Phillies convene to discuss upcoming decisions
Next pitching coach, offseason additions among moves to ponder
PHILADELPHIA -- Ruben Amaro Jr. estimated it had been nine years since everybody in the Phillies baseball operations department gathered in one place for their organizational meetings.
A couple things made it happen. First, they knew a while back they would not make the postseason, so they could make plans for Clearwater, Fla. Second, Amaro simply thought it would be a good idea to get everybody together, particularly because of the coaching changes at the big league level.
"We thought it was time to gather and exchange some ideas and figure out the ways -- better ways -- to move the organization forward," Amaro said. "I think it went very well."
One key figure missing was the Phillies pitching coach. They still have not found a replacement for Rich Dubee, whose contract was not renewed. Amaro said the conclusion of the World Series -- the Red Sox won the championship Wednesday night -- could present opportunities to interview other candidates, although sources have told MLB.com that Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell is likely to talk with the Phillies.
McDowell's contract with the Braves expires at midnight Thursday, which would be Philadelphia's first opportunity to speak with him. League sources said McDowell is one of the lowest-paid pitching coaches in the game, so the Phillies could make an attractive offer to lure him from Atlanta.
"We're still doing our due diligence," said Amaro, who does not speak about individual candidates. "We're still working through it. We're looking at candidates we think are very strong. We just have to figure out which way we want to go."
What about the organization as a whole? Amaro declined to elaborate on any specifics that came from the meetings. He spoke about communication, cohesiveness, synergy, expectations and accountability.
"All those buzzwords," he said, "just things for reminder's sake about what we're all about."
The Red Sox defeated the Cardinals in six games to win their third World Series in 10 seasons. The Cardinals had hoped to win their third in eight. Both teams took different paths to the World Series.
The Red Sox traded high-priced talent like Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and decided not to re-sign players like closer Jonathan Papelbon, who the Phillies signed to a four-year, $50 million deal. They also made a slew of successful free-agent signings in the offseason, including former Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, continued to develop talent, most notably a stable of hard-throwing pitchers.
"I think we've implemented all the things that those clubs have done," Amaro said. "We've developed our own, we've moved pieces and spent money. There are several different ways to have success. It shows you there are a lot of different ways to improve the club."
Victorino hit .294 with 26 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs, 61 RBIs and an .801 OPS during the regular season. He also had two huge hits in the postseason: a game-winning grand slam in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series and a game-winning bases-loaded double in Game 6 of the World Series.
The Phillies traded Victorino to the Dodgers in July 2012. He signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox in December, a deal widely panned around the league. The Red Sox and their fans certainly feel much differently about it.
"We tried to sign him back," Amaro said. "We didn't feel like we would go to those measures to do it. Boston did, but we did make the effort to bring him back. Credit Boston for stepping up. … I have a great respect for Shane and I'm glad he had an opportunity to help their club. He obviously had a lot of success in the postseason. He's a clutch player. I'm happy for him."
Amaro said last month that re-signing free-agent catcher Carlos Ruiz was a priority. Amaro does not speak publicly about contract negotiations, but asked if that remained a priority, he said, "Catching is a top priority for us. Pitching, as always. We need to add offense clearly and shore up our outfield defense. We've got some holes to fill. We're looking at a variety of ways to do it, and we'll continue to do it throughout the offseason and throughout the spring and during the season.
"I think we have to try to be innovative. I think we have to try to be patient in some areas and aggressive in others. There's a lot of different ways to add talent and improve your club. And we'll try to explore all of them."