Are the Philadelphia Phillies Really the Yankees of the National League?
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Just a few years ago, comparing the Philadelphia Phillies to the New York Yankees would have been unfathomable to most fans. For one the Yanks had a payroll that was perennially over $200 million while the Phillies routinely maintained one half that.
Furthermore, from a historical perspective the Yankees were baseball's most successful franchise while the Phillies were baseball's least successful.
But here in 2011, the comparison not only makes sense but is thrown around often. After all the Phils have been baseball's most successful franchise the last four going on five years. Nobody has won more divisions, pennants or World Series in that span.
In fact, should the Phils hold on to win their fifth consecutive division crown, only the 1998-2006 Yankees and 1991-2005 Atlanta Braves will have had longer streaks than this current Phillies run.
The Phils are a destination team now much like the Yankees. When veterans want to win, they seek out the opportunity to play for the Phillies. Roy Halladay orchestrated a trade specifically to Philadelphia. Cliff Lee took less guaranteed money to be a Phillie. Roy Oswalt waived his no trade clause to come to Philadelphia.
A decade ago the Phillies could not even keep their own stars in town; now stars are tripping over themselves to get here.
However, when people say the Phillies are the Yankees of the National League, they are not referring just to those similarities. Instead, the connotation is clear—
The Phillies are trying to buy a championship.
Not hard to see how one would come up with that though. All you have to do is take a look at their star studded roster, a payroll which is over $170 million, see big free agent signings like Cliff Lee and you can easily draw that conclusion.
But is that really an accurate representation of the franchise? Continue reading to find out.
A large chunk of the Phillies payroll has been spent to retain their homegrown stars.
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$65.57 million (15 players)
Players currently on the 25-man roster that fall under this category are Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Carlos Ruiz, Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes, Michael Schwimer and Vance Worley.
In addition, Domonic Brown, Scott Mathieson, Drew Carpenter and Michael Zagurski are all guys who have spent time with the Phillies this season. Brown spent over two months as the primary right fielder on the team and would likely still be if it were not for the Hunter Pence deal.
This category takes up roughly 38% of the Phillies major league payroll.
Rule 5 Draftees
Phils struck gold with their selection of Shane Victorino in the Rule 5 draft.
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$8.35 million (3 players)
This segment of the roster consists of Michael Martinez, David Herndon and Shane Victorino.
In many ways Victorino could be included as homegrown. He was stuck toiling in the minor leagues with so so numbers until the Phils took him in the Rule 5 draft. They offered him back to the Dodgers, who declined as did every other team in baseball, so the Phils held on to him and stashed him in Triple-A.
Once in the Phillies minor league system, he flourished and became the Flyin' Hawaiian we all know today. He was basically developed by the Phils farm. However, because they didn't draft him it would be disingenuous to claim him homegrown.
This category takes up just under 5% of the Phillies overall payroll.
Phillies have used their strong farm system to target trade acquisitions such as Roy Halladay and Hunter Pence.
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$57.89 million (7 players)
This has been a place where the Fightins have gotten a lot of their more high profile acquisitions.
Players on the roster the Phils traded for are Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Joe Blanton, John Mayberry Jr, Ben Francisco and Hunter Pence.
This highlights the second way to optimize your farm system. While fans celebrate drafting and developing players in the minors to become stars with the big club, this is sometimes a more effective usage of those prospects.
For every Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels or Chase Utley who hit it big, there is often a Greg Golson, Reggie Taylor or Pat Combs that become busts.
In many ways you could argue that these players are homegrown. Sure they were developed by other teams but the Phillies used homegrown talent that they scouted, drafted and were developing in order to acquire these players. Excellent use of the farm system in trades has turned the Phillies into a powerhouse.
This section takes up roughly 33% of the Philadelphia payroll.
Free Agents: Scrap Heap Players
After originally being signed to a minor league deal, Wilson Valdez emerged to take the utility role with the Phils.
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$3.31 million (5 players)
Currently this only includes Wilson Valdez on the 25-man roster.
However other players in this category who were previously on the major league roster are Juan Perez, Pete Orr, Dane Sardinha and the now departed J.C. Romero.
For those who do not remember, Romero was originally acquired after being designated for assignment by the Red Sox.
Perez, Orr and Sardinha are currently playing for the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
The Phillies in the past have used the category very efficiently. Players like Jayson Werth, Greg Dobbs and Scott Eyre all were solid contributors on the back-to-back World Series teams after being cast off from previous teams.
Scrap heap players account for roughly 2% of the Phillies' 2011 payroll.
Free Agents: Former Phils Returning
Placido Polanco and Cliff Lee enjoyed their time in Philadelphia so much that they made sacrifices to return.
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$18.5 million (2 players)
Currently both Placido Polanco and Cliff Lee fit this bill.
Both were players originally acquired via trading homegrown talent. Both were traded away and as soon as they hit free agency both made personal sacrifices to come right back to the Phillies.
Lee was the story of the offseason as he famously took less years and guaranteed money in order to return to the Phillies.
Polanco on the other hand was a gold glove, All-Star second baseman who changed positions just so he could be a Phillie again.
In the end both players appeared to value the opportunity to be a Phillie and were willing to make sacrifices to make that happen.
Polanco and Lee account for over 10% of the payroll.
Free Agents: Free Market Signings
Raul Ibanez was GM Ruben Amaro's first big free agent signing.
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$20.6 million (5 players)
On the current 25-man roster this includes Raul Ibanez, Brian Schneider and Ross Gload.
Jose Contreras also falls under this category, however he is currently on the disabled list. Until he was cut, Danys Baez qualified for this category as well.
These are straight up free agents signed by the Phillies. These players were not non-tendered or waived from their previous teams. They had never been in the Phillies organization before signing.
The only person with any tie to this city is Brian Schneider who grew up in the suburbs as a huge Phils fan.
These free agent signings are responsible for more than 11% of the payroll.
Phillies have put together a championship caliber roster in 2011.
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So there you have it, a financial breakdown of the Phillies roster.
Currently the Fightin Phils run out 11 homegrown players each night as opposed to only four free agent acquisitions.
All the salary figures in this article are provided by Cot's Baseball Contracts. If you add up all the numbers you'll see the total salary to be $174.23 million.
This is not an official number and that is for multiple reasons. One reason is because Joe Blanton's 2011 salary has been reported as both $8.5 and $10.5 million. For the purposes of this article, the $8.5 million figure was used as that is what Cot's had.
Also the salary figures for Stutes, Mathieson, Zagurski, Schwimer, Worley, Perez and Sardinha are unavailable. In their instances, the league minimum salary was applied,
Not factored in is the money the Astros are giving the Phils this season for Roy Oswalt. the Astros gave $11 million towards Oswalt's salary to be split over the end of last season and this season. However, no breakdown could be found towards how much of that money was being allocated to this season.
In addition, the Astros gave $2 million towards the salary of Hunter Pence this season. This money was to be applied to the remained $2.3 million left on Pence's salary this season and thus is factored in to the figures in this article.
Regardless of the minute differences, at the end of the day Phils are spending a total of $42.41 million on players acquired via free agency regardless of them being scrap heap, former Phils, or straight free agents.
The remaining $130+ million has gone to reward home grown players or players acquired via trading homegrown players. It appears to be pretty clear this team has a high payroll because they have rewarded their own players with lengthy contracts and supplemented them with additional stars acquired through trades.
Say what you want about the Phillies, but they have built their current team through a strong farm system. Whether that be through player development or shrewd trades, one can clearly see that the Phillies have not tried to buy a championship through free agency.