Thoughts on Phillies GM candidate Mike Arbuckle.
The big news today is that former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker has been interviewed by the Phillies in a meeting that went largely unadvertised by the front office. The 55-year-old Hunsicker met with team president David Montgomery Thursday at Citizen’s Bank Park.
The day before, Montgomery sat down with assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle, a meeting that was largely glossed over by the press.
Arbuckle, 55, heads scouting and development and has held his post since 2001. He actually began scouting with the Phillies in 1979 before accepting a job scouting for the Braves for the next 12 years.
As it stands, the Phillies have one of the weakest farm systems in baseball, with gaping holes at nearly every position. In particular, pitching has been a sore spot for years, decades even, but it isn't entirely the fault of Arbuckle.
The farm system was cut so thin this season in terms of pitching that the Reading Phillies, the team’s Double-A franchise, opened 2005 with a starting rotation of pitchers all drafted by other clubs. From top to bottom, Reading fielded a much older team than is typical of Double-A, and a fair number of prospects, including outfielder Chris Roberson, are a little long of tooth to be still groomed in the minors.
In the last few years, a number of prospects, including Marlon Byrd, Juan Richardson, Danny Gonzalez and Jorge Padilla went belly-up. Two of the three highest-ranked prospects from last season, Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels, both had major setbacks.
The other one, Ryan Howard, produced a monster season, and there have been many of those from Arbuckle's tenure. The farm system went through something of a golden era in the late 90s. Before then, the Phillies produced next to nothing from the mid-80s to the early 90s.
When Arbuckle took over, the list of major leaguers started to pile up, a roster that today includes Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Brett Myers, Carlos Silva, Scott Rolen, Johnny Estrada, Randy Wolf, Adam Eaton and Ryan Madson.
Since that class graduated from the system, the waters have grown tepid. There are several reasons, many of them out of Arbuckle's hands.
To compensate for the talent void, the Phils have signed an unheard of number of minor league free agents fill holes on the farm. Some of those players, including relievers Travis Minix and Brian Sanches, along with infielder Danny Sandoval, could end up with jobs in the major leagues some day, but who knows?
Arbuckle has been forced to make something out of nothing really. Wade rarely traded for prospects, something all teams must do to fortify the farm, and the team also surrendered a handful of top draft choices by signing free agents.
Again, I can only speak on what I see on the field and in the stat sheets. Baseball America, a magazine that ranked the farm system 30th this season - dead last – had every right to do so, and that’s a black mark on Wade and also on Arbuckle.
I'm not convinced the Phils are doing a great job scouting, nor do I believe they've hired the right staff to handle the farm teams. The Phils have always been weak in dipping into international waters for talent, a problem that still exists today. Those duties are also connected to Arbuckle.
But it’s certainly not all black on his resume, at least what from I can tell. Arbuckle has been handcuffed perhaps more than any other scouting and development director in the game. The current state of the farm system shouldn’t deny a number of pluses, including a home-grown infield that could send three players to the All-Star game next season. Few teams in baseball can say the same.