Inside the Phillies: Economics getting tougher for Phillies

Jayson Werth, below, could fetch $15 million per season on the open market. The Phils locked up Shane Victorino, above, in the off-season.
Jayson Werth, below, could fetch $15 million per season on the open market. The Phils locked up Shane Victorino, above, in the off-season.
Posted: August 01, 2010

During the off-season, when Ruben Amaro Jr. locked up three players - Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, and Carlos Ruiz - who still had arbitration years remaining, the buzz phrase was "cost certainty." By doing this, Amaro said, the Phillies could have a better idea of what money is on the books in future years.

Here is one certainty the Phillies and their general manager will face come this winter: With $146.35 million committed to 16 players for 2011, there is little money left to fill out the roster.

When the Phillies acquired righthander Roy Oswalt from Houston last week, they added approximately $23 million of guaranteed money to the payroll for the next year and a half. The trade also included an $11 million payment from the Astros to Philadelphia, a condition that Amaro called "an important element" in the deal.

He understands the 2011 payroll is already reaching critical levels. And that's with just 16 players under contract. The $146.35 million for 2011 is already higher than the payroll the Phillies (with 25 players signed) began this season with.

"It puts us in a position to not be real flexible," Amaro said of adding Oswalt's contract. "That was one of the things we had to toil over. It was difficult. We continue to add payroll."

If there is any non-Cliff Lee-related criticism of how Amaro handled last off-season, it was the way he filled out the bench and bullpen. The Phillies agreed to two-year deals with Ross Gload and Brian Schneider and are committed to them in 2011. Infielder Juan Castro, who signed a guaranteed contract, was released in July. Righthander Danys Baez will make $2.75 million in 2011 and is Charlie Manuel's least trusted reliever right now.

This off-season, barring a substantial increase to the payroll's ceiling, the Phillies won't have the luxury of divvying up a great deal of money to fill out the team.

Jayson Werth, Jamie Moyer, Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Jose Contreras, and Greg Dobbs figure not to return to the Phillies in 2011. Some are bigger losses than others.

Werth said Friday there was nothing new to report on stalled negotiations with the Phillies. This season, through trade rumors and extended slumps, Werth has prevailed. And while the power numbers and run production may not match last season, Werth is on pace for career highs in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).

He could fetch $15 million per season on the open market, where Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford and he are the most attractive outfield options. This season, Werth has better numbers.

Amaro dodged a question about Werth when introducing Oswalt on Thursday. Interestingly enough, Amaro later mentioned recently promoted top prospect Domonic Brown as someone who must contribute in 2011. Ostensibly, he will replace Werth.

"Domonic Brown is going to have to come up and make an impact," Amaro said. "I remember talking to Paul Owens about this. You've done your job if you have one or two players per year to have some kind of impact from your system on your major-league club.

"We have to have that happen. Otherwise, we won't be viable."

Moyer may never pitch again. The 47-year-old is a free agent and will not have surgery on his sprained ulnar collateral ligament, instead opting for rest and rehab. Dobbs, who is a non-tender candidate, hasn't delivered often enough off the bench.

Romero, the lone lefthander in the bullpen, has a $4.5 million club option for 2011. The Phillies are likely to pay the $250,000 buyout instead. Contreras was on a one-year, $1.5 million deal and could seek a raise from another team.

Durbin is making $2.125 million in his final year of arbitration. He will be a free agent, and at age 32, it could be his last chance to finally secure a multiyear contract elsewhere.

The way Amaro talked, the spot where money could be tightest next season is in the bullpen.

"At some point, these young men are going to have to pitch for us," Amaro said. "We're going to have to have low-cost, low-salary, low-major-league-service players. If we have enough good, quality players making the bulk of the payroll, then I think if we keep doing our job on the development side and the scouting side, we'll have to have those kids step up and play."

In the system, there are candidates. Righthanders Michael Schwimer, Michael Stutes, and Justin De Fratus have risen quickly in the minors. Vance Worley made a decent but brief impression on the Phillies. Scott Mathieson and Mike Zagurski both spent time in the majors this season.

But great uncertainty lies in those arms. (Although one could argue that just as much uncertainty exists when signing free-agent relievers, the most fickle position in baseball from year to year.)

The 16 players that make up the $146.35 million payroll for 2011 don't include Brown, outfielder Ben Francisco, righthander Kyle Kendrick, and lefthander Antonio Bastardo. Those players are under control for 2011 and will be cheap. But money is thin for the rest of the roster - which could test the system's depth.

At the end of his Thursday news conference, an unprompted Amaro made sure to praise the support he has received from team president David Montgomery and the rest of the ownership.

The Phillies, of course, do have the fourth-highest payroll in baseball and are spending money few around this franchise could have ever imagined. They lead the National League in attendance. Two weeks ago, Comcast sent out a news release boasting a 16.5 percent increase in ratings this season. Only the St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins have higher local TV ratings.

To characterize the Phillies as not liberal with their money would be wrong, the GM said.

Then came the necessary caveat from Amaro:

"We don't have unlimited funds."


Inside the Phillies:

Read The Inquirer's Phillies blog, The Phillies Zone,

by Bob Brookover and

Matt Gelb, at www.philly.com/phillies.

Blog response of the week

Subject: Phillies land Oswalt

Blog response from bvillebaron at 4:54 p.m. Thursday:

"I thought Ed Wade was working for the A-stros not the Phillies any more. Why didn't he just put a red ribbon around Oswalt's neck and put him under Amaro's tree with a nice note: 'Merry Christmas Rube.' "


Inside the Phillies:

Under Contract Through 2011

(figures in millions)

Ryan Howard $20

Roy Halladay $20

Roy Oswalt $16

Chase Utley $15

Raul Ibanez $11.5

Brad Lidge $11.5

Cole Hamels $9.5

Joe Blanton $8.5

Jimmy Rollins $8.5

Shane Victorino $7.5

Placido Polanco $5.25

Ryan Madson $4.5

Danys Baez $2.75

Carlos Ruiz $2.75

Ross Gload $1.6

Brian Schneider $1.5

Total $146.35


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/magelb

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