Commercials tell us, "Your in good hands with All State." Apprantly the Phillies are in good hands with Pat Gillick and now, first-year GM Ruben Amaro Jr. Amaro, which translates—roughly—in Spanish to "love," as in, Philie fans are going to love the next three years and this GM as much as they appreciated Gillick.
Don't look now, but the Phillies are quietly keeping their core team intact for at least the next three years, anchored by their latest three-year contract with All-Star first baseman Ryan Howard, who will earn $54 million over the course of the deal, which expires when the slugger will be 29 years old.
As someone who has loosely followed the Phils since 1993, and has seen them hit the lowest of the low, not only am I proud that they finally won a title for the first time in 28 years—their second in 105—but that they are keeping the team together.
Howard requested a staggering $18 million in his second year of arbitration just one year after getting $10 million in his first year of eligibility. The Phils smartly guessed that he would have won his case and gave him an additional two years, thus buying out the remainder of his arbitration and first full year of free agency.
By then, maybe contracts will come back down to earth or the Phils likely will have another title or two under their belts, thus making Howard's decision to leave ill-advised and unlikely, unless he's "looking for more of a challenge" since getting paid won't be an issue.
Think of the two years as free years, since he also would have resquested—and won—more arbitration cases in the years to come had he gone through with them.
As for the rest of the players in this three-year trend, Cole Hamels started out the baseball offsason by signing a you-guessed-it three-year, $20.5 million contact. Very reasonable if you ask me, even if the Phillies' Opening Day payroll for 2009 is expected to be $130 million.
Shortly thereafter, Pat Burrell's replacement, the 30-HR 100-RBI Raul Ibanez inked a stable 3/$31.5M contact. At worst, he should match Burrell's numbers if not exceed them.
Middle Reliever Ryan Madson signed a three-year $12 million contact on Jan. 20.
Going way back, this three-year trend was all started during the last All-Star break, when the new Mariano Rivera, closer Brad "What homer?" Lidge, signed a three-year, $38 million deal before free agency even began and before Philadelphia even made the playoffs, much less won the division and World Series, simply because, as Lidge put it, Philadelphia "felt like home," and he wanted to get it out of the way.
What is with the three years trend? Should Philly fans read something into this? I can't remember anything quite like this on one team, in one offseason, much less coming from a defending champion.
Will these short, economically-friendly, non-Manny-esque incentive-to-continue-to-produce contracts catch on, or is Philadelphia just unique, and run by smart visionaries? Are these contracts genius? We'll see. But right now, it's looking like Philadelphia, barring injuries, should again be the class of the National League in 2009.
One thing is for sure, they won't have contract issues looming over their heads.
Next up, is extending Jimmy Rollins, whose contact runs out in 2010 unless the affordable $8.5 million option for 2011 isn't isn't picked up, which has no chance of not happening.
I was surprised that the Phillies won the World Series, not because of lack of talent—especially hitting—but because of what I thought was a lack of pitching. (I still think they need to get younger in the starting rotation, someone to groom along like Kyle Kendrick who looks like a keeper but didn't help in the postseason stretch run).
Nonetheless, I think Phillies fans can rest safe for three years.
Makes you wonder why 46-year-old Jaime Moyer "only" signed a two-year extension. Doesn't the 23-year major league veteran want to stick around with things going so well? The same goes for Moyer's peer, that being sixty-five year old manager Charlie Manuel.
Go figure :)