Coming up two wins shy of another World Championship was, indeed, a tough pill to swallow, but the Phillies were simply the second best team in 2009. All of the ugly flaws of this team made their way to the surface in the World Series, whether it be a lack of situational hitting, a decrepit bench, or the continued struggles of ’08 heroes and ’09 goats, Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge.
Brian Cashman, along with whichever Steinbrenner is currently running the Yankees, spent close to $210 million on the 2009 payroll to limit weaknesses, field a near-perfect team, and win a World Series. Congratulations to the two men and their quarter-billion dollar payroll. The money was thrown around properly and resulted in celebration, and a flustered Mark Teixeira running around the field exclaiming, “We did it!” as if this was a bunch of rag-tag players nobody believed in. To that, I “LOL.”
Room for Improvement
But what I took from the World Series is that, as incredible as the Phillies were this past season, there were still many aspects of this club that needed, and will need, improvement. It’s truly amazing to me that I even sit here writing this piece, as a fan and analyst of a team that had a better year than 28 other clubs, all of which were surely envious of the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies.
Alas, here we are, entering a great time of the year – the offseason. Some call it the “hot stove,” although I don’t really understand why. It’s one of those unexplainable things, you know, like the nickname “Melky” being derived from Eudernyi Cabrera.
The Phillies have the chance this offseason to transform into a near-perfect team. With two consecutive World Series appearances, exponential growth in local and national popularity, and some hefty contracts coming off the books in 2010, Ruben Amaro will have some serious cash to spend in the coming months. If spent properly, there is no reason the Phillies cannot wrap up the NL East early, sweep through the playoffs, and reclaim their rightful trophy from the feminine hands of Johnny Damon and company.
Off the Books
First, let’s take a look at which contracts come off the books next season.
- Brett Myers is gone, which is sad in some ways, but necessary in others. The long-time Phillie understood how to endure the expectations and tough-love from Philly fans, probably because he was such a blue-collar guy, himself. I, like all of you I’m sure, wish Myers all the best in his future endeavors, but am glad to see his $12M salary erased from the Phillies payroll.
- Also subtracted from the payroll are the $8,833,333 the Phillies were still paying to Adam Eaton, and $6.75M to Geoff Jenkins. Due to buyout provisions, the Phils are still on the hook with both players in 2010, but only for a combined $1.75M.
- Matt Stairs made $1M in 2009, but due to declining power and usefulness, he will only receive a minor-league contract from the Phillies next year, if he receives one at all.
Quick math shows that this is $26,833,333 coming off the books in 2010. The Phillies opening day payroll in ’09 was $113M, fifteen million dollars more than the 2008 opening day payroll. But, according to Mat Swartz, a Phillies fan and writer for Baseball Prospectus with a doctorate in economics from Penn, the Phillies have shown in recent years that they value marginal wins over strict payroll trends.
What this means is, under Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro, the team has shown a willingness to add players who can contribute a win or two (think Kyle Lohse, Joe Blanton, etc.), because the difference of winning 90 games instead of 88 will also boost regular season AND playoff revenue, making the added contracts well worth the price of admission.
For this reason, it is not unrealistic to expect the Phillies to spend MORE in 2010 than they did in 2009. A payroll between $125M and $135M is, by no means, unreasonable.
Plenty of Raises
Just so we’re all on the same page at this point, let’s recognize that the subtraction of $27M from the contracts of Myers, Eaton, Jenkins, and Stairs would leave the 2010 payroll at $86M. But, we then have to factor in the raises that certain players have that will increase the ’10 payroll.
- Jayson Werth made $2.5M in 2009, and will make $7.5M in 2010. He’s a steal at both prices.
- Ryan Howard goes up from $15M to $19M, once again, a steal at both prices.
- Chase Utley goes from $11.3 million to $15.3 million.
- Raul Ibanez goes from $7.167M to $12.167M.
- Cole Hamels’ contract is raised from $4.35M to $6.65M.
- Ryan Madson goes from $2.33M to $4.83M.
- Finally, Greg Dobbs goes from $1.15M to $1.35M.
All of these raises equal a $23 million payroll increase from 2009 to 2010. When subtracting the $27M from Myers, Eaton, Jenkins, and Stairs, then adding the raises, as well as the $8M option that was just excercised on Cliff Lee’s contract, the 2010 payroll is $108M as of today.
