Phillies' Ruben Amaro walking a fine line at GM meetings

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said the club could spring for one or two big-ticket items this winter.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said the club could spring for one or two big-ticket items this winter. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: November 08, 2012

The best free agents were signed in April and July, and there is a veritable lack of star power in baseball's open market. Yet as 30 general managers convene in California this week, there will be talk of big numbers.

The payouts from TV contracts are larger than ever. Fewer free agents will cost draft picks as compensation. There are new caps on amateur and international spending.

It could yield a booming free-agent market and one that moves quickly. That is the dilemma Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. could face when he earnestly applies his winter strategy at this week's GM meetings, which run Wednesday to Friday in Indian Wells, Calif.

Amaro has said patience is a virtue worth considering this offseason. It will be tested.

"It's certainly an interesting time," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told the Chicago Sun-Times. "The macroeconomics of baseball are at an interesting point."

The Phillies are not without resources; Amaro has estimated the club could spring for one or two big-ticket items this winter. He has options and competition like any other winter.

Two players - outfielder Josh Hamilton and righty Zack Greinke - could snag $100 million contracts. The Phillies are not expected to pursue either, having already used $144 million to persuade Cole Hamels from tasting free agency. San Francisco employed a similar tactic by locking up Matt Cain in April to a six-year extension worth $127.5 million.

Those moves were just two examples of clubs retaining their top talents before free agency; Andrew McCutchen in Pittsburgh and Joey Votto in Cincinnati also apply. That has contributed to a less attractive market.

Hoyer pointed to the cash infusion from TV deals. Starting in 2014, teams will receive approximately $27 million more per season from Major League Baseball's agreements with FOX, TBS and ESPN. And that does not include funds from local cable contracts, which continue to skyrocket.

"It's created some very big markets from what used to be just kind of large markets, and it's propped up some teams that used to flood the trade market and used to flood the free-agent market," Hoyer said. "Some of those teams are now holding on to their own players."

It could prompt some teams to actively explore the trade market for upgrades rather than pay for a free agent. Or, if one free-agent centerfielder signs soon, it could generate a frenzy on the remaining options. That leaves Amaro's strategy subject to change.

With all 30 GMs and numerous agents in one location for three days, it is a fine opportunity for those talks to foster.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow @magelb on Twitter.

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