Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. says there was nothing accidental about his team's trading prospect Domingo Santana to the Houston Astros as part of the package for Hunter Pence three years ago.
“We didn’t want to put Santana on the list but we had to to get the deal done,” Amaro said. “There were several prospects we didn’t want to part with in that deal but we were trying to acquire the best right-handed hitter on the market and that was the price. I understand we’re going to get picked apart because we haven’t had success for a couple of years, but this is not true.”
CSNPhilly.com contacted Amaro on Saturday to get his response to a damning Houston Chronicle story that intimated that Santana, a 21-year-old outfielder who is having a big season in Triple A, was mistakenly placed on a list of potential players to be named later in the deal. The story references an unnamed Phillies official as telling the Chronicle during spring training that Santana was not supposed to be on the list.
“There was no mistake,” Amaro said. “If someone said that, they are misinformed because it’s absolutely, unequivocally wrong. It’s false.”
On July 29, 2011, the Phillies acquired Pence from Houston for three prospects, pitchers Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid, and slugging first baseman Jonathan Singleton, and a player to be named later. Two weeks later, that player turned out to be Santana.
Houston’s general manager at the time was Ed Wade, who had previously been the Phillies' GM. He was fired as Astros GM after the 2011 season and is once again working in the Phillies' front office.
“There were three names that they had to have,” explained Amaro, referring to Cosart, Singleton and Zeid. “There was a list of three or four more guys from which they could choose one. I think they wanted more time for evaluation. Santana was on the list because Ed asked for him to be placed on the list. There was no mistake.”
Santana, signed out the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old, is now 21 and putting up big numbers -- .292/9/37 -- in Triple A. He projects as an impact major-leaguer, one day joining Cosart, who is already in the Astros' rotation and Singleton, who was promoted to the majors last week. Singleton, 22, had 14 homers and 43 RBIs in 54 games at Triple A this season and is considered one of the game’s best hitting prospects. The Phillies' scouting staff, which has taken a lot of heat for recent draft misses, plucked Cosart in the 38th round of the 2008 draft and Singleton in the eighth round in 2009. They were pretty good gets. Santana is a product of the team’s Latin American scouting operation.
With Pence’s help, the Phillies won a franchise-record 102 games in 2011 and a fifth straight NL East title, but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. He was traded the following July to San Francisco, where he was part of a World Series winning team that October. In return, the Phillies got Tommy Joseph, a promising catcher who has lost development time because of a concussion issue and other injuries, reliever Seth Rosin, who is currently at Triple A, and big-league outfielder Nate Schierholtz. The Phillies allowed Schierholtz to become a free agent at the end of 2012 and he signed with the Chicago Cubs and has been a regular for the last two seasons, hitting 21 homers in 2013.
Clearly, the Astros are in line to get a much bigger payoff in the Pence deal than the Phillies.
“We were doing everything in our power to win the division and the World Series,” Amaro said. “The only regret I have is we didn’t win the World Series.
“We knew one day we’d have to pay the piper. These are the risks you take when you’re trying to win the World Series. We moved a lot of talent out of our system because we were trying to win the World Series.
“It’s just unfortunate that we’re being disparaged for things that aren’t true.”