The Arbitration Guys
However, this leaves out the contract statuses of Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, Joe Blanton, Clay Condrey, and Chad Durbin, all of whom are subject to arbitration this offseason. Last year, the Phillies successfully avoided arbitration with guys like Hamels, Howard, Madson, Blanton, etc. by working out deals prior to the hearings.
The following are merely educated guesses based on what players made in 2009, what they will be worth next year, and Ruben Amaro’s preference toward locking guys up during several arbitrations years.
- Shane Victorino will likely be signed to a deal similar to that of Jayson Werth (2 yr/$10M.) I could see Victorino getting a two-year deal as well, between $8-10 million. So, his 2010 salary will be in the $4-5M range.
- Carlos Ruiz will also likely be signed to a two-year deal, totaling $6M. Can you believe he made $475,000 in ’09?!
- Joe Blanton made $5.475M in ’09, he will probably settle for around $6.5 in 2010.
- The Phillies will likely only keep Chad Durbin OR Clay Condrey, not both. Based on the fact that Durbin would command at least $2.25M next season, while Condrey would make $1M or less, Condrey looks like the more efficient, safer choice.
These theoretical raises to Victorino, Ruiz, Blanton, and Condrey would add approximately $15M to the 2010 payroll, making it $123M.
This leaves three guys – Chan Ho Park, Scott Eyre, and Pedro Feliz. The Phillies have already contacted Scott Boras about re-signing Park, which, if accomplished, would be a deal worth about $3.5M. Eyre has said that he is undecided, but if he returns, it will be with the Phillies. I’m guessing that he comes back after a stellar 2009. He’ll match his 2009 earnings, making $2M or slightly more.
The decision to decline Feliz’ club option was made over the weekend. If the Phillies had exercised his option, he would have made $5M; the buyout costs just $500,000. Based on a bad offensive second half and a lack of postseason production, I think Ruben Amaro will explore other options at third base. Feliz has been a great defender at the hot corner, but the Phillies could greatly improve their offense by signing or acquiring a better offensive third baseman who will get rid of the “black hole,” as my brother calls it, in the seven-spot.
Now that the boring part is over, let’s take a look at potential upgrades the Phillies could make. If the contract issues are worked out similar to my hypotheses, the 2010 payroll would be around $125M, before any additions are made. Some tinkering needs to be done, and I believe Ruben Amaro is the right man for the job.
You thought you were done seeing his name on this site? Think again. The Blue Jays STILL need to rid themselves of Halladay while he still has some value, and this winter is the time to do it. The pricetag on Halladay will not be as high as it was several months ago, because now the team that acquires him will only have his services for one season. He is a free agent after 2010, a season in which he is scheduled to make $15.75M.
The idea of trading for Halladay is not as unrealistic as you may think. He would be a MUCH better option than John Lackey, the top pitcher on the market that every Phillies writer is seemingly already calling for. Why? Because, A) he is undoubtedly better, and B) he’ll be cheaper.
Lackey likely won’t earn $15.75M or more in 2010, but he will receive a five or six year contract, similar to the value of what A.J. Burnett made. It would be unwise for a team like the Phillies to commit five or six years to a pitcher like Lackey, who will likely not be worth the money several years down the road.
New Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous has subtly stated that the Halladay talks will only involve a few teams, because many do not have the finances or young talent to acquire the former Cy Young winner. The Phillies are one of those few teams.
What would it take to get Halladay? After consulting with several other prominent baseball writers, the consensus seems to be J.A. Happ, either Dominic Brown or Michael Taylor, and a fringe prospect. This probably sounds similar to the deal that was once on the table, but keep in mind that Kyle Drabek would stay put, as would either Brown or Taylor.
To those thinking that Happ and Brown/Taylor is still too high a price to pay for one season of Roy Halladay, let’s take a look at a little bit of logic. Having an outfield of Ibanez, Victorino, and Werth means you do not need two great outfield prospects, you only need one, at most. If Brown/Taylor gets traded to Toronto and becomes an all-star, very well. That doesn’t change the fact that both face major roadblocks.
Losing a very good rookie like Happ would be hard, but is there any doubt whatsoever that Halladay is a massive upgrade over Happ? Sure, Halladay would only be around for one year while Happ could be for five, but isn’t the goal to win now, while this nucleus is in its prime and still intact?
