Imagining a Different Free Agent Market

The Inquirer’s Bob Brookover imagines what the winter meetings might have looked like if the Phillies hadn’t signed Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125 million contract early in the 2010 season. He contends that Howard would be in line with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, seeking a deal approaching ten years. I contend that that assertion is pure fantasy, for many reasons.

One, Howard has been and clearly is an inferior player compared to the other two. Observe the following WAR graph, courtesy FanGraphs (click to enlarge):

Pujols is far and away the best of the three. Fielder and Howard are comparable, but Howard is four years older and has been declining rapidly. To think that any team would offer Howard a ten-year contract, especially after the last two seasons he’s had and completely ignoring his injury, is madness. It’s not just Brookover’s opinion; he quotes GM Ruben Amaro saying as much:

“There would be three of those guys out there looking for 10 years,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday as the winter meetings neared a conclusion.

Even more lunacy:

Amaro said he’s perfectly happy to have Howard for a five-year deal because he believes he may have had to pay him over 10 years if he had hit the free-agent market.

“I don’t want to pay him for 10 years,” the general manager said. “I don’t think any of those three guys would be wanting less than the other.”

Let’s not forget that the Phillies could have decided to go with Jonathan Singleton, traded for another first baseman, or signed a lesser free agent. The Phillies’ options weren’t limited to Howard, Pujols, Fielder, and (at the time) Adrian Gonzalez.

More from Brookover:

But what’s done is done, and the Phillies have to live with what they paid Howard. It’s not as if they are stuck with a bad player. Howard ranked sixth in baseball and third in the National League in RBIs last season with 116, and that’s because he hit .298 with runners in scoring position.

The Phillies are stuck with a corner infielder who will miss at least a good portion of the first year of his enormous contract. Between 2010-11, 15 qualified first basemen posted a better WAR than Howard (3.0 total). Nine of them posted a better wOBA than Howard (.360), including Pujols (.403) and Fielder (.394). All qualified first basemen were better defensively over the two-year time period, according to UZR, which put Howard at -17.4, 3.5 plays worse than the second-worst defender Paul Konerko. Even acknowledging the huge margin of error that comes with UZR, even in a two-year time period, Howard’s defense has ranged from slightly below-average to atrocious, especially when you account for his inability to throw to second base.

Additionally, as mentioned before, Howard’s batting average with runners in scoring position is artificially inflated because defenders do not shift to the right side of the infield when there are runners on base. Of course, runs batted in is a hilarious metric to use as it is very much team- and batting order-dependent.

You can complain that Howard strikes out too much and doesn’t walk enough. You can complain that he struggles against lefthanded pitching and chases too many breaking balls out of the strike zone. These are legitimate gripes. It’s also a justifiable concern that Howard might not be back until at least the beginning of May.

That does not change the fact that he is the biggest power threat the Phillies have and he has put together some of the most incredible seasons in franchise history, including a franchise-record 58 home runs in 2006 and 48 home runs the year the Phillies won the World Series.

List of players with a higher isolated power (ISO, which is slugging percentage minus batting average) than Howard during the 2011 season:

Whether Howard portends to be a power threat moving forward remains to be seen, but it’s highly questionable given a foot injury that could sap his power. Such an injury is the risk you take when you try to preempt the market by signing a one-dimensional player at a non-premium position to a large, multi-year contract that takes him past his mid-30′s.

The clock starts ticking on Howard’s five-year, $125 million deal in 2012, and there is a large population that believes the Phillies overpaid for their slugger. Maybe they could have had Fielder if they had waited. It’s doubtful that Pujols would have left St. Louis unless the Phillies were willing to pay an absurd amount of money.

There are a lot of consolation prizes worse than Ryan Howard.

Howard isn’t a consolation prize. A consolation prize is given when you compete with everybody else at the same time and don’t emerge victorious. In other words, if the Phillies had attempted to sign Pujols or Fielder, failed, and wound up with, say, Derrek Lee, that would be a consolation prize. Instead, what the Phillies did was show up to the carnival before people had begun to file in, looked at some of the available prizes at the ring toss, decided that a few of them would require too many tickets, then played ring toss until they won the Limp Bizkit poster from 2000. Hours later, many people walked away from the stand with key chains and other throwaway items, while a select few others paid as much — maybe a few dollars more — to play ring toss but earned an autographed Les Paul guitar.

