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January 21, 2015

As long as Amaro is GM, Phillies may be better off not trading Hamels, Howard

Do you really trust Amaro with future of the franchise?

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012115_amaro_AP Alex Brandon/AP

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro pauses while speaking during a media availability before a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington.

Be careful what you wish for Phillies fans.

The Phillies are reportedly interested in trading two of their highest-paid players, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels. And that would be the logical move considering many inside the organization, including general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. and interim president Pat Gillick, have already admitted that the team won’t likely be contenders for a few years.

The team further proved their commitment to rebuilding last month when the franchise when the traded Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd to the Dodgers and Reds, respectively.

While this may be coming a few years - and a few ridiculously overpriced contracts - too late, it should be something the fans can embrace. Even the most diehard Phillies fans know deep down that the team can’t win as currently constructed. Furthermore, trying to do so could further* damage an already depleted farm system, which Baseball Prospectus ranked 25th (out of 30) prior to the 2014 season.

*Prior to the 2009 season, Amaro's first as GM, Baseball Prospectus had the Phillies ranked 14th.

But there’s a problem here. And that problem is Amaro.

It’s hard to look at the current state of the Phillies compared to where the team was just five years ago. It hurts. And although Amaro was there throughout the building process that led to their 2008 World Series win, that was Gillick’s team.

The problem here is less with the moves Amaro has made - he did acquire Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee (twice), and others - and more with the seemingly tenuous position from which he is operating. According to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of, Amaro is playing scared, worried that a poor return for Hamels could result in his firing.

Howard is a completely different story.

Whereas Hamels could fetch one or more highly coveted prospects, the return for Howard would be significantly less and would involve the Phillies paying most of his remaining contract.

Amaro overvalued and overpaid Howard - much more so than Hamels - and the longer he remains a Phillie, the longer the fan base will be reminded of this.

His mere presence - by no fault of his own - prevents one of the organization's best prospects, first baseman Maikel Franco, from seeing significant or meaningful time at the major league level. In fact, Amaro said last week that the 22-year-old, who also plays third base, would ideally start the season in the minors.

Amaro also said that he expects Hamels to be on the mound when the Phillies open the season against the Red Sox.

If both of those things are true, than it is because of one (or both) of the following scenarios:

  1. Amaro overvalued Hamels/Howard when signing them to long-term extension, and other teams aren't willing to take on contracts of that size.
  2. Amaro is currently overvaluing both players, and asking for far too much in return. Perhaps he truly believes Howard is worth the $60 million* dollars still guaranteed in his contract. Perhaps the prospects being offered in return aren't worth giving up Hamels. 

*Howard is owed $25 million this season, $25 million in 2016, and has a team option for $23 million in 2017 (or a $10 million buyout).

Or perhaps, as previously suggested, Amaro is placing his own interests - specifically his job security - over those of the team.

The two should be tied together: if he can build a winner, his job will be safe. But the prospects being offered in exchange for Hamels could take years to have any kind of impact at the big league level. And by then it could be too late for Amaro.

As far as fans are concerned, Hamels and Howard staying put may not be a bad thing considering Amaro's recent track record when it comes to trading away players for prospects. 

Sure, plenty of GMs have made poor decisions when acquiring prospects, but any deal involving Hamels has the potential* of winding up like the one that sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners

*Other similarities aside - front-of-the-rotation lefties in their early thirties - it's one of the few deals Amaro has made as a "seller" that involves a player of this caliber.

Unfortunately, it seems two teams that were interested in Hamels won't be making a deal with the Phillies any time soon.

It was reported earlier this week that the Rangers were having in-depth talks with the Phillies to acquire Hamels, but those hopes were dashed when Texas traded three minor-leaguers to the Brewers for righty Yovani Gallardo. According to Rosenthal, it was a financial disagreement that stalled the talks with the Phillies.

It's also been reported that Amaro is asking for far too much from the Red Sox, and a deal likely won't happen there either.

So pick your poison, Phillies fans. 

Take a chance that Amaro, despite recent evidence that suggests otherwise, knows what he's doing, or sit tight and never fully commit to rebuilding, hoping that something will magically change the fortunes of the franchise.