Looking Ahead to the Philadelphia Phillies' Offseason

C KSenior Analyst INovember 5, 2008

The sun will never set on this 2008 Phillies team, but there's always a time to let a bit of the past go and look ahead. It has become that time for the Phillies.

With Pat Gillick gone from the general manager spot, many things will be different this offseason. Ruben Amaro Jr. has taken over GM duties and walks into a tough situation in the coming months.

The main problem facing Amaro is free agency.

The big-name free agents for the Phillies are Pat Burrell and Jamie Moyer, while players like Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth are eligible for arbitration.

Looking at that, you would think that money will be a problem. Well, not so fast my friends.

We all know how much money a team makes from winning a World Series, and they were already in decent shape with money. Add to that the fact that they will lose Tom Gordon's contract, and you're looking pretty good.

But what will they do with Burrell, Moyer, Howard, Hamels, Victorino, Werth, and many others? What should that do? Well if you're out there, Ruben, pay attention: I've got the answers.

Here's my rundown on the six key players for the Phillies to focus on this offseason.

Pat Burrell-LF: Free Agent

Age: 32

Stats: Through his nine year career, Burrell has stacked a .257 average with 857 runs batted in with 251 home runs.

Strengths: Power hitter, produces 25+ HR and 85+ RBI year in and year out, great clubhouse player

Weaknesses: Can go into long slumps, has habits of watching too many pitches, John Madden is faster

What the Phillies should do: The Phillies should be very cautious about this situation. I would wait and let him express his interests in the team and let him give you his numbers.

In your head, I would have a number around $11 million set and would be willing to go only two million higher. It's a very steep price, but when you have a team that meshes so well together, and a player like Burrell who loves the city and the team, you should try your best to keep him.

But the problem won't be the money, in my opinion. It will be the years. Burrell will want four years, and I don't know if the Phillies will want to give it to him. Burrell is as slow as you can be, and he's only going to wear down in the next few years. He will soon not be able to play the field, which is a concern.

An offer of $11 million over two years would be my starting offer, and I would go as high as $13 million over three years. If that does not get the job done, Pat Burrell will not be signed.

What the Phillies will do: It appears that Pat Burrell's time with the Phillies is done. As much as all Phillies fans hate to say it, Pat Burrell will likely not be signed. His asking price is not fully known, but there are all kinds of estimates that do not fit with the Phillies.

The organization would love to keep a piece like this around, but a World Series Championship won't be enough to give Burrell any more money. It looks like Pat the Bat is going to get the boot.

Jamie Moyer-P: Free Agent

Age: 45

Stats: Over his twenty-two year career, Moyer has posted a 246-185 record with a 4.19 earned run average and 2,248 strikeouts.

Strengths: Patient, gets in batters head, great leader

Weaknesses: Not a big repertoire of pitches, oldest player in baseball

What the Phillies should do: I don't think there is much disagreement here. The Phillies should re-sign Moyer to about what he is signed to now, which is about $5 million a year. He probably would not sign for much less based on his performance this season, but Moyer is not one to be greedy, so he always could go a little less.

Plus, his old age will keep him from going any higher, so I would sign Moyer to about the same contract he has now.

What the Phillies will do: I think they'll do exactly what I just said. They won't make a big change in the contract and will keep the money right around where it is now. Moyer is a huge part of the pitching rotation and is the guy everyone looks up to. Taking him out of the picture would just be stupid, especially since the money is there. Moyer will stay.

Ryan Howard-1B: Arbitration Eligible

Age: 28

Stats: Over his four year career (not counting 2004 in which he played just 19 games), Howard has hit for a .279 average with 177 home runs and 499 runs batted in.

Strengths: Power hitter, can hit to all fields when hot, good speed for a big man, huge producer

Weaknesses: Bad fielder, swings at bad pitches, strikes out way too much

(I'm going to keep the arbitration eligible players a little shorter, since they will be signed, we just don't know how or when)

What the Phillies should do: Ryan Howard needs to be locked up and given his money before he becomes too unhappy. Sure, the Phillies do not need to pay him for a while now, but with the insane production he has given the team, it's time to give him his money.

How much money? I'd say around $16 million a year. Albert Pujols signed a contract for $100 million over seven years, which is about what I expect for Howard. He has proven he is as good if not better than Pujols, so it's time to give him that money.