It’s hard to make the guy with the Limp Bizkit poster look like a prophet, but that’s what Brookover is attempting to do with this column. The deification of Howard has, for the most part, stopped entirely, which makes it surprising that Brookover took such a disingenuous look into an alternate reality. There is simply no honest way to spin it so that the Howard contract looks good. There wasn’t a way when it happened in 2010, and there certainly isn’t a way now as we approach 2012.

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133 comments

  1. Tony

    December 09, 2011 03:29 PM

    LTG,

    The major reason for losing the NLDS is that Lee blew a 4-run lead in game 2, and Oswalt gave up 5 runs in game 4. Oh, and let’s not forget that Halladay gave up 3 runs in the 1st inning of game 1, only to be rescued by Howard & Co.

    What about Ruiz, Polanco and Ibanez? What do their lines look like in the NLDS? If you are going to trash Howard, at least look at the other players who failed miserably in October, too.

  2. hk

    December 09, 2011 03:40 PM

    Tony,

    Polanco, Ibanez and Ruiz sucked in the playoffs. So did Pence. Fortunately, RAJ hasn’t signed any of them to a $125M contract extension…yet.

  3. Phillie697

    December 09, 2011 03:50 PM

    @hk,

    I will rephrase hk’s point more succinctly for all to understand…

    If you’re being paid $25M a year, you BETTER freaking perform like you deserve $25M a year, and should be ashamed when you’re being compared to players making significantly less than $25M a year. This is not kindergarten; there is no credit for effort.

  4. Tony

    December 09, 2011 03:52 PM

    HK, Phillies697,

    Remember the chronological order of events before you fault my logic.
    First, Howard signed the extension in April 2010. Then, the Phillies signed Lee in December 2010. Now the Phillies are talking about extending Hamels. My point is the Phillies could only do that once they achieved “cost certainty” with Howard. With benefit of hindsight, you can argue that Pujols and Fielder would provide better productivity per dollar, but no one knew in April 2010 what Pujols or Fielder would get in late 2011. RAJ insured reasonable production at 1B with this deal, while keeping budget flexibility for Lee and maybe Rollins and Hamels. That’s prudent fiscal management.

    While you may disagree, I feel better with a 5-yr deal to Howard than a 10-yr deal to Pujols. Shorter-deals with higher AAV allow teams to recover from mistakes faster. Just ask the Yankees about A-Rod.

  5. Phillie697

    December 09, 2011 03:57 PM

    @Dave Gauntt,

    No one is ripping Howard. We are ripping his contract. If you want me to review this entire thing from Howard’s point of view, it would be summed up to one sentence: “Yo, I got them to pay me $125M! Be jealous!!!” To which I would respond, “I am very, very jealous.”

    Howard > RAJ when it comes to the business of baseball. But when it comes to PLAYING the game of baseball? I’d rather have someone else on my team.

  6. Phillie697

    December 09, 2011 04:02 PM

    @Tony,

    I can achieve cost certainty by paying $100k for a 2014 Ford Taurus today, but that doesn’t make it smart nor prudent. And there is absolutely no way you can convince me giving someone $125M a year and half too early CREATES budget flexibility. That logic ASSUMES the only acceptable outcome is to re-sign Howard, which I think majority of the Phillies fanbase would disagree at this point. Plus, no one said we have to sign Fielder or Pujols in lieu of Howard either, as I pointed out earlier.

  7. LTG

    December 09, 2011 08:38 PM

    Hmmm… pretty sure I didn’t trash Howard. In fact I love Howard and would love to give him a big hug (which is why I have a restraining order). I only pointed out that at least one of your reasons for accepting the Howard contract is hard to ground as a reason and isn’t backed up by even traditional statistics.

    To wit, just as you might claim that Lee blew game 2 and that’s why we lost, I could equally hold that if Howard had gotten on base even once in games 4 and 5, we would have won the series.

