ANAHEIM, Calif. — A year ago at this time, Ruben Amaro was the general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, in his war room, surrounded by staff, trying to get Cole Hamels traded. Today as the Red Sox first base coach, he is preparing his outfielders, going over possible base running/stolen base strategies against the Angels.
One of the most unique coaches in the game, Amaro thought the trade deadline was exciting, one of the key times of the season when moves were made that would impact the present and future.
“A lot less stressful now,” he said about his current gig. “But for a GM, it’s the most fun time of the year. You bring all of your departments together to talk about who you’re trying to trade for and what you’d be willing to give. You bring in the scouting, international scouting, pro scouting, and assistants as such.
“A couple of times we brought people on the road, or we’d go to Clearwater [the Phillies’ spring training site in Florida] and lock down there. Most of the time we’d be where the team was. Or we’d bring people to Citizens Bank [Park] and we’d set up a war room at the ballpark.”
Although rumors were flying that he would be fired by recently hired team president Andy MacPhail, Amaro was allowed to make the call on the deals for the team’s top chip, Hamels, who has since been an incredible success in Texas.
Amaro said he had several conversations with former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington about a package for Hamels, but in the end it didn’t work for the Red Sox because “they were out of the race and it didn’t make as much sense for them.”
Amaro said he’s glad the Red Sox didn’t give up the people the Phillies were asking for — Jackie Bradley Jr., Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts — although he never said what the package was that he would have accepted.
“I’d been talking to [Texas GM] Jon Daniels for 1½ to two years. We had some discussions in the prior season and in the offseason as far as Jon looking for pitching. It was complicated because of money and players. We were trying to add talent to the deal. It was challenging and stressful, but that’s part of the job description.”
Amaro got catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitcher Jake Thompson, outfielder Nick Williams, pitcher Alec Asher, and pitcher Jerad Eickhoff. The Rangers also got reliever Jake Diekman and the Phillies took on lefty Matt Harrison.
“We were very happy with the deal,” Amaro said. “I’ve spoken to Jon since and hopefully it works for both organizations. He got Cole and a good bullpen piece. We got four or five really good players that will impact the Philadelphia club this year and later on.”
Yes, it was a busy deadline day for Amaro a year ago. He traded Hamels. He traded outfielder Ben Revere to the Blue Jays for pitchers Alberto Tirado and Jimmy Cordero. Two days before, he traded Jonathan Papelbon to the Nationals for pitcher Nicholas Pivetta.
“There was a whole lot of action,” Amaro recalled. “We ended up doing a lot of things.”
The centerpiece was Hamels. The Rangers came at him strong. The Dodgers and the Astros were also in on the final day. But it came back to the pieces he wanted and the Rangers’ deal was the closest to that.
Amaro always thought Hamels would waive his no-trade clause to Boston. Amaro saw it as a leverage point with Hamels, who wanted the option picked up on his contract if he were to waive it. Hamels would have waived it. Boston would have given him the option. Hamels has worked out famously for the Rangers — 19-3 with a 3.15 ERA since the trade.
Hamels would have saved the Red Sox quite a bit of money as he earns about $23.5 million from now through 2019 with a $20 million option for 2020, compared with David Price’s $217 million deal. And the Red Sox have their young positional players intact.
Did Cherington do the right thing?
“For me he did,” Amaro smiled. “Ultimately, the package we ended up getting was a stronger package because of the breadth of the package. There were guys in this room, Betts, Swihart, Bogaerts, Eddie Rodriguez . . . that I wanted. We were talking about impactful players — some of the best young players in the game. We’ve all had those discussions about it. The guys know how much I wanted to trade for them.”
The 51-year-old Amaro, a Stanford graduate and a former major leaguer, said he’s enjoyed his new life, his new career.
“It’s been fun,” Amaro said. “It’s been a challenge physically. It’s a grind because it’s a long season. I’ve loved working with the guys. Good camaraderie. Good kids, really good players. Every day I’m impressed by the things they can do. They’re engaged. That’s a really good thing for this franchise long term.”
As for the future, Amaro said, “I’ve said I’d like to keep my options open. I loved the challenge of being a GM and I’d love that opportunity again. On the field, I’m learning what it takes to be a good coach and leader. We’re in a real challenging situation. We’re in a tremendously challenging division. Every game, in my opinion, is a battle. There’s excitement created by that.”