Saturday, July 30, 2011

Props Out: Ruben Amaro Jr.

Today, we are throwing some love in the direction of Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. The dude done did it again. He detected a weakness on his team that could keep them from succeeding, and he went out and filled the hole. Two years ago, it was nabbing Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians. Last year, it was jacking Roy Oswalt from the "Happ-less" Houston Astros. This July 29 (amazingly, all three trades have happened on the same date), he went out and pried rightfielder Hunter Pence away from those same erstwhile Colt 45s (apparently the guy has an affinity for robbing former Phillies GM Ed Wade).

For the last week, as the trade deadline in Major League Baseball has approached, I have been telling anyone who would listen to me that the Phillies needed to go out and snag Pence (in fact, I feel stupid that I did not write it in these airwaves because I would have looked like a frigging genius). First of all, he immediately fills a hole in your lineup because of his right-handed bat (watch Ryan Howard's numbers go up now with proper protection). He is a guy who hits for a .308 average on a team where someone hitting .250 is a rarity. He plays right field proficiently and has a rocket for an arm. Anyone who has seen Dominic Brown out there (diving for balls awkwardly, throwing the ball all over the place, jogging after balls in the corner) over the last few months knows that you would not have wanted him prowling the outfield when the games really started to count.

Still, despite all of these checks in the perennial All-Star's column, the greatest thing about his game may be the intangibles. There is no way you will ever see this guy fail to run out a ball. No way he will ever shy away from running face-first into the right-field wall. No way he will ever fail to slide hard into second to break up a double play. This is going to make him an incredible fan favorite in this town. I am predicting that, by the time the Phillies return from their upcoming road trip, anyone who watches the games will begin to see a copious amount of Pence jerseys popping up throughout the stadium. Not only will he help the team win games on the field, but he will increase their revenue in a way that the former Met, now Giant, Carlos Beltran never could have (Amaro is a businessman; don't think the fans' blue-collar proclivities weren't on his mind).

I can't tell you how many people I heard whining when we lost out on Carlos Beltran. Look, the guy's a heck of a player, but he has been playing for a Mets team with Jose Reyes and David Wright for years, and, despite all that talent, the team couldn't win squat. In fact, Flushing Meadows had become Choke City, U.S.A. You don't want that lazy, losing culture affecting your team. Plus, the Phillies would have had Beltran for three months and then the Scott Boras client would have been out the door looking for the highest bidder. Pence, on the other hand, is locked up for two years after this one. You're talking about choosing between a guy who could become a part of your foundation and a rent-a-diva who is out to get his because he is in a contract year. All this and the fact that I just think Pence is the better all-around ballplayer at this point in their careers. But maybe I'm crazy.

One thing that can be brought up in favor of Beltran (along with impressive numbers at the plate): It would have cost you less to get him. For instance, to acquire Beltran, the Giants had to give up their best pitching prospect, but it was just some dude who was pitching in A-ball this year. Maybe the Phillies could have gotten Beltran without giving up the coterie of players that they had to give up for Hunter Pence. But that's the thing: What did the Phillies give up? Not only did they not have to give up Brown (who I would have thought about unloading for the right player, but it's good that he now has another year to ripen before taking over full-time for Raul Ibanez next season), but more importantly, they did not have to give up Vance Worley either. It would have killed me to get rid of Worley. This kid is going to be the number four starter on this team for years to come. He doesn't have electric stuff, but he knows how to locate the ball to minimize damage. Plus, he's got swagger and moxie that allows him to be more than the sum of his parts. An average of 16 wins per year for the next four years is not out of the realm of possibility. The guy just gets it done, and I like his funky glasses/mohawk combo as well.

But like I said, the Phils didn't have to get rid of either one. They gave up two major prospects in Jonathan Singleton, a heavy-hitting first baseman, and Jarred Cosart, a hard-throwing righthanded pitcher, as well as Josh Zeid, a righty with an ERA over 5.00. The fourth player they gave up is a player to be named later. Let's break this down: Singleton has been doing well in Clearwater with nine homers and 47 RBIs. This being said, he is a first baseman. We are currently paying Howard approximately eleventy billion dollars per year to play that position. As for Cosart, he would look great in the Phillies six or seven years. With Roy Halladay and Lee locked up long-term, Cole Hamels about to get seriously paid, and Worley looking to be a keeper, this guy wouldn't be seeing the major league roster for a king's age. Zeid meanwhile will probably never toe the mound in a major league game and the player to be named later, while I currently don't know who he is, will be busted for a liaison with a coked-up, transvestite hooker in the year 2018. Don't ask me how I know this; I can simply feel it.

Make no mistake about it: this was a flat-out jackmove without the ski mask and pistol (presumably)! Mr. Amaro, I don't know how you do it, but you have got the Phillies stocked and ready for another memorable postseason run. Hunter Pence was the man for this team. You knew it. And you did what you had to do. And for this - and your incredibly large brass huevos - we salute you!

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