    What is a “major reason” anyway? As I understand that series, it was extremely close and the biggest difference between the teams was BABIP, which, of course, is not entirely skill related. Is luck then the major reason since it is the difference maker or is that something of a truism and so not a major reason? I have no idea. Is a major reason a sufficient condition for losing the series? Well, that would be pretty vague in this context. It could include anything from blowing some saves to making the final out of the last game. Maybe you can clarify how your argument is supposed to work.

    At any rate, if the Phils want to reduce the effect of luck in the playoffs the only place they have to improve is hitting, and Howard’s contract is a rather large impediment to making those improvements for all the reasons already stated. Saying that is not trashing Howard, its trashing RAJ.

  8. jc

    December 10, 2011 09:51 PM

    I read most of the comments posted here and I must say there are a lot of intelligent discussions going on but the bottom line is whats done is done. Whether are not Howard deserves the contract at this point doesn’t really matter. Ruben did it and thats that. The big issue is and always will be whether you win or lose. This team has won. As all of you know it is extremely difficult to win championships year after year especially in this era of free agency. As a long time phillies fan I am thrilled (after all those dreadful teams) to be able to be excited about the phillies every year. Yes, mistakes are made but in the long run I believe the organization will continue to do what they have to put a legitimate contender out there for many seasons. Even with the Howard deal being out of line, Amaro has done plenty of good things to help this team compete and I’m sure he’s not finished yet!!!

  9. hk

    December 11, 2011 10:07 AM

    jc,

    While I (as another long-time Phillies fan) am also thrilled by this current run, I don’t share your optimism that Amaro will do the right things to allow this run to continue for much longer. Yes, the Phils have continued to be one of the best, if not the best, team in MLB during his 3 year tenure as GM. However, when you consider how well positioned Gillick left the team, don’t you think that just about any GM worth his salt would have been able to keep them among the game’s elite teams? Remember, Amaro took over a World Champion with one of the best farm systems in baseball, a $98M payroll and some great young-ish players signed to team friendly contracts and/or under team control via the arbitration system. In his three years, Amaro has (1) overseen a 70% increase in the payroll while the rest of MLB averaged a 2.7% increase, (2) traded away three former top MLB prospects (Carrasco, Drabek and Taylor) all of whom have struggled early in their careers, but are young enough to turn things around and (3) traded away four players (D’Arnaud, Gose, Cosart and Singleton) who are currently among the top 50 prospects in baseball. Now that he has traded most of the system’s gems and it would seem that he’ll be unable to continue to outspend the rest of MLB like he has done over the last 3 years, I fear that the Howard and Papelbon over-pays are going to shrink the window that this team has to bring home another title to maybe two more years.

    Here’s hoping that RAJ proves you right and me wrong.

  10. Voyager

    December 11, 2011 03:31 PM

    LTG,

    My original point is that Howard’s 5-yr, 125 million contract was (is) reasonable. Howard signed it in April 2010, before we knew how he would perform in two injury-riddled seasons in 2010 and 2011. Nevertheless, the arguments many (including you) are making about his contract are compelling , I admit, but this is all done with the benefit of hindsight, which really doesn’t add much to any discussion.

    I don’t agree with all moves RAJ has made either, but he has led the Phillies to 3 straight post-seasons with his moves, which include Halladay, Lee, Pence, etc. Why would trash RAJ?

    Incidentally, if you believe the major reason we lost the NLDS is “luck”, then isn’t the antidote better pitching, instead of better hitting?

  11. Bill Baer

    December 11, 2011 04:26 PM

    @ Voyager

    Reasonable? The contract pays Howard as if he’s a top-five player in all of baseball when he is barely top-ten just at his own position.

    There is no hindsight here; I and others have been making the same arguments since it was signed.

    crashburnalley.com/2010/04/26/howard-gets-extension-through-2016/

    Additionally, Amaro’s moves haven’t directly led to the Phillies’ playoff appearances; he inherited a core built in part by Ed Wade and Pat Gillick. Sure, the new players have helped, but I think the Phillies still make the playoffs without Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Pence, etc. They were additions meant to give the Phillies extra percentage points in the playoffs, rather than increasing their probability of simply appearing.