What the Phillies will do: I'm not too sure what the Phillies will do here. We have not seen enough out of Amaro to fully understand his take on free agents and situations like this. He has been in the organization for a while now, but now that he's a GM, we will have to wait and see.

But, from natural instinct, I think the Phillies will not let this linger on any longer. I would say Howard will be locked up for what I said above, around $16 million a year.

Cole Hamels-P: Arbitration Eligible

Age: 24

Stats: In his three year career, Hamels has posted a 38-23 record with a 3.43 earned run average with 518 strikeouts.

Strengths: Terrific changeup, very good fastball, confident, knows the game well

Weaknesses: Work ethic questioned at times

What the Phillies should do: Let's get these fellas locked up, shall we? Cole Hamels has shown in his three years that he is one of the best pitchers in the game and could one day be the best. Add to that his postseason success, and Hamels will garner some major bucks.

But, his age is one thing that will hold his contract back, so that's why the Phillies may take this to arbitration, which is the right call in my mind. I would put out an offer and wait for a response from Cole and his agent. If he disagrees, let him give his offer and if you do not see eye-to-eye at all, let the arbitrators work it out. This way, you can still get a contract you like and can go back to arbitration next year.

What the Phillies will do: I think the Phillies will do exactly what I said: take it to arbitration. Hamels will want a lot of money, and with his age, I don't see the Phillies giving in to him yet. When Hamels presents his case to the arbitrator, I would think the Phillies will actually win here. Hamels' age will keep him back for one more year. But, if Hamels can explode next year...watch out!

Shane Victorino-CF: Arbitration Eligible

Age: 27

Stats: In his five year career, Victorino has hit for a .281 average with 34 home runs and 162 runs batted in.

Strengths: Terrific speed, wonderful fielder with a gun for an arm, pure hitter, tough

Weaknesses: Does not hit for power

What the Phillies should do: It won't take much to lock up Victorino in my mind. With Victorino's stellar playoff performance and his Gold Glove, his stock definitely went up. But, I do not think it's too high. Victorino is not a type of player that can gain a large contract on a team like this. He is a key part to the team, but with this cast, there are more important players.

That's why I would try and sign him for three or four years and about $7 million a year. He's quickly becoming a stud in the outfield, so that's why his stock is a little higher than one would expect, but I would say it will be enough to sign the little man.

What the Phillies will do: It's very hard to say what the Phillies will do here. If Burrell goes, Victorino will be signed without a doubt in my mind along with another outfielder. But if Burrell stays, Victorino may face arbitration, in which it will be hard to say who would win there. Since I say Burrell goes, I think Victorino will be locked down for what I said above.

Jayson Werth-OF: Arbitration Eligible

Age: 29

Stats: In his six-year career, Werth has batted for a .263 average while adding on 57 home runs and 222 runs batted in.

Strengths: Great speed, good arm in the outfield, can go on long hot streaks

Weaknesses: Can go cold for long periods of time, unpredictable

What the Phillies should do: This should not be a big problem for the team. The Phillies should sign him quickly to a small two-year deal worth about $3 million a year, almost doubling his salary of $1.7 million this year. This should happen no matter what happens to Victorino and Burrell.

What the Phillies will do: As I just said, there's not a doubt in my mind that Werth will be signed quickly. The Phillies will want to sign the smaller players like Werth quickly so they can focus on the bigger pieces like Hamels, Howard, Burrell, and Victorino.

Other players in Werth's situation are Joe Blanton, Eric Bruntlett, Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin, Ryan Madson and Gred Dobbs. I expect the same kind of things to happen with these players, as I think they'll be signed to short deals in the near future.

So here's a quick rundown of what I think will happen to these six key players (and the rest of the smaller players):

Pat Burrell: Leaves

Jamie Moyer: Stays

Ryan Howard: Locked up long term

Cole Hamels: Goes to arbitration

Shane Victorino: Signed to deal

Jayson Werth: Signed to small deal

Joe Blanton, Eric Bruntlett, Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin, Ryan Madson and Gred Dobbs: Signed to small deals

This leaves the Phillies with a high payroll, which is not surprising. But a World Series Championship will help the team with the money...and so will raised ticket prices.

But all in all, even if Burrell leaves, I have faith in this organization that the right moves will be made and that the right holes will be filled. Nonetheless, it will be an interesting offseason.


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