A team that recently set the record for most games over .500 in franchise history is sure to bring back all of its players next season, right?
Not if that team is the Philadelphia Phillies.
Very rarely in sports does a team remain the same from one year to the next. Whether they decide to keep their roster the same, let players go, or bring in new acquisitions, teams either become better or worse.
And the Phillies are no exception.
After winning 93 games in 2009, the Phils went out and traded for pitcher Roy Halladay and finished with their highest win total since 1993.
Last offseason, the team signed pitcher Cliff Lee, before acquiring outfielder Hunter Pence prior to this season’s trade deadline. And now the Phillies are on pace for over 100 victories.
But what about next year?
For a team that has little breathing room between themselves and the luxury tax threshold, and who still has to pay up in order to keep shortstop Jimmy Rollins and starter Cole Hamels long term, the chances of bringing back the entire roster appear slim to none.
Not that the Phillies would necessarily like to have every current player back.
But which current Phils have the highest chances of not returning?
He’s already defied the odds by lasting this long.
Even if he remains on the roster for the rest of the season, the chances of Gload returning next season may be the only thing slimmer than his hit total this season.
Through 78 games, Gload is batting .244 with 22 hits, 20 strikeouts, and just two runs.
The 35-year-old has also played just six games in the field this season.
And what have his 89 at-bats earned him besides just two walks and seven RBI? A WAR value of -0.3.
Gload is on pace to receive his fewest amount of at-bats since 2005, and play in his fewest number of games since 2006.
The Phils recent acquisition of John Bowker shows that the team is already exploring options for replacing Gload’s left-handed bat off the bench.
Prior to September 2nd against the Florida Marlins, Bowker hadn’t received a major league at-bat in 128 days.
And he still has only driven in five less runs than Gload.
Over the past few seasons, Gload has molded himself into one of the better pinch hitters in baseball.
He even leads the major leagues this season with 17 pinch hits, including last night's game winning RBI single.
However, after a hip injury no longer made him an option at first base, and after contributing just four hits in July and August combined, Gload has all but played his way off of next year’s team.
The Phillies can either pay Lidge $12.5 million and hope that he regains the form he displayed over the past few seasons, or they can pay a $1.5 million buyout and move on with younger arms.
With a team salary of over $170 million, option B seems like the best choice.
After missing 97 games with a shoulder strain, Lidge has returned to strikeout 17 batters in 16 appearances.
He has also gone 0-1 while walking 10 in 12.1 innings.
But it was his absence during the first half of the season that saw him go from 2008 hero to a payroll relief option for next season.
In his place, the Phillies have seen Ryan Madson (another Phil who may not be back next year), Antonio Bastardo, and Michael Stutes play prominent bullpen roles.
The team has also seen young arms in Michael Schwimer, Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, and Joe Savery emerge as potential bullpen options in the next few seasons.
Although his best days may be behind him, Lidge can still pitch out of a prominent role in a team’s bullpen, and still contribute as a closer for a number of teams.
But after seeing his strikeout total and innings pitched decline for three straight seasons, that team will not be the Phillies.
Throw in the fact that it would cost the Phils $12.5 million to keep him and it becomes clear that Lidge’s time with the team is coming to an end.
Ibanez has experienced a triple whammy this season.
Not only has he had a down year, but he’s also seen John Mayberry, Jr., earn more and more playing time while making a case to be the full time starter.
And it’s the final year of his contract.
The 39-year-old is batting .247 with 18 home runs and 71 RBI.
His average is his lowest since the 2000 season and he has driven in his fewest amount of runs since 2004.
Meanwhile, Mayberry has seen his average reach as high as .275 over the past few weeks.
Mayberry has already played in the most number of games in his career and has responded by batting .260 with 13 home runs and 44 RBI.
He also provides the Phillies with a fresher set of legs in the outfield since Ben Francisco, whose days with the team may be numbered as well, rarely does more than pinch hit nowadays.
But Ibanez’s fate may have been sealed when the Phils acquired Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros prior to the trade deadline.
Pence’s addition did not mark the beginning of the end of Ibanez’s time with the team.
The decision to send Domonic Brown to triple-A to learn how to play left field, on the other hand, may have sent the message.
Whether it’s Brown, who only batted .217 for the month of August in triple-A, or Mayberry who gets the nod, someone other than Ibanez will be starting in left field for the Phils next season.
$16 million is a lot to give to a player who missed 53 games this season.
But that’s the decision the Phillies will have to make this offseason when it comes to Roy Oswalt.
In 19 starts, Oswalt has gone 7-8 with a 3.72 ERA.
Since arriving from Houston prior to last season’s trade deadline, Oswalt has gone 17-11 in the regular season and 1-1 in four postseason appearances.
There’s a good chance that the Phillies are going to pay a lot of money to a pitcher this offseason.
But that pitcher may be Cole Hamels rather than Oswalt.
With the potential of having to pay over $60 million to three of their starting pitchers in the next few seasons, another $16 million may be asking too much from the Phils.
Plus, the team has enjoyed the success of rookie Vance Worley this season.
With Worley’s emergence, the Phils can afford to let Oswalt opt out of his deal and pay him a $2 million buyout.
The team also owes starter Joe Blanton $10.5 million next season.
With a combined $26.5 million owed to Oswalt and Blanton, the chances are high that one player will not be back next season.
And with back surgery and even retirement to ponder this offseason, chances are that player will be Oswalt.
After witnessing him finally blossom into the closer that they had tried time and time again to see him become, the Phillies would much rather have Ryan Madson in their bullpen again next season.
And with the chances of the team buying out the remainder of Brad Lidge’s contract high, a combination of Antonio Bastardo and Madson would give the Phils a fierce duo in late inning relief.
But the chances of Madson resigning with the Phils may be slim due to two words: Scott Boras.
With Boras as his agent, any team this offseason that needs a closer is sure to know that Madson is a free agent.
That’s if his numbers this season didn’t already catch their attention.
In 53 games, the 31-year-old has 28 saves in 30 chances and a 2.81 ERA.
He also has a 4-2 record and 53 strikeouts in 51.1 innings.
Madson’s next contract can take the shape of two different styles seen by Boras’ clients.
For one, it could resemble the large pay raises that Boras usually goes after for his clients.
Madson’s numbers this season are comparable to, if not better than, those put up by Jonathan Papelbon, Huston Street, Francisco Rodriguez, and Francisco Cordero.
All four of these players are making approximately $3-8 million more than Madson this season.
Or, his next contract could be designed with the same intentions that fellow Boras’ client Jered Weaver had when he recently signed his new deal: a hometown discount.
If Madson goes this route with his new deal, chances are that he’ll be back with the team next season.
However, the chances are higher that Boras will want the most for his client.
Which means that the chances are even higher that Madson will not be back with the Phils next year.