Writer’s Roundtable: Grading Ruben Amaro Jr.

Amaro gets his guys. But at what cost? (Photo:

Right now is a critical time in the Ruben Amaro Jr. era in Philadelphia. His team is underachieving and in last place, the injuries are piling up and the best player on the Phillies’ roster will be absent for the next 6-to-8 weeks.

When grading his time here as the Phillies GM, we made sure we didn’t fall into the trap of factoring in things that weren’t under his control and looked at the complete picture. So here’s how we at Phillies Nation grade Amaro:

Corey Seidman: I’d give Amaro a B-.

He’s done a lot, but he’s had a ton of resources that every GM would give a kidney to have. He’s put himself in a position where there just aren’t too many fixes to make. You have to hope Howard, Utley and Halladay all get through their current conditions and age relatively well. Its tough.

Amaro took risks and was aggressive. He built a team that had enormous success from 2007-11. I’ll let the others break down each move, but Amaro’s done mostly well with trades and not too well with contracts.

Pat Gallen: I won’t put a letter grade on Ruben Amaro’s tenure a GM of the Phillies, but I will say this – it has been a ride. He acquires the best pitcher in baseball (Roy Halladay) and gets his “white whale” but deals Cliff Lee in the process.

He gets Hunter Pence from Houston, but gives up a ton of minor league talent in the process.

Amaro also gave odd contracts to Joe Blanton, Ryan Howard, and Jonathan Papelbon. (Yes, I know Papelbon has been lights out, but that’s still a ton of money for a 3-out guy, no matter how you look at it).

On the other hand, the Roy Oswalt trade was an absolute coup. He signed Shane Victorino to a team-friendly deal and ultimately brought back Lee.

However, other smaller moves have really made it a tough go for Amaro. Danys Baez, Jose Contreras, and Placido Polanco got one too many years on their deal, as did Raul Ibanez.

The previous few seasons have been easier on Amaro because the Phillies have been winning. The real work starts now with an aging roster with a bloated payroll. If he can make some moves and keep the team at or near the top of the NL over the next few seasons, we’ll look back at him as above average. But if he and the team both sink, we’ll look back saying, that wasn’t pretty.

Ian Riccaboni: For me, Amaro gets a solid B+. And to be honest, if it weren’t for the Ryan Howard contract, it would be an A.

Amaro made some tough decisions right out of the gate, including telling $15 million in payroll to stay home (Adam Eaton and Geoff Jenkins). Amaro’s first move, swapping the speedy Greg Golson to Texas for John Mayberry Jr., was a move that has shown some great benefits a few years removed from the trade.

Amaro inherited Carlos Ruiz behind the dish who hit .219/.320/.300 in 2008. He had the wherewithal to stick with the Panamanian. Amaro also inherited .249/.302/.402 and $5 million worth of Pedro Feliz at third from Pat Gillick that he let walk after 2009. Amaro had the cajones to let Pat Burrell walk and replace him with a player a few years his senior who had one of the most captivating first halves of any Phillie in recent memory.

He inherited a starting rotation of Hamels, Brett Myers, Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton that turned into Hamels, Blanton, Moyer, Cliff Lee, and, one of the best outside-the-box moves of all time, Pedro Martinez. The 2009 team would not have got to the World Series if those moves were not made, including but not limited to giving nothing the Phillies could have or would have used anyways to obtain Lee.

Donald McGettigan: I’m going to give Ruben Amaro Jr. a B+ grade.  No, he hasn’t won the World Series, but the streak of NL East titles has remained, we made one World Series appearances, and entered the postseason in 2010 and 2011 as the favorites to win it all …the Paper-Champions… to me, that’s what you ask of your GM, to put together a roster that can win… after that it’s up to players and coaches to perform on the field.

Amaro doesn’t play it safe. Leading a franchise that has only 2 titles, he has gone out and obtained the best available talent at trade deadlines and in free agency – to try to capture that elusive 3rd World Series trophy.

Acquiring players the caliber of Lee, Halladay, Oswalt and Pence — All-Stars, Cy-Youngs, and Hall of Famers — to put around your own homegrown talent, was risky. But it was, in my opinion, a risk worth taking.

Amaro’s trades for Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence haven’t hurt the Phillies. Yet. If Anthony Gose becomes the superstar he is suddenly on track to become, this grade goes a little lower. If any of the following happens: Jarred Cosart becomes an ace, Jonathan Singleton becomes a major masher, or Pence falls off a cliff somewhere between now and 2013, this grade goes way lower.

With all things considered, Amaro has done a great job assessing needs and I feel comfortable putting him at a B+, almost an A-, even with the Howard contract. The real test will be the results from this year, how Cosart, Singleton, and Jonathan Villar pan out, and how Amaro retools for 2013 – with double the payroll from 2007, it will be a major disappointment, injuries included in the thought process, if they miss the playoffs.

Ryan Dinger: For the job he’s done in his first three-plus seasons with the Phillies, Amaro deserves a C+. I arrived at that grade through the very scientific method of rating each of the moves during his tenure as GM on a scale of 1-to-5 (1 representing an F and 5 representing an A), and figuring out the average, which came out to be 3.07.

Amaro has kept the team very competitive, putting a team capable of winning a championship on the field in each of his full seasons. But, in doing so, he’s driven the Phillies’ payroll up to levels thought impossible just a half decade ago–an issue that could handcuff the Phillies regarding future moves if they stay adamant about not crossing the luxury tax threshold.

This coming off-season has all the potential to be the defining moment in Amaro’s time as GM in Philadelphia. He’s got a lot of holes to fill in the field, and how he decides to handle the Cole Hamels contract situation could go down as one of the best or worst moves in Philadelphia sports history. It will be interesting to see how he navigates through these issues, especially considering the aging roster and the bloating payroll. This winter could easily push Amaro’s grade to an A or drop it down to an F.

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