- Crashburn Alley - http://crashburnalley.com -

A Wrench in the Phillies’ Future Plans

Posted By Bill Baer On July 23, 2013 @ 7:15 am In MLB,Philadelphia Phillies,Sabermetrics | 128 Comments

Much of the talk lately has focused on present decisions to be made by the Phillies as it pertains to the July 31 trade deadline. Debates over trading or re-signing Chase Utley, trading away Michael Young and giving a regular role to Kevin Frandsen and even Cody Asche, dumping Delmon Young, and even trading away Cliff Lee have taken up just about all of the energy from writers and pundits. And it is completely merited — one wrong decision over the next eight days can severely handicap the Phillies in the years going forward.

Those in favor of a buy-now strategy tend to mitigate future risk by citing the Phillies’ upcoming TV deal, which could potentially be worth billions of dollars. As Jeff Passan pointed out in a column posted on April 28, there may be a bidding war between Comcast and FOX Sports, and the last time there was a bidding war over a TV deal, the Dodgers got $7 billion. Even without knowing what a likely average annual value would be, the Phillies’ payroll could eventually be as limitless as that of the New York Yankees. So, the Phillies don’t have a great Minor League system? Their core is aging and won’t be around when that TV deal is signed? The influx of money will allow the Phillies to literally buy their way out of their problems. Or so you’d think.

In recent years, a trend has emerged among most teams where they lock up their superstar players before they have the opportunity to enter free agency. I wrote about this at HardballTalk in late March, calling contract extensions “the new market inefficiency”. Here’s a look at contract extensions of at least three years signed since the end of the 2011 season (contract info via Cot’s Contracts):

Date Pitcher Age Pos Team Yrs Amount Arb Status End
12/9/11 Matt Moore 23 LHSP Rays 5 $ 14.0 M Pre-Arb 28
12/23/11 John Danks 27 LHSP White Sox 5 $ 65.0 M Arb-3 32
1/9/12 Howie Kendrick 28 2B Angels 4 $ 33.5 M Arb-3 32
1/16/12 Gio Gonzalez 26 LHSP Nationals 5 $ 42.0 M Arb-1 31
1/17/12 Pablo Sandoval 25 3B Giants 3 $ 17.2 M Arb-1 28
1/24/12 Brandon Morrow 27 RHSP Blue Jays 3 $ 21.0 M Arb-2 30
2/26/12 Ryan Zimmerman 27 3B Nationals 6 $ 100.0 M 33
2/27/12 Salvador Perez 22 C Royals 5 $ 7.0 M Pre-Arb 27
3/1/12 Yadier Molina 29 C Cardinals 5 $ 75.0 M 34
3/3/12 Cameron Maybin 26 OF Padres 5 $ 25.0 M Pre-Arb 31
3/6/12 Andrew McCutchen 25 OF Pirates 6 $ 51.5 M Arb-1 31
3/8/12 Glen Perkins 29 LHRP Twins 3 $ 10.3 M Arb-3 32
3/15/12 Alcides Escobar 25 SS Royals 4 $ 10.5 M Pre-Arb 29
3/20/12 Nick Hundley 28 C Padres 3 $ 9.0 M Arb-1 31
3/26/12 Dustin McGowan 30 RHRP Blue Jays 3 $ 4.1 M Arb-3 33
3/26/12 Jonathan Lucroy 26 C Brewers 5 $ 11.0 M Pre-Arb 31
3/30/12 Cory Luebke 26 LHSP Padres 4 $ 12.0 M Pre-Arb 30
3/30/12 Derek Holland 25 LHSP Rangers 5 $ 28.5 M Pre-Arb 30
3/30/12 Alex Gordon 28 OF Royals 4 $ 37.5 M Arb-3 32
4/2/12 Matt Cain 27 RHSP Giants 6 $ 127.5 M 33
4/3/12 Joey Votto 28 1B Reds 10 $ 225.0 M 38
4/4/12 Jonathon Niese 25 LHSP Mets 5 $ 25.5 M Pre-Arb 30
4/10/12 Carlos Santana 26 C Indians 5 $ 21.0 M Pre-Arb 31
4/10/12 Ian Kinsler 30 2B Rangers 5 $ 75.0 M 35
4/10/12 Brandon Phillips 31 2B Reds 6 $ 72.5 M 37
4/17/12 Madison Bumgarner 22 LHSP Giants 5 $ 35.0 M Pre-Arb 27
4/19/12 Erick Aybar 28 SS Angels 4 $ 35.0 M Arb-3 32
5/26/12 Miguel Montero 28 C D-Backs 5 $ 60.0 M 33
5/26/12 Adam Jones 26 OF Orioles 6 $ 85.5 M Arb-3 32
6/12/12 Andre Ethier 30 OF Dodgers 5 $ 85.0 M 35
7/12/12 Edwin Encarnacion 29 3B/1B Blue Jays 3 $ 29.0 M 32
7/22/12 Carlos Quentin 29 OF Padres 3 $ 27.0 M 32
7/25/12 Cole Hamels 28 LHSP Phillies 6 $ 144.0 M 34
8/28/12 Starlin Castro 22 SS Cubs 7 $ 60.0 M Arb-1 29
10/30/12 Brandon League 30 RHRP Dodgers 3 $ 22.5 M 33
11/26/12 Evan Longoria 27 3B Rays 6 $ 100.0 M 33
12/5/12 David Wright 30 3B Mets 8 $ 138.0 M 38
12/17/12 Santiago Casilla 32 RHSP Giants 3 $ 15.0 M Pre-Arb 35
1/16/13 Matt Harrison 27 LHSP Rangers 5 $ 55.0 M Arb-2 32
1/31/13 Martin Prado 29 3B D-Backs 4 $ 40.0 M Arb-3 33
2/7/13 Aaron Hill 31 2B D-Backs 3 $ 35.0 M 34
2/13/13 Felix Hernandez 27 RHSP Mariners 7 $ 175.0 M 34
3/7/13 Chris Sale 24 LHSP White Sox 5 $ 32.5 M Pre-Arb 29
3/8/13 Allen Craig 28 1B Cardinals 5 $ 31.0 M Pre-Arb 33
3/13/13 Carlos Gomez 27 OF Brewers 3 $ 24.0 M Arb-4 30
3/27/13 Adam Wainwright 31 RHSP Cardinals 5 $ 97.5 M 36
3/29/13 Paul Goldschmidt 25 1B D-Backs 5 $ 32.0 M Pre-Arb 30
3/29/13 Buster Posey 26 C Giants 9 $ 167.0 M Arb-1 35
3/29/13 Justin Verlander 30 RHSP Tigers 7 $ 180.0 M 37
4/4/13 Elvis Andrus 24 SS Rangers 8 $ 120.0 M Arb-2 32
5/12/13 Anthony Rizzo 23 1B Cubs 7 $ 41.0 M Pre-Arb 30

