Amaro sees no lesson in Lee's injury

March 10, 2015, 6:40 PM

— -- CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Nick Foles got traded right on out of Philadelphia on Tuesday. And Cole Hamels? Uh, not so much.

The Eagles wheel. The Eagles deal. The Phillies stay the course.

And that course played a little tougher Tuesday too, by the way. Cliff Lee threw another dogleg left into what was already a loooong par 5, by talking once again like a man whose days in red pinstripes are dwindling, if not defunct.

Lee might be headed for surgery. He might be headed for retirement. But he made it clear that if the common flexor tendon near his left elbow keeps firing lightning bolts up his arm, "then, obviously, I'm not going to keep pitching."

And if he's not going to keep pitching, you know what means. It means, basically, that the Phillie Phanatic now has more trade value than Cliff Lee does. And there would seem to be a lesson in that for the Phillies.

But Ruben Amaro Jr., the GM whose fan base would love to see him heed that lesson, begs to differ.

He once had two aces to trade. He's now down to one. But if you were to surmise that the potentially career-ending injury to one ace would affect his stance on trading the other ace, well, surmise again.

"Nope," Amaro told this correspondent, quite succinctly. "Why would it change? No reason to change it.

"I don't know what our 'stance' on Cole is," the GM went on, showing sincere affection for the portrayal of that "stance" in the mass media. "Others have 'stances,' I guess, for us. I guess other people must think we have a 'stance.' Our 'stance' is that we're open-minded. And that hasn't changed one bit."

But our entertaining banter on this subject was far from over.

"Is there a lesson in what happened with Cliff that would apply to Cole?" I asked.

"No," Amaro replied. "I don't know what lesson could be learned."

"Isn't the lesson that pitchers have a chance to get hurt, even if they have a history of durability?" I suggested, helpfully.

"There's no lesson there," Amaro said. "Everybody knows that. It's apples and oranges. We have a guy who was actually hurt last year. We don't have a player who's hurt in Cole. ... There's no lesson learned from Lee's situation because it's a totally different situation. One guy is hurt. The other guy is completely healthy."

The GM was on a roll now. So he jumped in to add more outside perspective, without being prompted.

"Is there a lesson learned from Yu Darvish?" he asked. "All pitchers can get hurt. All players can get hurt. It can happen any time. That has nothing to do with the way we go about our business, [by] planning for a player to get hurt. That doesn't make any sense."

Now naturally, no team would ever plan for a player to get hurt. But teams often do plan in case players get hurt. And this just in:

Pitchers get hurt. Every day.

As a matter of fact, recent history tells us that in any given year, 50 percent of all starting pitchers in baseball will wind up on the disabled list. Yep, 50 percent. So if we're doing that math correctly, Cole Hamels has that same 50 percent risk of landing on the DL between now and the trading deadline.

But the GM wasn't impressed with that helpful logic, either.

"How many pitchers do you think have that same risk with other clubs?" he asked.

"All of them," I replied.

"Correct," he said. "So how can there be a lesson learned? It's all the same for everyone. ... That means that other teams have pitchers that can get hurt too."

He'd barely finished that sentence, by the way, when the Blue Jays were announcing that Marcus Stroman had torn his left ACL and was done for the year. So there you go.

In case you're missing Amaro's carefully constructed counterpoint to our carefully constructed point, it goes like this:

All the teams that might want to trade for an ace have a 50 percent chance of losing one of their best pitchers too. So if we're reading him right, it means that would make them more likely to get desperate to trade for someone else's ace. Got it?

OK, got it. But here's the other side of that argument: Say you're a team that wants to make a major trade involving your best pitcher. And say there's that high a risk that that pitcher could get hurt.

Wouldn't it make sense to jump to make that deal when that pitcher is still healthy? Just sayin'.

"Is that your argument or my argument?" Amaro replied. "It's not my argument."

I tried explaining it again.

"That's illogical to me," he said.

So I tried to draw the picture a different way -- by bringing the conversation back to where it started. With Cliff Lee.

After all, the Phillies had quite a few opportunities, in 2012 and 2013, to trade Lee when he was still a healthy, durable, 220-inning machine. To the Rangers. To the Red Sox. To the Yankees. To the Dodgers.

Instead, they hung on to him, even as he was reaching his mid-30s. Until, all of a sudden, he was no longer healthy, no longer durable, no longer tradable.

I asked the GM if he ever looked back on those opportunities to trade Lee and played the what-if game.

"In '12 and '13, we were still trying to win," Amaro said. "I think [team president Pat Gillick] made a statement the other day that we maybe waited one year too long to go into rebuild mode. Maybe we did. But we've got to look forward now.

"We can't do anything about it now," he said. "It doesn't mean anything now, or that there was any kind of lesson in it. We were still trying to go for it. We were still trying to put ourselves in position to win."

And now they're not. Clearly. So trading Cole Hamels is the best, potentially franchise-changing card remaining in Amaro's deck. If he plays it now, he won't get that A-plus or A-double-plus deal he's been looking for. But he might get an A-minus deal.

He might get a deal that would at least be the equivalent of what the local football team did Tuesday -- a deal that turns the page, moves the franchise forward and removes the risk that what happened to Cliff Lee could happen to Cole Hamels.

But Ruben Amaro Jr. doesn't see this the way we see it. He has set his Hamels bar high from the moment he started telling teams he would listen. He has no intention of lowering it now.

So get back to us in July. Or the day Hamels heads for the disabled list. Whichever comes first. Until then, we learned exclusively Tuesday, one man's lessons are another man's illogicality. I guess we're about to find out which is which.

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