  12. LTG

    December 11, 2011 07:34 PM

    Ok, so “trashing” is probably too strong. My main point was simply that it is unreasonable to interpret me as trashing Howard but reasonable to interpret me as trashing RAJ, even if in the last analysis trashing is not the position I would take. I will say that I sometimes lie in bed and wonder whether hiring RAJ was worth losing Mike Arbuckle, who had played a significant role in building the talent base that gave rise to this golden age.

    On luck. Pitchers are generally effected by luck equally, no matter what their talent level. So, the only way to combat bad luck runs is to score more runs, which requires hitters not pitchers. (This isn’t the most detailed analysis and I can anticipate objections, such as reducing opponent BABIP by improving the defense. But again, Howard is the primary place where we could improve… now that Ibanez is not in the outfield. And still, bad luck runs might happen, so we would want to score more runs. Or just have better luck. Whither the apothecary?!)

  13. Phillie697

    December 11, 2011 08:56 PM

    I’m with BB. I’ve been trashing that Howard extension since Day One. And guess what, the reasons for trashing that extension are now coming to roost, and all the people who defended it then can only come back with “now we have the benefit of hindsight”??? Really? No, YOU have the benefit of hindsight. Some of us knew this back in April of 2010. Just because you couldn’t see it, don’t come back and argue that this is hindsight. In fact, saying that is rather personally insulting to me. How about just a “yeah I was wrong, you were right?”

  14. jauer

    December 11, 2011 11:22 PM

    “I read most of the comments posted here and I must say there are a lot of intelligent discussions going on but the bottom line is whats done is done.”

    Perhaps if the Phillies had shown any understanding of sunk costs (David Bell, Brad Lidge, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard, Jim Thome, Adam Eaton), then maybe we could do the same.

  15. LTG

    December 11, 2011 11:32 PM

    I also meant to point out that I’m not committed to the claim that luck is the major reason the Phils lost. I would have to know what a major reason is before I committed myself to that.

  16. voyager

    December 12, 2011 12:27 PM

    Phillie697,

    I didn’t mean to insult anyone when I referred to hindsight. I said the case about Howard’s being overpaid is “compelling”, and that his contract is not a “steal”. Read my comments more carefully before popping a fuse. I just don’t buy the argument it is a gigantic mistake, and that Howard’s $25M/yr will preclude the Phillies from remaining competitive.

  17. voyager

    December 12, 2011 12:51 PM

    Bill,

    Howard is top on AAV only. When you look at the total ($125M), he’s not even top 15. Even Jayson Werth got a bigger contract ($126M) than Howard. Length of contract matters.

    I’m surprised you believe the Phillies make the playoffs in 2009-2011 without Halladay, Lee, Pence, etc. If you take replacement-level players instead (ie, Kendrick, Francisco), how many wins do you have to subtract in 2009-2011? Also, how many more wins would other contenders (Braves, Reds, Giants, etc) get in head-to-head matchups?

    You are right that RAJ just added to the foundation built by Wade and Gillick, but that doesn’t make his moves as insignificant as you imply.

  18. Phillie697

    December 13, 2011 01:42 AM

    “but this is all done with the benefit of hindsight, which really doesn’t add much to any discussion.”

    I don’t know, sure sounds a lot like you were accusing BB of looking at this with hindsight, and not acknowledging that he was right all along.

    And yes, there IS a reason for having this discussion. The reason why RAJ made that contract is because of fans like you who thought it was a great idea. If he had known that the fanbase was NOT behind it, he wouldn’t have done it. The point of all this is to show the average fanbase that, hey guess what, how about have an informed opinion for once so that our idiot GM will think twice before doing something stupid next time?

  19. hk

    December 13, 2011 11:29 AM

    “You are right that RAJ just added to the foundation built by Wade and Gillick, but that doesn’t make his moves as insignificant as you imply.”

