HE OBTAINED Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee (twice). He traded for Hunter Pence to save one season and traded him away with an eye to the future in another. He reclaimed Pedro Martinez in midseason and parlayed a return to the World Series. Midseason, he signed his homegrown ace pitcher to a contract that may prove a bargain when the numbers for Zack Greinke are announced in the coming days. And Thursday he obtained Ben Revere, a 24-year-old centerfielder who may become every bit as good as Michael Bourn is, and for a fraction of the cost.
Ruben Amaro Jr. may also be on the verge of obtaining Michael Young in a trade, adding a guy who can hit and play three of the four infield positions. Presuming he stays healthy, this provides manager Charlie Manuel a chance to spell Chase Utley and Ryan Howard without losing too much offense, provides insurance in case Kevin Frandsen can't duplicate his offense of 2012 and/or Freddie Galvis can't adjust to playing some third.
It also leaves some money to shop for better middle relief - which, more than any other facet of the Phillies, sabotaged last season.
Yet there doesn't seem to be much love for the Phillies' general manager around these parts these days. Vitriol in some places, in fact.
The themes are the same. Ruben signs free agents for too much money and too many years and gives away too much of the future in trades to shore up the present. J.A. Happ, Anthony Gose, Jonathan Villar, Lou Marson, Jason Donald, Michael Taylor, Kyle Drabek, Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart are just some of the players he has let get away. Now add to that list Vance Worley and Trevor May.
We all know about Worley. Like Happ, he was the fringe prospect who wouldn't go away, the call-up who wouldn't stay down, pitching himself into the rotation with an outstanding 11-3 rookie season. Worley developed a bone spur last season that he tried to pitch through, and that clearly affected his ability. Had he remained a Phillie, his health - and future - would have been one of the big spring stories.
Let's assume Worley regains his health and has a solid career as a middle-of-the-rotation guy. The trade still obtained a speedy, contact-hitting centerfielder for seasons to come who isn't so set in his ways that he can't improve.
The big bet is the future of May. Baseball America ranked him in its Top 100 and as the Phillies' top prospect prior to his underwhelming 2012 season in Reading, but frankly, Baseball America isn't exactly Nostradamus when it comes to such things. (See the list of names above.)
Happ was never ranked any higher than eighth among Phillies prospects.
Suffice it to say, Baseball America sure is glad Mel Kiper Jr. is around.
Anyway, I find a little irony in Amaro's unpopularity. For years fans bemoaned Ed Wade's reluctance to pull the trigger on big deals that would have yielded immediate results. Now Amaro, even in a trade that lands him a talented 24-year-old centerfielder, is accused by many of giving too much away.
I liked Vance Worley a lot, but I like this deal even more. For about $515,000 you get a player not unlike Juan Pierre at that age - blazing speed to track down balls in center, good baserunner, bunter and contact guy, not a lot of walks (unfortunately), and a weak arm.
Ruben may have overpaid for Jonathan Papelbon a year ago, but imagine if he had gone for the cheaper alternatives. Ryan Madson blew out his arm in spring training. Heath Bell was part of the big bust in Miami. When three of your starters are named Hamels, Halladay and Lee, overpaying for the closer is not the worst sin.
Amaro has made his mistakes. His weakness - filling out the roster - was Pat Gillick's strength. Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett, even Jayson Werth were low-budget guys who played huge roles in the 2008 run. With a few notable exceptions such as Pierre, Amaro has paid too much for too little in that regard, and last season was just a big, fat disaster.
But the team he assembled the year before won 102 games. The Phillies won their division in each of the first three seasons he was GM. And this stuff about trading away the future? Who, exactly, has made you regret any of it? Even now, you wish you had Kyle Drabek instead of Roy Halladay? You would like Lou Marson as your catcher, Jason Donald as your third baseman, and former "untouchable" Michael Taylor as one of your outfielders?
Ruben's not perfect. But he's also not afraid to not be. He got a promising centerfielder for a half-million dollars. By the time you read this, he may have solved some of your infield uncertainty and added a powerful bat and good clubhouse guy, too. He's no Gillick. But he seems to know what he's doing more than that other outdoor team in town does.
On Twitter: @samdonnellon