Phillies' Amaro out of touch

Posted: August 06, 2014

THE MOST OMINOUS aspect of Ruben Amaro Jr.'s inaction at the trade deadline wasn't his failure to add young talent capable of helping the Phillies compete within the next couple of years. Rather, it was his apparent belief that he had a legitimate chance of doing so, which suggests the sixth-year general manager still does not fully grasp the amount of reconstruction that will be required to turn the Phillies roster into something that doesn't make fans want to spew the folks in front of them with partially digested Schmitter.

In the wake of Thursday's non-waiver trade deadline, the New York Daily News reported that Amaro had requested the Yankees top-hitting prospect in exchange for 36-year-old outfielder Marlon Byrd, to which Brian Cashman understandably said, "Thanks, but no."

That prospect - 22-year-old outfielder Aaron Judge - is the exact kind of player whom the Phillies desperately need. A first-round draft pick out of Fresno State in 2013, Judge could be knocking on the door of the big-leagues next season. He's hitting .293/.423/.456 with five home runs, 41 strikeouts and 33 walks in 182 plate appearances at Class A (Advanced).

He's also the kind of prospect that the Phillies have zero shot at landing for anybody other than Chase Utley or Cole Hamels. It is almost self-evident. Any team that would be willing to trade for a player like Byrd is probably going to value a near-major-league ready position prospect at the same level the Phillies do. Think about it. Why would a team in need of offense give away six seasons of control over a hitter who has the potential to start helping them within the next couple of years? While it's true that 22-year-old minor leaguers are no sure thing, the same can be said of 37-year-old major league outfielders, which is what Byrd will be next season.

The Phillies will surely try again this offseason, but the best they can realistically hope for in exchange for the majority of their disposable pieces is a raw teenager, a reclamation project, or, most realistically, a future role player (back-end starter, fourth outfielder, reliever, etc.).

Amaro is past the point of quick fixes, which is something the Phillies need to realize in order to avoid further postponing their return to competitiveness, which at this point will not happen until 2017 at the very earliest. They may have had a shot at 2016 if they'd traded Cliff Lee last offseason and Utley last July, but the first of those ships is now sunk.

So what now? Well, there isn't anything substantive they can do before the offseason, when they will get a chance to dangle Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Hamels on the trade market. But they should at least begin what will amount to a 1- or 2-year long fact-finding mission with the few young players currently on their roster.

That process is already very much under way at third base, where Cody Asche is 130 games into his major league career. His numbers in 291 plate appearances are nearly identical to what they were in 179 plate appearances last season. Combined, he has hit .246/.303/.390 with 12 home runs. That's a little bit below league average for a third baseman, but is right around league average at second base, where the Phillies should give the 24-year-old a look. Playing him in the outfield doesn't make much sense until his offensive production suggests there is value to be had in such a move.

Speaking of the outfield . . .

Ryne Sandberg's soft spot for Grady Sizemore is understandable given the .338/.373/.465 line he has posted in 19 games thus far. Managers like to win games, and Sizemore is one of the few hitters on the team who has looked capable of producing the kind of offense required to do so. But the goal is to build toward the future, and Sizemore's future is going to be somewhere other than Philadelphia. Forget about his knees and his age and his 2-year absence from major league baseball and his release from the Red Sox earlier this season.

Sizemore is going to be a free agent after the season. The only thing they are accomplishing by playing him every day is bearing personal witness to the establishment of his market rate for the offseason. What's the best thing that can happen? Sizemore finishes the year looking like the player he was in 2008 and convinces the Phillies to give him a 3-year contract extension? Is that really a good thing? There is no optimal outcome. Either he cools off and plays his way out of the lineup, or he stays hot and signs with somebody else next season, or he stays hot and the Phillies decide to outbid everybody else to sign him to a contract for next season. None of those scenarios sound particularly appealing.

Look at it another way: There is nothing to be gained from sitting Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf on the bench. Maybe the Phillies have already seen enough from both of them. But their track record suggests that their self-evaluation skills aren't perfect, so they might as well play the guys who have a better than zero percent chance of being valuable members of the roster the next time the Phillies are in a position to compete. It is worth nothing that the Pirates gave up on Brandon Moss after he hit .236/.304/.364 with seven home runs in 424 plate appearances as a 25-year-old.


On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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