    You make this comment as if his moves were made in a vacuum and/or that you don’t believe that another GM might have made comparable or better ones. Of course, we’ll never know how many championships this group may have won over the last 3 years if Gillick had stayed on, if Arbuckle had been hired or if they had gone outside of the organization to hire Gillick’s replacement, but to just look at RAJ’s moves without recognizing some of the points that have been made in this thread is very short-sighted. To reiterate, RAJ has (1) overseen a 70% increase in the payroll while the rest of MLB averaged a 2.7% increase, (2) traded away three former top MLB prospects (Carrasco, Drabek and Taylor) all of whom have struggled early in their careers, but are young enough to turn things around and (3) traded away four players (D’Arnaud, Gose, Cosart and Singleton) who are currently among the top 50 prospects in baseball.

  20. voyager

    December 13, 2011 11:41 AM

    Phillie697,

    I’ll admit the case BB made about Howard is compelling (as I said previously), but how can anyone say this is a bad contract extension when it hasn’t even started yet? Let’s see how 2012 (and maybe 2013) unfolds before passing judgment. I don’t think anyone can be right or wrong until then.

    Idiot GM? As I said to BB, his moves led the Phillies to 3 consecutive post-seasons after the 2008 World Series title. CBP has something like 200 consecutive sell-outs, and the Phillies led MLB in attendance in 2011. He must be doing something right, or the fans wouldn’t show up.

  21. Phillie697

    December 13, 2011 02:58 PM

    Fans show up because we win. Do NOT delude yourself into thinking it’s any other reason. There is only ever one reason why people show up. Sometimes even that isn’t enough (i.e. Tampa Bay), but at the very least you need that. If it wasn’t that, we wouldn’t have so many empty seats at the Vet in the late 90s. I still remember how depressing it was.

    Now, you can debate whether RAJ was responsible for that, in part or in whole. We can argue that all day and not come to an agreement. However, I want this team to continue winning, not say, “oh we had a good run,” and I don’t believe the moves RAJ has made will achieve that. You want to award RAJ for past performance, give him a damn award or a fat bonus check. Don’t award him by allowing him to make moves that don’t seem all that logical and say to yourself, “he must be doing something right.” The thing about doing the right thing is that it doesn’t need to be defended; the truth can defend itself without any excuses. The minute you stop critically evaluate anyone’s performance is the minute you’ve doomed its existence.

    Really, you need to see 2012 and 2013 to pass judgment? Besides, that contract was bad on SO many levels, and I’m in the mood to explain. Back in April 2010, what was the question about Pujols? Would he get $30M a year? So let say that was the fear what the best 1B on the market would get, you gotta figure RAJ, as delusional as he might get, probably didn’t think Ryan Howard was Albert Pujols. Let say it’s close, so what, Ryan would be worth $28M AAV? Except… that’s only $3M a year more than what we gave him. Now $3M is $3M, but that’s basically the risk we were hedging by giving Ryan the extension A YEAR AND HALF early. That extension was premised on TWO unlikely things: 1) that Pujols’s market value really would be $30M AAV by fall of 2011, which was unlikely because first, $30M is insane, and second, Pujols would have to not decline from his 8 WAR/year production; and 2) Ryan Howard would have to perform better over the lifetime of the extension over ANY of the preceding three seasons before the extension; does that sound likely to you? Had either of those two things happened, Howard’s extension would be proven ridiculous. Instead, as logic would have it, BOTH things happened; the market realized $30M a year is stupid, and Howard unsurprisingly declined. And RAJ took on the HUGE risk that those two things wouldn’t happen, for what? A measly $3M a year difference? Really? And to you that extension was good? On what planet? Had he just waited until fall of 2011, even if he is dead set on re-signing a 1.6-WAR 1B, we would be signing him up to something closer to $15-20M rather than $25M.

    It was just a stupid stupid extension, all to hedge not that much risk. We’re already feeling the pinch of that extension now, on year ONE. Wait a couple of years and see how much you will really hate it. All I have to say is, a team that is willing to spend $178M a year should NOT be discussing whether it would have enough money to re-sign someone like Hamels. Are you fing kidding me? This wasn’t just about Howard’s numbers. This was about a man who didn’t think before handing out $125M.

