Yesterday, on the Jayson Stark show on the Fanatic, Stark laid into Ruben Amaro and the Phillies. He talked about what other GMs he talked to said about Ruben and his “surprised they weren’t more aggressive” comments, the perception of the team around the league, and what they missed out on at the trade deadline. It’s a full hour (and audio is available at the link above), but here are some of the main points:
- Other GMs are either “flabbergasted” or “annoyed” at Ruben’s comments.
- Most GMs Stark has talked to had some dealings with the Phillies, but don’t quite understand what went on.
- Stark’s analogy: The trade deadline was “the week before Christmas” and “shoppers are frantic,” but you need to “price things in the store so it will move.” If you’re selling flat screen TVs, and everyone leaves your store because you’re pricing them $1,000 too high, eventually you lower that price to sell them. The Phillies didn’t do that.
- Phillies had their sights on specific players or types of players and completely locked in on that, without budging.
Remember, this was the time to sell. When you are a GM who is selling aging players with insane handcuff contracts, you might have to be open to taking a little less in return to clear up extra payroll space. Or maybe you just recognize what these players are worth to other teams, and become more open to what is being offered. Or, you can negotiate Ruben Amaro style: not at all.
- Ruben was targeting high-end young players who were big-league ready or already in the bigs. Though Ruben said they didn’t ask for top prospects, Stark talked to guys who said Ruben asked for their organization’s very top guy and would not get off that idea, no matter who the other GM brought up. Another team said Ruben asked for best prospects for “guys who weren’t stars.”
- Another GM said Ruben was basically asking, “Could you please drive your AA team to Reading and drop them all off?”
That is not how you negotiate, but that would be nice, wouldn’t it?
- The Yankees were trying to get Marlon Byrd in RF. When they couldn’t, the Yanks traded Peter O’Brien for Martin Prado. O’Brien, though he has an unclear fielding position, has 33 home runs this year. Stark can’t say for a fact the Phillies were offered O’Brien, but considering the Prado deal, it seems like O’Brien would have been available. Stark can’t understand what the Phillies were doing, and said they had a lack of self-awareness.
- Stark would say not everyone in the front office agrees with Ruben’s assessment that they “have good players here.”
- People around baseball do not think the Phillies have a good grasp of what this team is, where they’re going, and what they have. Other teams have asked Stark, “What’s their plan, what do they think the path is?
It is absolutely and utterly insane that other GMs are so confused by Ruben’s lack of moves that they are asking Jayson Stark, a reporter, what the hell his plan is. But hey, Jayson, while we’re on the subject, what is their plan?
- Stark thinks the Phils are not willing to rebuild, because if they are they’d acknowledge it could take some time and would be looking at players who are maybe 3-4 years removed from the majors.
- Another team said it seems like Ruben is trying to do a rebuild with two magic-bullet trades, which cannot possibly happen.
- Some teams that have just played the Phils talk about when the team falls behind, they quit and play with no energy. They’re walking off the field between innings, barely making the dugout. Stark says it’s hard to get revved up when you have no chance to win, and that’s the point of putting in new players, new energy, new expectations.
At this point, we’re lucky they aren’t all just sitting down on the field and picking at individual blades of grass while remembering what once was.
- Ruben looks to the 2012 Red Sox, but there are SO MANY differences. The Red Sox won three World Series in the last decade. They won in 2007 because they moved on from 2004. They won in 2013 because they moved on from 2007. Left on the Sox from 2007 are two players (Pedroia and Ortiz). From 2008, the Phils have six players. And from 2009, there are eight players left. The Phils got sentimental and tried to ring every ounce of talent out of this team. And it all goes back to contract structure. Those Red Sox deals are basically “trade him and he’s yours,” while Rube’s contracts are full of vesting options and player options and no-trade clauses.
- Stark talked to a guy from another team who said Ruben is clearly capable of being a buyer and he doesn’t think he has the knack for being a seller, which is a totally different skill-set.
After an exasperated Stark broke all of that down, they welcomed in former Mets and Orioles GM Jim Duquette, who said it wasn’t “the Phillies’ finest hour,” and the deadline was a big missed opportunity. The prices for these aging players will never be higher than they are at the deadline, Duquette said, but they likely overvalued their own players. The deadline was a time to get payroll flexibility, inject some new blood into the team, and light a fire in the fan base. Those are all things the Phillies needed and they did none of them. Duquette went on to say Ruben’s “not aggressive” comments don’t work because at the deadline there’s a mutual aggressiveness. If talks stall, or someone is overvaluing their players, GMs just move on. They don’t waste their time on a team that is sitting there “farting around.” Other GMs have told Duquette that Ruben basically wanted you to pitch him a great deal for his players, and then he would just tell them “yes” or (as was the case) “no.” But that’s not how it works when you’re a seller. Duquette finished up, saying that there’s no reason Byrd shouldn’t have moved at the deadline, and now he’d probably hold onto him until the offseason, because you won’t get anything for him now anyway.
So there you have it. The other GMs around the league look at the Phillies and say, “Hey, do you have any idea what they’re doing?” At least you, reader, have that in common with opposing major league GMs.