WASHINGTON -- Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. kept a stiff upper lip as he spoke to reporters Thursday afternoon at Nationals Park.
The Phillies are headed to their third consecutive season without a winning record and it is clear they need to make changes to have any shot to win in the future. But with a slew of players available to trade to help those efforts, they didn't make any deals before Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"Not disappointed," Amaro said. "More surprised that there wasn't more aggressive action from the other end. We have some pretty good baseball players here."
But there seemed to be a clear difference of opinion there. The Phillies look at a roster with Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, Antonio Bastardo and others and see players who can help contending teams. That might be true, but other teams looked at those players with age, injury or performance concerns often with high price tags attached.
"Well, I would disagree with that," Amaro said, asked if the Phillies overvalued their own players. "In no scenario were we asking for players that were their top prospects. We were not looking for exorbitant paybacks, so to speak, we were looking for players that would help us, but I think we were very reasonable in the discussions that we had.
"I think one of the most over-coveted elements of baseball are prospects. I don't know how many prospects that have been dealt over the last several years have really come to bite people in the [rear end]."
Amaro said he sensed teams believed the Phillies were desperate to deal and ultimately would cave to their demands.
"I've made it very, very clear that we didn't have any pressure to make deals," he said. "What our goal was to try and make our club better. So if there's a deal to help us get there, we would've done it. There really wasn't a deal we felt comfortable with or a deal that we were going to acquire talent that was compensatory to the talent."
But money was a big issue. Lee is owed $37.5 million following this season, but would make $52.5 million if he pitches 200 innings next year to automatically vest a 2016 club option. (The chances of him being traded before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline seem nonexistent after leaving Thursday's game with a reccurence of a flexor pronator strain in his left elbow.) Papelbon is owed $13 million next season, plus a $13 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests with 55 games finished next season or 100 games finished in 2014-15. Burnett could make as much as $12.75 million next season with a player option.
Amaro said he made it clear to teams they would take on some money to move players.
"Money wasn't going to be an impediment for us," he said. "It was trying to get the right baseball deal. We weren't going to let money impede that. My feeling is if we had an opportunity to improve the club with the type of talent we wanted to get back, then we would have made a move."
So the club will continue to try to make trades before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline. If that does not happen, it will try again in the offseason.
"We're not playing like contenders now; we're hopeful we'll be playing at that level as the season goes on here," Amaro said. "My job is to try to get us to that point. Whether it takes a year, three months, or two years, that's my job and I'll continue to strive to get there."
Amaro is feeling pressure from a frustrated fan base, but he said he feels like he will be in place in the offseason to make those changes.
"Me, personally? Yes," he said.
Has he received assurances from Phillies president David Montgomery?
"I haven't had any discussions," Amaro said.
But what about the organization's talent evaluators and developers? The Phillies have not drafted or developed talent as well as other organizations over the past 10 years and have misidentified talent at the Major League and Minor League levels recently. Names like Delmon Young, Chad Qualls, Brandon Moss, Jason Grilli and others come to mind.
"We evaluate everything all the time and we're all being evaluated," Amaro said, asked if changes could come in those departments. "That's part of the process just like any other organization or company. We're evaluated. My personnel, the personnel that works in the baseball department will also be evaluated."
But can a turnaround happen quickly?
"I don't see a scenario right now where our roster is going to be the same roster in April that it is right now," Amaro said. "It will change. It will need to change because we need to get better. But is it possible? Yes. Whether or not we can get there, we'll see. Our job is to try to put us in a position where we're contenders again. If we have to take a step back to move forward and get there, we'll see how it goes."