  22. voyager

    December 14, 2011 12:09 AM

    HK,

    My take: (1) so what if RAJ oversaw a 70% payroll increase?! The team kept on winning, and the fans show up. RAJ is doing his job, then, right? (2) and (3) let’s not play up the potential of any of the players traded away by RAJ until they perform at the major-league level. Until then, they are just prospects, period. Not meaningful point at all. If and when some (say 2 or 3 of them) became big MLB stars, then I will reconsider.

    To hear you say it, it was a mistake to trade for Halladay, Lee, Pence, etc. It seems you believe (like BB) that the Phillies would still make it to the postseason in 2009-2011 without any of them.
    Therefore, let me re-pose the question I asked BB: How many wins would you subtract from the 2009-2011 Phillies without these guys (ie, assume replacement-level players like Kendrick and Francisco instead)? Also, how many fewer wins in head-to-head matchups with other contenders (Braves, Giants, Reds, etc)? Also, assume Howard, Utley, Rollins, Lidge, etc all decline somewhat from their 2008 performance levels. The 2008 team finished 92-70 in the regular season. Could the 2009-2011 team without the RAJ players finish with 90+ wins (a reasonable threshold for a playoff team)? Do NOT delude yourself into thinking Kendrick, Moyer, Happ, Feliz, Burrell, Jenkins, etc would carry the Phillies into the postseason 5 years in a row. We need Halladay, Lee, Pence, Howard, etc, period.

    Phillie697, you are absolutely right about fans show up because we win. I also remember the dreadful and empty Vet seats not long ago, but you missed the more important point. The Phillies win because they have good players (many of them signed by RAJ). From 2007 to 2011, they won 89, 92, 93, 97 and 102 games. See a trend?

    I also want the Phillies to sustain excellence, but I got news for you. It’s impossible to keep it going forever. This Phillies dynasty (yes, that’s what I call it) is a product of both luck (Rollins, Burrell, Howard, Utley, Hamels, Madsen, Ruiz all came up at about the same time without serious injuries) and skill (getting Victorino, Lidge, Werth, etc). The combination of luck and skill is rare. The only other teams in the past 40 years are probably the Reds of the mid-70′s, the Yankees of the late 90′s and MAYBE the 1991-2005 Braves (it’s a MAYBE because they won just one WS in 13 post-season trips). It involves a lot of variables (ie, few injuries, team-friendly contracts, smart trades, excellent minor league system, etc), not all of which are under one’s direct control. None of them were able to sustain excellence for more than a few years. The inevitable decline followed. Perhaps that is why RAJ (and the owners) chose to go for it NOW, instead of playing for a future that may never arrive. We should enjoy it while it lasts. If he wins one (or more) WS, he will be vindicated. 2008 doesn’t count because that was all Wade and Gillick.

    You imply that the Phillies have a problem extending Hamels partly because of the Howard extension. Let’s first find out if RAJ can extend Hamels before you link the two issues, just as I would wait before judging if the Howard contract is as bad as you say.

  23. hk

    December 14, 2011 07:08 AM

    Voyager,

    You misunderstand my view. My view is not the same as BB’s if his view is as you describe it. My view is that any GM worth his salt who inherited what Amaro did (a World champion with a number of stars in their primes, one of the top farm systems in baseball and basically an open checkbook while the rest of the industry was controlling costs) should have been able to lead the Phils to the 2009-11 division titles while also positioning the team better for 2012 and beyond. The key difference between my view and BB’s as you describe it is that I believe other GM’s would have taken advantage of the resources at their disposal in better, more cost effective ways than RAJ and possibly led the team to more post-season success in the past 3 years and had the team better positioned going forward.

    We’ll never know if the Phils under another GM would have won the last 3 division titles, but we also don’t know if they would have won 1, 2 or 3 championships. On that note, since you use championships as the measure to MAYBE discount the Braves 13 year run to the post-season because they only won 1 title, shouldn’t you at least concede that MAYBE RAJ has not been a success since the Phils have actually gotten worse in each of the last three post-seasons, losing in the ’09 Series, the ’10 NLCS and the ’11 NLDS?

