Free Agency: Looking at the Phillies' Financial Situation Heading into Offseason
The Philadelphia Phillies’ late season resurgence has been a double-edged sword for both the team and fans.
Each win improved the team’s standing in the National League wild card race and gave fans the same feeling that they’ve grown accustomed to in September in recent years. However, each loss also served as a reminder of the team’s poor play during the first half of the season that put them behind in the standings in the first place.
The Phillies, like many teams, will have holes to fill following the season. But a strong finish combined with possible internal adjustments could alter the to-do list once the offseason starts.
The Phils put themselves in a position to avoid paying the luxury tax by trading Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, and Joe Blanton in August.
However, the team is also set to pay players such as Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz increased salaries next season.
Where does that put the Phillies’ payroll at as the offseason starts? Is the team willing to exceed the $178 million luxury tax threshold? Can they even address all of their needs through free agency, or will trades need to be considered?
The Phils will have options to run through once the offseason begins as they try to make next season more reminiscent of recent seasons, and push this season well into the rear-view mirror.
Before any wheeling and dealing begins, here is what the Phillies’ financial situation looks like heading into the offseason.
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The Phillies will head into the offseason with approximately $46 million set to be paid to three players in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.
Howard is set to make $20 million in the second year of the five-year, $125 million deal he signed in 2010. Utley, at nearly $15 million and Rollins, at $11 million, account for the Phils’ other big infielders’ contracts.
These deals are a lot easier to digest when these players play at the levels seen in past seasons, rather than how Rollins and Howard have played for a majority of this season.
The Phillies can also buyout Placido Polanco’s contract for $1 million, and can either pay Ty Wigginton a $4 million option or $500,000 buyout.
$4 million is a hefty sum for a player who did not spend time on the disabled list this season, but still has a WAR value of -0.7, according to fangraphs.com.
Meanwhile, Ruiz’s $5 million club option is seemingly a safer bet for being exercised.
Third base is an area the Phils must address during the offseason, but could save a great deal of payroll room if Utley is able to make the move. If Utley moves to third base and Freddy Galvis takes over at second, the Phillies will not have to spend on any infield improvements, besides adding to a bench likely to include Kevin Frandsen and Erik Kratz.
If Polanco and Wigginton are bought out, the Phillies’ infield contracts will total $51-$53 million heading into the offseason.
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It’s probably not a good sign when Laynce Nix is one of the highest paid outfielders currently on the roster.
However, it also means that the Phillies’ biggest area in need of improvement—the outfield—will have financial flexibility this offseason.
After trading Victorino and Pence, the Phillies’ highest paid outfielders are currently Nix, who will make $1.35 million next season, and Nate Schierholtz, who signed a $1.3 million deal with the San Francisco Giants to avoid arbitration this season.
Juan Pierre made $800,000 this season, but is set to become a free agent. Players such as John Mayberry, Jr. and Domonic Brown have not yet reached $1 million in terms of yearly salary.
The Phillies will have all three outfield spots open this offseason, as no player has claimed a starting job during the final stretch of the regular season.
With current outfielders’ contracts likely totaling less than $5 million, the Phillies should have plenty of reason to use any available payroll on this area.
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Here’s where a lot of zeros come into play.
The Phillies’ starting pitching has been the backbone of the team in recent seasons, and Hamels’ six-year, $144 million extension only added to the number of lucrative contracts that the team is paying to starting pitchers.
Next season, the Phils are set to pay Hamels $19.5 million, Halladay $20 million and Lee $25 million. That’s approximately $64.5 million for three pitchers, and well over the total that will be paid to all infielders and outfielders currently on the roster.
Additionally, Kyle Kendrick is set to make $4.5 million next season, while Vance Worley made $495,000 this season.
If Kendrick remains in the starting rotation, Phillies’ starters will combine to make nearly $70 million next season.
However, the Phils will also have difficult decisions to make when it comes to Lee this offseason, and Halladay after next season if his shoulder injury prohibits his 2014 option from vesting.
Where does this leave Tyler Cloyd and Jonathan Pettibone? Kendrick will make $4.5 million regardless of if he’s a starter or reliever, while Halladay and Worley will be coming off injuries or, at least, discomfort.
Having nearly $70 million going to four starters and young prospects on the rise means that the Phillies’ financial situation with their starting rotation is likely at its limit, unless they are able to make move that can benefit the team past next season.
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The Phillies’ biggest contract for a relief pitcher next season goes to Jonathan Papelbon.
Actually, the Phillies’ only big contract for a relief pitcher goes to Papelbon.
Papelbon is set to make $13 million in year two of the four-year deal he signed last offseason. He will make $13 million each season for the remainder of his contract.
Depending on where Kendrick pitches from, the Phillies’ could only have one other pitcher, in Antonio Bastardo, making over $1 million next season.
Jose Contreras has a $2.5 million option or $500,000 buyout for next season.
Similar to the outfield, this is good news for the Phillies, as they will need available payroll to address their bullpen, which has been a major weakness for a majority of this season.
Although a number of the Phils’ relief pitchers are young and have time to find success in the major leagues, at least one proven addition is needed this offseason, as mentioned in an article by John Finger on CSNPhilly.com.
The Phillies could use some available payroll to add at least one reliever since, depending on Kendrick’s role, only $3-4 million will go to relief pitchers other than Papelbon next season.