When Marlon Byrd signed a two-year deal on Tuesday with an average annual salary of $8 million, you could see the uproar around Phillies nation.
Yes, signing Byrd as early as the Phillies did was desperate. It was a sign of what the Phillies face now that they are stuck between mediocrity and rock bottom of baseball. Was it the wrong move? Perhaps. The whole body of work for the offseason needs to be evaluated before making that judgment.
Regardless, the Phillies are already off to a poor start in the offseason that will lead to 2014. A lot of it has to do with their general manager. Ruben Amaro Jr. really doesn’t have a clue. And his words and actions confirm that.
Let’s start with Tuesday night first. Howard Eskin makes his usual appearance on FOX 29 at 10:55 and announces a rumor that would send Jose Bautista to the Phillies in exchange for Domonic Brown and more – the more being unknown.
There was no doubt this was a humorous rumor. But that didn’t stop the fans from lining up to customize No. 19 Bautista Phillies jerseys and create fantasy lineups that featured the 33-year-old slugger.
With some time to reflect on everything, the Byrd signing is a win-win for the Phillies. Amaro can’t afford for another season of total failure, as in 2012 and 2013. So here’s the win-win. Either Byrd pans out and plays like he did in his career year of 2013 or he doesn’t and Amaro, who is bound to be on the hot seat, loses his job and the Phillies – hopefully – modernize their approach.
There is a term for good clubhouse managers – a player’s manager they call it. Amaro comes across as a player’s general manager. He hands out the big contracts and he makes moves that represent the player he was in his career, not the direction of the game today.
I’ve seen the irrational wish lists and the ridiculous trade scenarios. You don’t win building teams like the Yankees anymore. The Yankees have just one World Series title since 2001. You have to gamble with smart business decisions. You have to build within and make the mid-range signings that prove to be big by performance. That’s what the Phillies are hoping for with Byrd.
You certainly don’t go about this by gathering all the $20 million players you can put on a payroll. It doesn’t work that way.
The fan base has clearly had it with Amaro. There is no one move that will please everyone. There may not be any move that will please certain fans. You have to win but you have to be mindful of who you’re signing and drafting.
Look at Amaro’s recent quote about why the Phillies targeted Byrd, as written in David Murphy’s blog for the Daily News. Byrd has recently hit more fly balls over the course of his career by changing his swing.
“We talked to our scouts about how his swing path and approach changed,” Amaro said. “He’s worked on it.
“I have to trust my scouts on it.”
And there lies the problem. Amaro shouldn’t have to trust his scouts. He should be able to trust his own judgment as a baseball executive and make a logical decision then, keeping the scouts input in mind. That is how baseball operations work.
But Amaro seems intent on letting other people do his job for him, hence the giant hole the Phillies have dug as a franchise.
In all honesty, it is a rather courtious quote from the Phillies GM. Essentially, it says this: I fully trust my scouts to put together the 2014 team. In saying that, it sounds like you can expect more Marlon Byrd-like signings to come and more of the same from the Phillies in 2014 as it was in 2012 and 2013, the beginning of the fall from championship-caliber to irrelevancy.
Again, it’s a win-win for the Phillies. I’d love to see Marlon Byrd succeed. I’d love to see the Phillies put this puzzle together the right way.
But Amaro is just so clueless in his words. He’s admitted he thinks Ryan Howard could be a 100-RBI player next season. He still doesn’t have a pitching coach. His backup plan to resigning Carlos Ruiz is 37-year-old A.J. Pierzynski. Please, hold your laughter.
Amaro won’t last beyond 2014 if he July comes and he’s trying to pick up the pieces by trading for prospects once again.
All signs indicate that’s where this team is going. And the seat just got hotter on Ruben Amaro Jr.