  24. hk

    December 14, 2011 09:25 AM

    Voyager,

    One more point and then I’m hopefully done discussing the Howard extension. When you write, “I would wait before judging if the Howard contract is as bad as you say,” you keep your head in the sand and miss the point of this entire article. If not for the Howard extension, the Phillies might have signed Pujols or Fielder, both of whom are currently superior players to Howard, to man 1B. In addition, if not for the extension, RAJ would not have set the bar for 1B’s at $25M per year, so it is possible that both Fielder and Pujols would sign for an AAV of < $25M per year. Finally, before you revisit RAJ's quote about if all three of them were free agents, they would all want 10 year deals, I call BS on that comment although we'll have to see how many years Fielder gets now that Pujols got 10. However, the reason that I call BS is that, by signing Howard to an extension in April 2010 that runs through 2016 with an option for 2017, RAJ committed 7 guaranteed and possibly 8 years to an at the time 30.5 year old 1B. While I would not commit 10 years to any player, I would sooner see my team commit 10 years to a superior 27 year old than 7 or 8 years to an inferior 30.5 year old.

  25. Phillie697

    December 14, 2011 11:24 AM

    @Voyager,

    Even if I’m a millionaire, even if plopping down $100K is no big deal to me, and doesn’t at ALL affect the success of anything in my life, if I pay $100K for an iPad, it’s still a stupid thing to do. Howard’s extension AT BEST wouldn’t affect anything the Phillies do going forward, but it’s still stupid, and it’d be worse if it does end up significantly affecting our ability to compete. I think it will, and many people here think that as well. To quote Forrest Gump, “stupid is as stupid does.”

  26. JB Allen

    December 14, 2011 11:27 AM

    hk –

    I’m pretty sure I agree with you that any half-way competent GM in Amaro’s position (strong everyday player basis, lots of money to spend) should have led to similar results with respect to team win-loss records. But I’m wondering if there are some nuances here that might make work in RAJ’s favor:

    1. Major (by “major” I mean “headline stuff”) pitching: Given that the one glaring weakness of the Phillies’ 2008 roster was their starting pitcher, acquiring SPs wa a no-brainer. That said, RAJ locked up Halladay for what appears to be a bargain, and overall did OK with Lee and Oswalt.

    2. Margin pitching (by “margin” I mean “finding value in nooks and crannies”): I can’t really blame Amaro for Lidge’s contract or his use in 2009. Otherwise, I think Amaro has done OK here, but let me know if I’m forgetting a particularly bad contract for a middle reliever. You (universal you) can’t complain about the Phillies’ back-end starters, or RAJ trading away Happ when his value was probably at its highest.

    3. Major hitting/fielding: Generally, RAJ hasn’t handled this so well. I know Adam Dunn was awful in 2011, but can you imagine if RAJ had signed Dunn in 2009 instead of Ibanez? The Howard extension is a dead horse. Polanco was a quality signing, and I think the Pence trade was OK. The Phillies treatment of Brown has been terrible.

    4. Margin hitting/fielding: Pretty awful. The bench has been way too thin after Francisco. I think it should be much improved this year, but at a high price.

    Overall, it seems like RAJ has done alright with pitching, and his moves have even been pretty efficient, but the hitter side of things has been a mess. Maybe RAJ should hire a special assistant to handle anything bat-related.

