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Jimmy Rollins resigning with the Phillies would not be Ruben Amaro's last move

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Ruben Amaro has gone on record saying that the likely resigning of Jimmy Rollins would represent the last major move that the Phillies will make before the 2012 season.

Amaro also had no plans for major moves at the winter meetings that preceded the acquisitions of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

And, keep in mind he said it was unlikely that any major move would be made at the trade deadlines that produced the Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence blockbusters.  

So when we hear that Amaro’s plan for revamping a roster that fell way short of a World Series for the second straight year is nearly complete, we should immediately remind ourselves of the general manager’s track record.

Simply put, Amaro does not settle for the Laynce Nix’s of the world when it comes to finding ways to put his team over the top.  

That doesn’t mean that those types of players haven’t been (or continue to be) on the Phillies roster on a year-to-year basis.  After all, even financial giants like the Phillies have to have a player or two who fail to crack the tens-of-millions salary barrier.

It’s just that those players are not the ones who typically satisfy Amaro’s thirst for talent within the starting lineup.  

In his three years as the Phillies’ GM, Amaro has devoted massive resources (both in traded talent and payroll dollars) to the construction of a dominant starting rotation and a star-filled lineup.  And when deficiencies have arisen in either of those areas, Amaro has not hesitated to find impact players as corrections.

Which brings us back to the current offseason.  Amaro kicked off the hot-stove league by claiming that his team’s hitters needed better approaches at the plate, but his solutions so far have been free-swinging bench players like Jim Thome, Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton.  

That’s not to say those players can’t help the Phillies. Their ability to fill in for injured starters while providing some home run power will come in handy in 2012.  

As it becomes more likely that Rollins will be re-signed however, those bench player acquisitions don’t fulfill Amaro’s desire for an improved approach to hitting. The combination of those three veterans is not a game-changer for next season, and Ruben Amaro Jr. is about game-changers.

So, when we hear that Rollins has signed a multi-year deal at $12 million per, we should immediately wonder what is next- whether we are told that it’s the team’s last big move or not. Aramis Ramirez has been looked at pretty closely by the Phillies’ front office. Photo: Gene Puskar (AP)

We know that Aramis Ramirez has been looked at pretty closely by the Phillies’ front office, and we are told that he is a backup plan in case Rollins leaves town.  But, Amaro’s history suggests that he will examine ways to keep Rollins and possibly get Ramirez, too.

We have been told that John Mayberry Jr. is going to get a shot at the everyday job in left field (with the occasional help of one of the new lefties off the bench), but we shouldn’t be surprised if Amaro looks at Carlos Beltran or Michael Cuddyer as players who will upgrade his starting lineup while also improving his bench with Mayberry’s availability.  

The trick for Amaro will be fitting the cost of such players into a rapidly increasing payroll.  However, he has proven that he can make moves outside of free agency by assembling blockbuster trades.  Those trades would likely have to include Placido Polanco (to clear salary space), Vance Worley or Domonic Brown (to entice another team to take a bad salary like Polanco’s).

When Ken Rosenthal reported that the Phillies were aggressive in pursuing A’s starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, it left some wondering if there was even a possibility of moving a star like Cole Hamels to improve the roster in a different area.   Gio Gonzalez photo: Tony Dejak (AP)

The point here is not to say that we know the specifics of Amaro’s plan because, quite frankly, we never seem to know the plan until it is unveiled in all of its blockbuster glory.  

 Instead, it is simply being offered that the Phillies’ plan for getting things right next season will not end with a contract extension for Jimmy Rollins. Nothing they have done in the past or stated recently supports such a conclusion.  

Ask yourself, did you see the Cliff Lee signing coming last December (not to mention the Cliff Lee trade that made his signing necessary)?  Did you predict Roy Halladay arriving in December 2009?  How about the Oswalt or Pence deals that happened while the Phillies were supposedly content with their roster?

The current Phillies roster is good enough to once again enter a season as a World Series favorite. Unfortunately, that roster is also aging quickly, and in some cases not as gracefully as many had hoped.   

The front office did not come this far to let another World Series opportunity slip away, and they surely know that the clock is ticking.  

So if we open the newspaper on December 16th, and read of a blockbuster move that puts the Phillies at the center of the baseball world for the third consecutive year, we shouldn’t wonder if it’s a misprint.

It’s simply the way Ruben Amaro Jr. operates, and we should all expect it.  At the very least, we should be wondering what is possible as Christmas approaches.

I for one, have visions of David Wright trades dancing in my head.

 

 

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net 

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Photos:
Ramirez: Gene Puskar (AP)
Gonzalez: Tony Dejak (AP)