Ruben Amaro Jr. left the general managers meetings Thursday without an established left-handed reliever and without saying anything about the status of negotiations – should we say non-negotiations? – with free-agent slugger Jayson Werth.
But Amaro did have a lot of nice things to say about Raul Ibanez, which left one to wonder if the Phillies’ GM was talking up his leftfielder for a possible trade, or simply opining that he believed Ibanez could pick up some of the offensive slack that would be left by Werth, who is expected to sign elsewhere.
The idea of trading Ibanez isn’t far-fetched because, as much as baseball executives and agents had been warned to keep a lid on the rumor mill at these meetings, one that did escape suggested that the Phils had made Ibanez available to teams.
Amaro’s lauding of Ibanez, which was justified on many levels, came in response to a reporter’s question about where the GM saw the 38-year-old outfielder at this stage of his career.
“I think we can count on the same kind of production he had last year, perhaps a little bit better,” Amaro said of Ibanez. “He takes care of himself extremely well. He’s in great shape. He has the body of a 25 year old.
“He had a slow start [in 2010] and I talked to our trainers about it a lot. I think coming back from surgery had a toll on his start overall. He was moving much better physically in the outfield at the end of last year, his bat looked quicker, his legs looked stronger. Overall, he didn’t have the kind of year that he’d like to have had, but there was pretty significant production there from the middle of the season when he started to turn it on, until the end of the season.
“He was still a pretty productive player and when you look at his numbers, they’re not all that different from Jayson’s last year. What did he have, 83 RBIs? Jayson had 85. He didn’t have as many opportunities as Jayson did to drive in runs. Clearly Jayson had more runs scored and his on-base percentage and stuff were better, but [Ibanez] had 37 doubles and five triples. The difference in their production was not all that great.”
Ibanez hit .275 with 16 homers and 83 RBIs and had a combined on-base and slugging percentage [OPS] of .793 while scoring 75 runs. Werth hit .296 with 27 homers and 85 RBIs and had an OPS of .921 while scoring 106 runs. Ibanez hit .309 with nine homers, 44 RBIs and a .869 OPS in 70 games after the all-star break in 2010. It’s quite possible that Amaro envisions Ibanez joining Domonic Brown and whatever right-handed bat — a must — that the Phils are able to acquire this winter in making up for what is lost with Werth.
Was it also possible that Amaro was performing a little salesmanship for teams that might have interest in Ibanez. There are plenty of clubs looking for a left-handed bat, including both Chicago teams. There have been indications that the Phils have spoken to the Giants about Ibanez. Dealing Ibanez won’t be easy. He will make $11.5 million in 2010, has a partial no-trade clause, and turns 39 in June. Moving Ibanez’ contract, or part of it, would give the Phils some financial flexibility as they try to plug holes in the bullpen, look for a right-handed bat, and possibly a back-end starting pitcher.
Clearly following a mandate from Major League Baseball and the Players Association, Amaro remained tight-lipped on all matters of free agency Thursday. He did say that he met with Werth’s agent, Scott Boras, but would not expound.
“I talked with Scott about a bunch of his free agents,” Amaro said. Amaro was asked if the Phils were still in on Werth. “I’m not going to discuss Jayson Werth,” he said.
Amaro reiterated that his priority was the bullpen, mainly left-handed relief in particular. It seems as if the Phils will try to add a left-handed reliever before they move on a right-handed hitting outfielder. The Phils have interest in free-agent lefties Hisanori Takahashi, Pedro Feliciano and Brian Fuentes. Amaro was asked if he was close to filling any needs.
“Can’t really say one way or another,” he said. Did he make any offers? “Can’t really say one way or another,” he said.
“We had some productive discussions with some agents on free agents and with other clubs,” Amaro added before heading back to Philadelphia. “Things seem slow right now. Usually things pick up closer to the winter meetings and during the winter meetings. We tend to make decisions closer to the winter meetings. Things ramp up. But things are moving slowly over all.”
The winter meetings run Dec. 6-9. During these meetings, general managers and owners discussed with the Commissioner’s Office the possibility of expanding the playoffs with a second wild-card team in each league. Commissioner Bud Selig, who is in favor of expanding, said the matter would continue to be discussed. If approved, it could be in place for the 2012 season. Then the World Series can compete with the NFL on Thanksgiving Day!!!
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org