The Phillies have made a splash on the player market each of the last three years under general manager Ruben Amaro. First came the mid-season trade for Cliff Lee that nearly won the Phillies their second World Series title in a row (and the first under Amaro). Then came the trade of Cliff Lee, in order to turn around and trade for Roy Halladay, which in turn led to a deal for Roy Oswalt before the trade deadline. Three aces wasn't enough, though, so Amaro and the Phils signed Lee back to the team this past winter, giving them four aces and a guaranteed championship.
That last bit didn't work out so well, with the Phillies losing in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual champion, the St. Louis Cardinals. Just as the Germans in World War II failed to recall the lesson of Napoleon and the folly of committing to a land war in Asia, the Phillies failed to remember that four aces didn't bring the 1990s Braves automatic World Series titles. They failed to acknowledge that preventing runs is necessary, but scoring runs helps, too, especially in the playoffs, when you are, in theory, facing other team's best starters, high-quality lineups, or both.
That's why Amaro is taking the Phillies in a new direction. "We've been slowly ramping up the last few years. Two aces, three aces, and then four aces. It didn't work out, though -- if anything, we've gone backwards, from almost winning a World Series, to NLCS loss, and finally an NLDS loss. If we don't do something drastic, and this pattern holds, we won't even make the playoffs in 2012!" said Amaro in a private press conference that only Baseball Nation was invited to. "That's when it came to me -- sign every free agent. We always sign the right free agents, but it's never enough. This time, we'll make sure it's enough."
When asked how the Phillies planned to pay for "every free agent," Amaro brushed us off, claiming that they have already thought about this, and that the, "passion of the Philadelphia Phillies' fan base will help us reach our goal... once they pay the 500 percent increase on all tickets," as well as the new "$100 price for t-shirts sold at Citizen's Bank Park. Phils' fans love t-shirts." It's a gamble, but given how dedicated Phils fans are, it's not out of the question that some of them will sell their houses in order to afford seeing Albert Pujols play third base for their team.
Amaro has also considered how he plans to house all of these players -- the Phillies only have a handful of spots open at the major league level, after all. "We're releasing our entire minor league system. Every level, every prospect, every non-prospect -- gone. That will open up plenty of room for us to sign Casey Kotchman to a five-year, $60 million deal so he can play first base for us at High-A, behind Prince Fielder in Triple-A, Carlos Pena at Double-A, and in front of David Ortiz at Single-A, since we are willing to admit David is a defensive liability."
When asked about retaining some of the prospects who might be better -- and cheaper -- than the free agents the Phillies planned to sign, Amaro had an answer at the ready, "Well, we thought about holding on to some of them, because... well, it's complicated. If the plan is to sign every free agent, we will inherently create free agents when we make roster moves. That's the nature of the system. Rather than get stuck in some kind of infinite loop, where we are continually releasing players in order to sign free agents that are our own doing, we decided to just cut ties with every minor leaguer -- we don't play favorites here in Philly. Plus, we already stole every player worth anything from the Astros, so it's not like we need prospects for anything."
Amaro doesn't plan on limiting himself to just baseball free agents, either. "I'm not sure if you read the papers, or can read at all, but the NBA lockout is ongoing. There are some fine, fine athletes available thanks to this, with nothing to do except negotiate their futures. Now, what's more exciting? Negotiating a new CBA, or playing first base for the Phillies while Ryan Howard recovers from his surgery?" Amaro expressed interest in LeBron James, as he figured James was just as hungry to win as he was, given he hasn't sealed the deal on a championship either, despite highly-profiled and discussed moves towards winning one. "Plus, chances are good LeBron can hit lefties just as well as Howard."
This ambitious plan from the Phils isn't guaranteed to work any better than their previous high-profile ideas, and in fact could ruin the entire organization, bringing on debt that even Frank McCourt could laugh at, but Amaro would have none of it. "Right now, on the Ruben Amaro, Jr. Smug Advisory System, this plan has me right around 'Don't Waste My Time," but leaning towards 'Infuriated By Your Idiocy.' Guards, escort Mr. Normandin out of the conference room."