Of the 51 players to have signed extensions since the end of the 2011 season, only seven may become free agents before the age of 30 when their contracts expire, assuming their teams choose not to pick up their options if they are available. Of those seven, only Pablo Sandoval and Alcides Escobar signed deals of four years or fewer, at three and four years respectively. And remember, this doesn’t even count Major League deals signed by draftees (Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper) and international free agents (Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes).

What this means is that the free agent market will have fewer and fewer top-tier players. Those that do reach the market fall into one or more of several categories: old, injury-prone, declining production, and expensive. Where free agency was once the first place teams looked to find talent, it has now become a secondary market for players that didn’t stick with a team for whatever reason. Thus, the TV deal the Phillies will get soon isn’t as big of a windfall as it seems.

This is where neglecting your Minor League system really hurts. The Phillies will have all of that TV money and no one within the system to give it to — they aren’t very active in attracting international talent, and few of their top prospects are expected to stick at the Major League level by the time the deal would be signed, so the only place that TV money can go to is to free agents. This means the Phillies would either follow the Angels’ method of overpaying for the best players, or following a mid-market plan of signing cheap, undervalued veterans in the hope to strike lightning in a bottle.

Replenishing the Minor League system with near-Major-League-ready talent (for example, Mike Olt, acquired by the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade) would not only help the Phillies from the standpoint of future production, but gives them a good chance at locking down a key player in his prime years.

Tonight, the 49-50 Phillies begin a three-game set in St. Louis against arguably baseball’s best team, and then head to Detroit to play the defending American League champion Tigers. These are the only two series left which the Phillies can use to decide their status as buyer or seller. In a perfect world, they would have already decided to sell weeks ago, but perhaps the next week will give them the impetus they need to set themselves up well for the future by selling off soon-to-be free agents such as Michael Young, Carlos Ruiz, and Delmon Young. And, for the right price, they should also be open to trading Chase Utley, Jonathan PapelbonJimmy Rollins, and Cliff Lee.


Article printed from Crashburn Alley: http://crashburnalley.com

URL to article: http://crashburnalley.com/2013/07/23/a-wrench-in-the-phillies-future-plans/

Copyright © 2009 crashburnalley.com. All rights reserved.