Ruben Amaro Jr. is in his third year as a first base coach, now on Mickey Callaway’s staff in New York after spending the past two seasons in Boston. It’s been quite the career change for Amaro, who worked in the Phillies front-office from 1998 until his dismissal in September of 2015. Working on the field for going on three seasons has prepared the 53-year-old to potentially manage in the near future. But in an era where moving between the dugout and front-office has become common place, Amaro believes he’s still qualified to be a general manager as well.
Speaking to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, Amaro said he likes the flexible position that he’s in currently:
“I’m in a position where I’m an open book,” he said. “I enjoyed being on the field. I could be a manager or GM. Both are appealing to me. I love the game of baseball; it’s really all I know. I feel I still have a lot to offer. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to talk to people.”
Whether Amaro ever gets a chance to be a manager is unclear, but it doesn’t feel like it is a pipe dream. Though he doesn’t appeared to have interviewed for the position, Jon Heyman, writing for FRS Sports, did note last offseason that Amaro was on the Detroit Tigers initial list of candidates for their manager vacancy.
Amaro is very well connected in the league. He spent over 15 years in the Phillies front-office, meaning he dealt with some people in very high places on trade negotiations. He has now worked under John Farrell and the aforementioned Callaway as a coach for two of the league’s biggest market teams. He shares an agent with Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, who said there “was no doubt in his mind” that Amaro could transition into a manager back in 2016. Amaro served as the assistant general manager for Hall of Famer Pat Gillick for three years, culminating in the club’s 2008 World Series title. Gillick told Tyler Kepner of The New York Times in 2016 that he also thought Amaro would be given a chance to manage in the future.
Again, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether Amaro will ultimately be a manager. But it’s conceivable that he could be.
Getting another chance as a general manager seems like it would be a taller task for Amaro.
While Amaro did say that he’s proud of how his tenure as general manager ended, there are quite a few blemishes on his resume. Just over a month after Cliff Lee nearly pitched the Phillies to a second consecutive World Series title in 2009, Amaro traded Lee and his $9.5 million salary to the Seattle Mariners. The Phillies received Phillippe Amount, Tyson Gillies and Juan Ramirez. Lee would ultimately have what many consider to be the finest season of his career in 2009, posting a 7.0 fWAR between the Mariners and Texas Rangers. Lee also helped pitch the Rangers to their first World Series appearance. (In fairness, Amaro did convince Lee to come back to Philadelphia when he became a free-agent after the 2010 season.)
Months after trading Lee, Amaro signed Ryan Howard to a five-year/$125 million contract extension. It is unfair to blame Amaro (or anyone) that Howard’s body broke down after he tore his Achilles on the final play of the 2011 NLDS. However, the Phillies signed Howard to a five-year extension that began in 2012 in April of 2010. Howard was only in year two of a three-year/$54 million extension when the Phillies chose to guarantee him $125 million from 2012 to 2017. Had the Phillies been more patient, they would have seen Howard regress to a 1.0 fWAR in 2010 and ultimately suffer an Achilles tear in 2011.
In 2011, Amaro acquired Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros. Less than a calendar year later, he traded Pence to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Trading for Pence wasn’t an issue – the Phillies didn’t get burned by giving up Jonathan Singleton, Domingo Santana, Jarred Cosart or Josh Zield. It probably was even the right decision to trade Pence a year later, with the Phillies window having closed and Pence set to reach free-agency after the season. But the return the Phillies got for Pence – Tommy Joseph, Nate Schierholtz and Seth Rosin – proved to be very underwhelming, as Pence would become a Giants icon.
There’s been a pushback from some, suggesting that former team president David Montgomery and ownership may have played a role in some of the poor transactions and in keeping veterans longer than it was in the team’s best interest. In the end, however, part of the job as a general manager is to convince ownership and those above you to make moves based off of what will happen, not what has happened. Objectively, Amaro didn’t do a very good job at that.
None of this is to say that Amaro didn’t make some good moves while he was a general manager. He acquired the aforementioned Lee twice. He acquired Roy Halladay. He acquired Roy Oswalt. His front-office traded a 36-year-old Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2015 season and received Zach Eflin. He sent a disgruntled Jonathan Papelbon to the Washington Nationals in July of 2015 for Nick Pivetta. His regime selected Odubel Herrera in the Rule-5 Draft. His front-office drafted Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery.
But this is now the third season that Amaro has worked on the field, rather than in the front-office. One would think if there was a great desire from teams to give Amaro another chance as a general manager, a team would have interviewed him over the past three offseasons. It feels entirely likely that he was offered an advisory role in a front-office after being let go by the Phillies in the final month of the 2015 season. He chose to make what appeared at the time to be a rather drastic career change and become a coach. That career change likely gives him a better chance to be a manager in the future, rather than an opportunity to redeem himself as a general manager.