Inside the Phillies: Signing of free agents costs Phillies in the draft

To sign Jonathan Papelbon , the Phillies had to fork over a first-round pick as well as $50 million. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff
To sign Jonathan Papelbon , the Phillies had to fork over a first-round pick as well as $50 million. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff
Posted: June 04, 2012

It's Marti Wolever's turn to bat this week, and it seems as if the Phillies' assistant general manager in charge of scouting is always stepping to the plate with a two-strike count.

The fact that the Phillies have the second-highest payroll in baseball does not help Wolever's draft team. It is, in fact, a hindrance whenever the Phillies sign a top-notch free agent, as they did again this offseason in closer Jonathan Papelbon.

In addition to the $50 million it cost the Phillies to sign Papelbon for four seasons, they also forfeited their first-round pick in the 2012 draft that begins Monday and continues through Wednesday.

Wolever understands that the Phillies are often at a disadvantage at draft time, but that's not what he dwells upon.

"Honestly, I guess it is a fact," he said. "We've discussed it several times that, since 2000, we're probably in the bottom five or the bottom three in terms of having picks in the first five rounds," Wolever said. "It's something we've dealt with. We don't like it, but we move on and we do the best we can."

The Phillies have had 60 picks in the top five rounds and 29 picks in the top 100 overall since 2000. The latter figure ranks last in the National League East and the former is tied with the New York Mets in the division for the fewest picks in the first five rounds. In that same span, the Atlanta Braves have had 81 picks in the first five rounds and 50 in the top 100.

It's a tough way to do business over the long haul, and it appears to finally be catching up to the Phillies.

Look at the Phillies' drafts from 2000 through 2004 and it's easy to see why they rose to the top of the division and stayed there for a half-decade. Nobody in the division during that span drafted three players as valuable as Chase Utley (15th overall in 2000), Ryan Howard (140th overall in 2001), and Cole Hamels (17th overall in 2002).

Add in the fact that they used picks such as Michael Bourn, Lou Marson, and J.A. Happ from those drafts to acquire Brad Lidge, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt and it's easy to see why the Phillies were able to sustain their success.

Eventually, years and years of lower draft picks are going to catch up to a franchise, especially if there is a team in your division consistently drafting in the top 10. That team, of course, is the Washington Nationals, who have had a top-10 pick nine times since 2000, including the number-one picks in 2009 and 2010 when Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper were the obvious choices.

Examine the drafts of the Mets, Braves, and Miami Marlins over the last dozen years and the Phillies have fared quite well given their limitations.

If you start studying the draft since 2005, however, and factor in many of the players the Phillies have traded in recent years, there is reason for concern about the franchise's future.

Utley, Howard, and Hamels are all-star players, as are Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, but three of the five are on the disabled list. Look down at the farm system and it's difficult to find players you can be sure will perform at the caliber of the guys above.

If Jonathan Singleton, Travis d'Arnaud, and Anthony Gose were still in the system, there would be a lot more reasons to feel good about the future, but they were part of the price paid for Hunter Pence, Halladay, and Oswalt. The Phillies do not have a single position player in their system right now who projects as well as any of those three.

Domonic Brown did at one time, but not anymore.

The fact that Wolever drafted those three guys all after the first round is reason for optimism. For the first time since 2008, the Phillies have four picks among the top 100.

"I think any time you can accumulate that number of draft picks high, it's an opportunity to replenish your minor-league system and we look forward to it," Wolever said.

In 2008, the Phillies took Anthony Hewitt (24th overall), Zach Collier (34th), Gose (51st), and Jason Knapp (71st). Hewitt and Collier are both at single-A Clearwater and have been disappointments. They are now long shots at best to even reach the big leagues. Knapp was traded to Cleveland in the 2009 Lee deal and has not pitched since 2010 because of shoulder problems.

The 2008 draft could still end up being a success, however, because with the four picks after Knapp the Phillies selected Vance Worley, Jonathan Pettibone, and Trevor May.

The Phillies will make the 40th and 54th overall selections Monday and pick 77th and 95th the following day. The draft will last 40 rounds through Wednesday. Wolever said he views each one as an opportunity to land a big-league player, pointing to the 30th-round selection of Jake Diekman in 2007 as proof that all the picks have importance.

There's no denying that this draft is of the utmost importance for an aging team with a crowded disabled list.

Inside the Phillies:

Phillies' Picks in Top 100 Since 2000

      Overall      Games   All-Star   

Player   Year   Pick   Pos.   in Majors   Games   

 Chase Utley   2000   15   2B   1,109   5   

Keith Bucktrot   2000   85   RHP   0   0   

Gavin Floyd   2001   4   RHP   175   0   

Cole Hamels   2002   17   LHP   191   2   

Zack Segovia   2002   58   RHP   9   0   

Kiel Fisher   2002   89   3B   0   0   

Tim Moss   2003   85   2B   0   0   

Greg Golson   2004   21   OF   40   0   

Jason Jaramillo   2004   62   C   119   0   

J.A. Happ   2004   92   LHP   98   0   

Mike Costanzo   2005   65   3B   14   0   

Matt Maloney   2005   97   LHP   31   0   

Kyle Drabek   2006   18   RHP   31   0   

Adrian Cardenas   2006   37   SS   15   0   

Andrew Carpenter   2006   65   RHP   17   0   

Jason Donald   2006   97   IF   143   0   

Joe Savery   2007   19   LHP   15   0   

Travis d'Arnaud   2007   37   C   0   0   

Travis Mattair   2007   83   SS   0   0   

Anthony Hewitt   2008   24   SS   0   0   

Zach Collier   2008   34   OF   0   0   

Anthony Gose   2008   51   OF   0   0   

Jason Knapp   2008   71   RHP   0   0   

Kelly Dugan   2009   75   OF   0   0   

Jesse Biddle   2010   27   LHP   0   0   

Perci Garner   2010   77   RHP   0   0   

Larry Greene   2011   39   LF   0   0   

Roman Quinn   2011   66   SS   0   0   

Harold Martinez   2011   90   3B   0   0   

Contact Bob Brookover at or follow on Twitter @brookob.

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