the 2015 season in the position of lame duck general manager, a role no sports executive or manager ever wants to be in. The 4-year extension that he signed well before the 2012 season is up at the end of the year. Bottom line: it’s make or break time for Amaro. His legacy hinges on what he is able to accomplish in these next 8 months and how Phillies President Pat Gillick and the rest of the ownership group view the team’s rebuilding progress. For once, it’s not about who Ruben is able to sway to come to Philadelphia, but instead how he can get the most for the assets he still has left.
Thus far, only a few of our questions have been answered by Amaro. He successfully traded Jimmy Rollins, a Phillies mainstay at shortstop since the early 2000’s, to the Dodgers for two pitching prospects in Zach Eflin and Tom Windle. A late Christmas gift was then received just before the new year as Marlon Byrd, the team’s 2014 leader in home runs, was dealt to the Reds for their minor league pitcher of the year, Ben Lively. Both moves, while doing nothing to help the 2015 major league roster, were steps in the right direction. Baseball America recently included all three on their revised 2015 Phillies Top 10 Prospects list.
While there was positive discussion among fans and analysts alike about the moves Amaro made, the majority of the talk this offseason has been about the moves that haven’t come to fruition swirling around starter Cole Hamels and closer Jonathan Papelbon. At this point, it is chatter that will likely carry into the season and run up until the trade deadline. Ruben has been adamant about what he wants in return for Hamels in particular, which he has every right to be. The result of that trade, or potential trade, alone could determine whether Amaro has his contract as general manager extended through the rebuild or if he is inevitably relieved of his duties at season’s end by an organization that he has spent what will this year be 22 of the last 24 seasons as a player, front office assistant, and GM.
It’s certainly a new era of Phillies baseball. The only question now, and one that could make watching this team very intriguing moving forward, is who will be tasked with leading the decision making.