Inside Baseball: Amaro stays quiet on his Werth plan

Jayson Werth is a free agent. Ruben Amaro Jr. isn't saying how much of an effort he'll make to retain Werth.
Jayson Werth is a free agent. Ruben Amaro Jr. isn't saying how much of an effort he'll make to retain Werth.
Posted: November 14, 2010

The final destination for the free-agent rightfielder is the primary focus of Phillies fans right now.

We don't really know where the Jayson Werth issue ranks on Ruben Amaro Jr.'s list of things to do or how much money he has to do it, but we can safely assume it's at least a notch above returning phone calls from outsiders trying to find out the inside agenda at One Citizens Bank Way.

Amaro will head to the general managers' meetings Monday in Orlando with that information held tight to his chest. He admitted that sometimes trade talks don't start to develop until these meetings with his GM peers.

"There have been times where I thought there would be a great trade environment and nothing happened," Amaro said. "There have been other times when I did not think anything would happen and there were a lot of trades. You never know until you are face to face."

The one thing Amaro admitted is that he wants some relief help before the Phillies convene in Clearwater for the start of spring training. There's every reason to believe the Phillies will get the bullpen arms they need, and whatever lefthanded relief arm they get will likely be an upgrade over J.C. Romero, whose lack of command last season evoked little faith from manager Charlie Manuel.

An area Amaro should not overlook is starting pitching. Yes, the Phillies will have three of the best starting pitchers in baseball again next season with the return of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.

"I think we're pretty pleased with our rotation and with how it performed through the year," Amaro said after his team was eliminated by San Francisco in the National League Championship Series. "When we acquired [Oswalt], we did some pretty extraordinary things when it came to wins and losses. There is no question having those three guys in the rotation had great impact."

There is no question about that. There are questions, however, about the two pitchers who filled out the rotation. Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick, regardless of how anybody wants to spin it, were not good enough. Blanton, with two years and $17 million left on the ill-advised contract the Phillies gave him last off-season, is untradeable.

Kendrick, eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, is no lock to remain the fifth starter even if the team does not seek help from outside the organization.

Knowing that the Phillies' rotation is a full house - three aces and a pair of fives - Amaro should see what he can do about making it better. The knee-jerk reaction in these parts, of course, is to bring back Cliff Lee, but the New York Yankees are going to have an overwhleming advantage over the rest of the teams when that bidding war begins.

There are other free-agent options, however, that would be an upgrade. Oakland's Justin Duchscherer, limited to 27 games the last two seasons because of injury, is one pitcher worth a reasonable investment risk. And if the Phillies would like to add a second lefty to the rotation, this could be a good time to approach Erik Bedard, who has pitched in just 30 games the last two seasons because of injury.

The point here is that upgrading the starting rotation is not something that should ever be placed on the hot-stove back burner.

The N.L. Yankees. The Phillies have been compared quite a bit to the New York Yankees in recent seasons with the qualifier being they are the National League's version of the Yankees. The Phillies are 25 World Series titles behind the Yankees, so they'd have to stage one heck of a 21st-century rally to catch New York.

One way the Phillies could prove they are a worthy rival to the Yankees is by re-signing Werth even if it meant they had to spend more than they wanted. It would also likely require them to deal with Raul Ibanez's $11.5 million contract for one more season.

Amaro was asked last month how the Phillies could possibly be better without Werth.

"I think health would be one [way]," Amaro said. "I think the players who were not particularly consistent and did not play particularly well or as well as they have in the past . . . could have more appropriate years and seasons production-wise."

In truth, it's hard to imagine any way the Phillies can be better without Werth unless they're able to acquire another player of his caliber in a trade.

A vote for Gillick. Of the dozen candidates listed last week for potential Hall of Fame election, it's difficult to find one more deserving than former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick.

"I was very surprised and, at the same time, excited and humbled," Gillick said from his home in Seattle. "It was a great feeling."

In 27 seasons as a GM, Gillick's teams won 11 division titles and three World Series. In his last 22 seasons as a GM, he had 20 winning seasons. You could argue that he was the front-office equivalent of Pete Rose for the 2008 World Series champion Phillies.

"I think if any executive deserves to be a Hall of Famer, it's Pat," Amaro said. "His success rate is extraordinary. His ability to obtain information in a variety of ways is really exceptional and he always included a lot of people in the process."

Gillick said that if he were voted into the Hall of Fame at next month's winter meetings, he'd be happiest for all the people who have worked for him over the years.

"They were the ones who provided me with the information I needed to make the right decisions," Gillick said.

The other two executives listed among the 12 eligible Hall of Fame candidates last week were former MLB union chief Marvin Miller and late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. They, too, deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover

at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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