Ruben Amaro Relying On Core In 2013
Ruben Amaro laid out the organization’s off-season honey-do list with a single ultimatum.
"The bottom line is this," he said at the Phillies year-end press conference. "If our players that we paid a great deal of money to do not perform next year, we’re going to be in trouble."
That's the boldest point of emphasis for a $174.3 million payroll that stumbled in its last two games to complete the face plant that made for the team's first non-winning season in nine years: Rediscovering a championship structure.
Ultimately, the Phillies need to assume their rightful roles. Stars need to be stars. Support needs to support. Everyone else needs to spackle the cracks.
Sounds simple. It's not.
It's evasive, something that's slipped their progressively in each the past four seasons, each of which they've slipped by a playoff round.
This year, at the seeming depths of it, injuries to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay and the ups and downs of Jimmy Rollins and Cliff Lee kept them from setting the framework on which to build and reach the heights of the major league pecking order.
That's why they finished 81-81 and, frankly, were lucky to.
That's why the contributions of August and September Kevin Frandsen and Erik Kratz don't matter in October.
Simply, the Phillies weren't steady at their core.
Whether they can be more so next year? Take it away, Rube.
"Ryan Howard has to perform. Chase Utley has to perform. Roy Halladay has to come back and perform," he said. "And we have to get that performance out of guys like Chooch and Hamels and Lee."
After which everything else falls into place.
Whether Howard, Utley and Halladay have it in them, physically, remains to be seen. Thursday offered no status updates on Howard's toe or Halladay's shoulder.
On Utley, Amaro said he thinks that, based on the way he played and, more important, felt in so doing, Utley "has a reasonable chance of playing hopefully every day next year at second base."
Still, Amaro said he's not going to let himself get burned by Utley in 2013 the same way he did the past two seasons.
"We can’t necessarily go into the season thinking that’s going to be an absolute, obviously," he said. "That would be foolish.
"But at the same time we have some pretty reasonable expectations that he can."
That should also double as finality on the Chase Utley on the hot corner of the infield thing, as if it weren't already foregone as concluded.
A total toss-up? The Phillies outfield. Amaro accentuated the point Thursday.
"I can’t sit here and tell you – and I don’t think Charlie can sit here and tell you – that we have a left fielder or a right fielder or a center fielder," he said. "I think we have pieces to be able to put it together at least some foundation of that. But we have some work to do in the outfield."
Amaro said those efforts may be channeled into a trade.
"If it’s for the greater good, if it’s going to make us better now and for the future, we have to keep our minds open on some things that we can do that will help us get back to where we want to be," which, of course, is "to be in the World Series again."
Why? In part due to Amaro's assessment of the free agent outfield market.
"I think its OK," he said. "Its not fantastic, but I think there are people there that can help us. I think there may be some people on the trade market that may be better for us," though, Amaro said, "that doesn’t mean that we can’t get better" offensively in free agency.
Is anybody untouchable?
"Some are less touchable than others," he said.
Amaro repeatedly used the word "creative" as a descriptor of how to get this roster where he wants it.
"That’s what I've been asked to do and that’s what we’ll try to do."
Some of that ingenuity, though, will need to be used patching together the rest of the outfield together with in-house options.
When asked to evaluate his current outfielders, Amaro mentioned Darin Ruf, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry, Laynce Nix and Nate Schierholtz, saying, "I think all those guys have ability."
They're also all under team control for 2013.
Who isn't? Maybe the most productive, Juan Pierre, who may also be the odd man out.
Amaro lauded Pierre, who was signed to a one-year deal last offseason, tapping specifically, "the influence he had on some of our players, the way he went about his business, his professionalism," and saying ultimately, "he was great for us."
But for a team that, as Amaro said, is actively working to add right-handed options to a predominantly left-handed lineup, that "may affect his chances" of being re-signed.
"That may not necessarily preclude him from coming back, but I think we have some other fish to fry and that may not be the first one," he said.
There's only so much Amaro can do, only so much team resources and the luxury tax threshold will let him.
The rest? That's on those aforementioned millionaires Amaro made, and needs in 2013.