"We have sponsors who are loyal to us and players who are loyal, and I think we owe it to the organization and the fans to do what we can to put a contending team on the field every year. Do we need to go through transitions? Yeah. Are we in the middle of that now? Yeah, I think we are."
Contending is tough. A lot of things need to go right. A lot of players need to stay healthy. Some guys need to step up and have surprise break out seasons. The core needs to stay on the field and consistently produce. The chemistry in the clubhouse has to stay amiable. The bounces need to go the right way. And in the end, after cracking the playoffs, you still have to win or it's all for nothing.
Transitioning is tough. A lot of things need to go right. The prospects need to be who you drafted them to be. The fan base needs to adjust to new faces. Old favorites need to be sent on their way. Money has to be freed up and spaces need to be filled by unexciting placeholders. Everybody needs to buckle up for some painful, losing seasons.
What Ruben Amaro Jr. says the Phillies are doing is even tougher – they're trying to do both at once.
This is not a thing that happens. It's not as if contention/transition is a modern, newfangled approach to the game that the Phillies are just now getting in on. It's two things that by their nature cannot happen simultaneously.
Maybe a team can think they're in a transition period, sign the right guys, get lucky with a few others, and push through by accident, like the Red Sox last year. But they were signing Koji Uehara and Shane Victorino in the offseason, not Marlon Byrd and Bobby Abreu.
Amaro keeps repeating how it's his job to put a contending team on the field, but it isn't. It's his job to measure when the team can realistically contend next, and then set them up do so. If that's soon, go all in; if it's down the line, invest in the future.
Jeff Luhnow does not believe the Astros are contending this year. It'd be hard to believe Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer's vision for the Cubs is complete. But these are guys who have a plan in place and are executing it as best they can, one phase at a time, until one day their young players are ready, they have some money to drop on free agents, and it will all *hopefully* come together. They don't bring in cheap help to fill out the roster and believe they'll be right in the thick of things come August.
If the Phillies had made any playoff noise in 2012 or 2013, perhaps an argument could be made. Even so, the core players would still be in their mid-thirties and their numbers would still be declining; the farm system would still be rebuilding from epic trades; signing Marlon Byrd to play every day would still be questionable. And Amaro would apparently still be trying to plunge into the future sideways, trying to accomplish two things that offset each other and in the end gain no ground.