Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
As the Phillies were struggling early in the season and questions on whether they should tear it down and start all over began, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. (pictured) boldly proclaimed, "I don't do five-year plans".
Ironically, this was one of the biggest reasons his team was in its current state. An aging team of veterans without much help on the way from the farm system is a recipe for disaster.
In the case of a big market team like the Phillies, they will continue to utilize their financial resources to try and win now. Instead of trading away players of value who were due to become eligible for free agency at the end of the season, the Phillies stood pat and even signed Chase Utley to a two-year contract extension with three vesting options that could keep him in Philadelphia through his age 39 season.
Veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz is also staying put after agreeing to a three-year deal that will pay him $26 million through his age 37 season. Marlon Byrd was signed to be the team's new right fielder. He'll get $16 million for his ages 37-38 seasons.
Amaro sure wasn't lying. These aren't the actions of a man with a long-term plan. And who could blame him. There's no guarantee he'll have a job five years from now. He's doing everything he can to ensure his team will compete next season.
But at some point, ownership is going to have to take the blame if the team continues to finish in third place or lower in the NL East.
When this team takes the field in 2015, the infield will consist of a 35-year-old Ryan Howard, who will be making $25 million, a 36-year-old Jimmy Rollins, who will earn $11 million as long as he logs 500 at-bats in 2014 to activate his vesting option, and a 36-year-old Utley, who will make either $10 or $15 million depending on his health in 2014.
Ruiz, at age 36, will make $8.5 million to lead a pitching staff with a 36-year-old Cliff Lee making $25 million and a youthful Cole Hamels, making $22.5 million in his age 31 season. Closing out games will be Jonathan Papelbon, who will be 34 years of age with a $13 million salary.
That's a lot of money due to guys that are likely to be well past their prime. And that's what happens when you don't do five-year plans.
It's vital that teams in "win-now" mode are aggressive on the free agent and trade markets. But if moves are made without any concern for how it affects the future of the organization, it's extremely difficult to put a competitive team on the field year after year. It's how a team with five consecutive division titles can all of a sudden lose 81 and 89 games in respective seasons with a good chance to continue that trend for at least another year or two.