  27. Phillie697

    December 14, 2011 12:05 PM

    @JB Allen,

    I generally agree with your assessment of RAJ’s moves, but I think what is lacking in your analysis is exactly what LTG and BB have been talking about: the resources expended to make all these moves, even the good ones, and whether that resource would be better off used for something else. Halladay was a bargain no question; $60M buys 12 WAR, and over the first two years of the contract, Halladay is already at 14.8 WAR, so we’re basically getting 2012 Halladay for free. But is Lee really that great of a deal? $135M buys 27 WAR (the best case scenario, value-wise, for the Phillies is if that sixth year actually vests, because that would mean Lee has pitched effectively), and if Lee pitches as good as he has the last four years, this deal is good, but $135M over six years means we are banking Lee averaging out to a 5 WAR pitcher over his age 33-38 seasons, and that doesn’t sound very likely to me; gambling a player will perform at a high level for 3 years is far less risky than over 6 years. Now add to that Papelbon, which is even less favorable for the Phillies because he’s almost assured to not perform to the value of his contract by the virtue of him pitching only 70 innings a year, brilliantly or not. I don’t know if I would say he’s done “alright” with pitching, save for the grace of Halladay’s desire to win a WS.

  28. hk

    December 14, 2011 01:10 PM

    @ JB Allen,

    Further to Phillie697′s points:

    1. RAJ did give Danys Baez $5.2M for 2 years.

    2. Concerning starting pitching, he gave Jamie Moyer a 2-year deal, the 2nd year of which arguably forced the Cliff Lee trade to Seattle prior to the 2010 season. It is important to remember that Lee’s salary was only ~$9M in 2010.

  29. JB Allen

    December 14, 2011 02:47 PM

    Phillie697 – Yeah, Halladay makes the Phillies look a lot smarter, along with an abundance of young talent that the Phillies either played or used for trades. And the young talent isn’t really RAJ’s doing, although somebody in the Phillies organization gets a tip of the hat for at least playing them. You’re right that most of RAJ’s pitcher signings are or likely will be inefficient.

    hk – I had forgotten that re-signing Moyer was one of Amaro’s first acts as GM. Yeesh.

    OK, I tried. Smuggy’s on his own.

  30. JB Allen

    December 14, 2011 02:54 PM

    Forgot to ask: I recall BP used to calculate $/win for each team. Am I wrong, and does BP or anybody still do that? And has anybody ever discussed whether costs per-win should go up at any point (i.e., that 50 wins at $X may be too much, but that 100 wins at $2X may be a good deal)?

  31. voyager

    December 14, 2011 02:55 PM

    HK,

    Absolutely, the Phillies have not done as well as they should in 2009-2011. Should RAJ take the blame? In part yes, but not 100%.
    On the other hand, should he be credited with 3 NL East titles?

    Don’t delude yourself into thinking that Pujols would have settled for less than 10 years and 200+ million if Howard was a FA. You can read reports on ESPN about Pujols rejecting a 5 yr/130 million offer from the Cardinals last year, and then finally rejecting their final offer of 10 yr/210 million. He wanted (and got) A-Rod money. Fielder is only 27 (or 28?), so he wants a long deal too. We’ll just wait and see what he gets. Regardless, if you want the Phillies to be well-positioned for 2012 and beyond, why would you give a 10-yr contract to anyone?! Do you really believe the Angels will get great production from Pujols in years 6-10 of the contract?

  32. Phillie697

    December 14, 2011 03:12 PM

    @voyager,

    This isn’t about whether what we would pay for Pujols or Prince had we not signed Howard. This is about what we would be paying Howard right now if we hadn’t given him that extension early. You can’t tell me we won’t be able to lock him to a $100M over 5 years right now. Hell, given how bad he has performed, I think we would have signed him to 1) less money than $100M, AND 2) less years. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if he would have re-signed for $50M over 3 years. That’s a saving of $75M and two less years, with the end result for the Phillies EXACTLY the same. All RAJ had to do was be patient. He took a $75M gamble in order to save at most $15M. Not smart.

  33. hk

    December 14, 2011 03:34 PM

    voyager,

    Of course Pujols rejected STL’s $130M over 5 years offer after RAJ set the bar at $125M over 5 years for Howard. Pujols knew he was worth more than $1M per year more than Howard. Had RAJ not extended Howard when he did, Pujols, Fielder and Howard would be measured against a different bar, most likely Adrian Gonzalez’s $154M, 7 year contract. With Gonzalez putting up a triple slash of .338/.410/.548 with a .406 wOBA and generating 6.6 WAR in his age 29 season, is it really delusional to think that all three of the free agent 1B’s would be worse off? I think not.

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