At first glance, the notion of trading for Halladay may seem unrealistic, but due to his impending free agency, he is actually a relatively cheap acquisition. Expect the Phillies to once again make a serious push for him.
For a while, I was calling for Chone Figgins. During Game Six of the World Series, I wrote on the Phillies Nation twitter that I would be the campaign manager for “Figgins to Philadelphia 2010.” But Figgins is coming off of a career year, will likely carry a price tag greater than his actual worth, and would realistically be a weird fit with the Phillies. He is more of a leadoff batter than a seventh hitter, so either he, Jimmy Rollins, or Shane Victorino would have to drop in the order. It wouldn’t be an ideal situation.
Adrian Beltre, on the other hand, would be a perfect fit in Philadelphia. He is an incredible defensive third baseman, ranking in the top three in all of baseball in Ultimate Zone Rating in five of the past six seasons. Not only would there be no dropoff in the field from Pedro Feliz to Beltre, there would actually be an improvement. With the exception of 2007, Beltre has finished with better defensive metrics than Feliz in every season since 2004.
Beltre is also a much better hitter than Feliz. Discounting this past season, in which Beltre was limited to 111 games due to injury, the former Mariner and Dodger has compiled a slugging percentage above league-average every year since 2001, hit 25 or more homers four times, and better than 35 doubles three times.
Beltre’s clear flaw is plate discipline, but he represents an upgrade over Feliz in THAT category, too. Beltre’s career .325 on-base percentage is not ideal, but it is a massive improvement over Feliz’ unbelievably low .293 OBP.
Since Beltre is coming off a down, injury-riddled season, he will be much less expensive than Figgins. At age 30, with better speed, power, plate vision, and defense than Feliz, Beltre would be a very nice addition to the Phillies.
Putz was awful for the Mets in 2009, so it was no surprise when New York declined his $9M option for 2010. Despite never finding a niche with the Mets and missing half the season with an elbow injury, Putz would be a good low-risk, high-reward signing.
The flame-throwing righty would serve as an insurance policy to Brad Lidge, should Lidge struggle again. Putz’ presence would also allow Ryan Madson to remain the setup man next season, even in the event of continued scuffling from Lidge. As we saw this past season, taking Madson out of his eighth inning role creates a domino effect where every reliever must begin pitching outside his comfort zone. Adding Putz would aid this potential problem.
Since so much uncertainty surrounds the former Mariners closer, Putz will likely command an incentive-laden contract. If he meets many of the incentives drawn out in his contract, you will know that he’s done his job as a late-inning reliever. Signing Putz and letting Durbin or Condrey walk would significantly improve the bullpen.
Torrealba is the prototypical backup catcher: he is a powerful right-handed hitter who can be very dangerous when in the midst of a hot streak, but below average defense subtracts some of his value. He would be the ideal understudy to Carlos Ruiz, because he could step in several days a week and actually provide some offense, unlike Chris Coste and Paul Bako in 2009.
Torrealba would also add another semi-dangerous bat to the Phillies thin bench, which was an evident weakness all season.
Nomar Garciaparra/Jason Giambi
I list these two former superstars because the Phillies need experienced offensive threats on the bench. Even at age 36, Garciaparra is still a very good right-handed bat off the bench, and could be had for a reasonable price. He can play first, third, and even shortstop, if necessary.
Should the Phillies choose not to re-sign Matt Stairs, Giambi would be an adequate replacement. Despite our collective affection for Stairs, it should not be overlooked that everything that Stairs does, Giambi does better. The one thing Stairs did do well in 2009 was work deep counts and take free passes, but plate discipline is also Giambi’s strong suit.
Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Hairston is a utility man that can play the infield and outfield. Due to his superior speed and offensive ability, Hairston would be a massive upgrade over Eric Bruntlett. He is also a decent option as a pinch-runner or late-inning defensive replacement.
If the Phillies cannot land Hairston, other upgrades over Bruntlett include: Adam Kennedy, Mark Loretta, Wilson Betemit, and every other living human.
Ruben Amaro should pursue a Joe Beimel-type just in case Eyre retires and/or J.C. Romero fails to recapture his mojo from seasons past. Guys like Beimel can be signed to very cheap contracts, so there should be no excuse to entering next season with few options outside of Romero, Eyre, and guys like Sergio Escalona.