Ruben Amaro Jr., selected by team president David Montgomery to replace Pat Gillick as Phillies GM, will take on the task of handling five free agents and 10 arbitration eligible players from the 2008 champs. Mike Arbuckle, architect behind much of the homegrown nucleus, walks away.
Don’t let the all-in-the-family hiring fool you. The appointment of Amaro represents the biggest Phillies front-office shakeup in years, as Arbuckle, assistant general manager of scouting and development, cleaned out his office the day of the parade in heartbreaking fashion, according to Randy Miller of the Bucks County Courier Times. A guest of the WIP morning show, Miller also reported that Marti Wolever, scouting director since 2002 and Arbuckle’s right-hand man, could follow Arbuckle out the door.
Amaro's first task will be to represent the Phils at the general manager's meetings, already underway in California. Then, the 43-year-old Stanford alum and former player will tackle a massive to-do list that includes several high-ticket contracts, including those of Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, who’s in his first season of arbitration eligibility. Pat Burrell and Jamie Moyer, among others, are free agents and were vital pieces to the championship puzzle. And although his budget figures to be bumped to new heights, Amaro must maneuver around several existing contracts, including $8 million still owed to Adam Eaton.
While Amaro was behind many of the successful deals that put the Phils over the hump, including the Brad Lidge trade and a number of key extensions, including the one offered to Chase Utley taking him beyond his arbitration years, it was Arbuckle and his staff who constructed much of the championship club through the draft and amateur free agency. Critics would point out that much of that success came in the early years of Arbuckle’s tenure. Since then, Arbuckle has freely admitted that mistakes were made in more recent drafts as the pool of high-ceiling talent has thinned over the past few years. Nevertheless, the 2008 draft is already being seen by some as the deepest and most promising class in years.
Chuck Lamar, former Rays GM, was installed last offseason as director of pro scouting and could be tapped to fill one of the top vacancies. Gillick will remain connected to the Phils in an advisory position. Arbuckle, still highly regarded in baseball circles, has been on the short list for GM vacancies before and could land his next assignment in short order.