The Rolling Stones have this song, and we can’t remember the words off the top of our heads, but the jist of it is that you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes fate conspires to give you what you need. Umpbump is here to shed some light on what each team is missing, and how they can get what they need, even if it’s not exactly what they want.
The only thing harder than winning a World Series is repeating as World Series champions. But hey, why can’t us?
Recently, Inquirer sports writer Todd Zolecki speculated that the Phillies payroll will surely increase next season, because lots of guys are scheduled to receive arbitration raises:
Players that made $51.225 million last season are scheduled to make $70.25 million next season.
Now consider the 10 players eligible for salary arbitration: Joe Blanton ($3.7 million last season), Eric Bruntlett ($600,000), Clay Condrey ($420,000), Greg Dobbs ($440,000), Chad Durbin ($900,000), Cole Hamels ($500,000), Ryan Howard ($10 million), Ryan Madson ($1.4 million), Shane Victorino ($480,000) and Jayson Werth ($1.7 million).
Those 10 players made $20.14 million last season. They will make much more than that in 2009. How much? It’s tough to say. But let’s say that group makes $30 million next season, which I think is a conservative estimate. That means the Phillies already have spent more than $100 million on salaries after opening last season with a $103 million payroll.
Actually, Zolecki’s estimate is probably very light. I ran his “$30 million” projection by MLB Trade Rumors’ Tim Dierkes, who pointed out that “Hamels/Howard could account for a 10 mil raise alone.” I’ve gotta agree with Tim. Let’s say the Phillies payroll will be $110 million — still a conservative number — and that’s before signing Jamie Moyer or deciding who is going to play left field.
Fortunately, there is some good news:
- Jimmy Rollins is signed to a ridiculously affordable contract through 2011.
- Winning the World Series means increased season ticket sales, increased merchandise sales, and generally more money to spend.
- This is the last season the Phillies will have to pay Jim Thome to play for the White Sox ($3 million) and Adam Eaton to pitch in triple-A.
The Phillies game plan appears set:
- Play Pedro Feliz at third base this season and let him walk after 2009 if Jason Donald performs well at triple-A this season. Donald has been a bit of a surprise, posting a .296 average, .384 OBP and .458 slugging percentage in over 1,000 minor league at bats. Right now he’s a shortstop, but he’s got an above average arm and the Phils will probably try him at third base this season.
- Resign Jamie Moyer.
- Try to sign Ryan Howard to a contract extension (not going to happen).
- Let Pat Burrell test the free agent market and then sign him to a one or two year contract after he discovers that there isn’t much of a market out there for left fielders who can’t field.
- If Burrell doesn’t return, platoon Geoff Jenkins and Greg Dobbs in left field (even though they’re both left-handed hitters).
Personally, I think this is a fine plan. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? A Jenkins/Dobbs platoon would represent an offensive downgrade in left field, but a defensive upgrade. It’s not a wash, but it’s not a huge step back, either.
Still, let me present an alternate course of action, one that would surely raise a few eyebrows, but would put the team on track for a third consecutive playoff appearance:
1. Trade Pedro Feliz to the Rangers for Hank Blalock. The Rangers need a third baseman and are looking for somebody to improve their infield defense. Feliz is one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball and is scheduled to make $5 million in 2009 and has a club option for $5 million in 2010, with a $500K buyout. Blalock, on the other hand, will make $6.2 million in 2009 before becoming a free agent. Blalock would play first base for the Phillies.
2. Trade Ryan Howard to the Giants for Matt Cain. The Giants have shown a willingness to take on big salaries and are desperate to add punch to an offense that was second to last in the NL in runs scored in 2008 and way, way last in home runs. Cain, for his part, would give the Phillies some salary relief (he’s signed through 2010 with an affordable club option for 2011) and a formidable rotation, alongside Brett Myers and Cole Hamels.
3. Sign Jamie Moyer. He won 15 games last season and his ERA improved to 3.71 in 2008, from 5.01 in 2007. Plus, he’s a mentor to the younger pitchers and an all around great guy. When he retires, the Phillies should make him a coach. If he ever retires.
4. Let Pat Burrell walk. This season, Burrell’s power justified his crappy defense. But that won’t be the case for much longer. Burrell might not want to admit it, but his future is as a DH. He needs to sign with an AL club. When he does sign with another club, the Phillies will get two draft picks.
5. Play Greg Dobbs at third. He hit over .300 in 2008 and will serve as a capable stop-gap until Jason Donald is ready for the big time.
6. Sign Juan Rivera to play left field. He won’t require the Phillies to forfeit any draft picks and as a career backup he shouldn’t demand a high salary. Last season, in 256 at bats, Rivera’s OBP was .282. Ewww. But in 2006, in 256 at bats, his OBP was .364. I’m speculating that, given a change of scenery and the chance to play everyday, Rivera will perform. Could be a low cost/high reward move. And if Rivera is a bust, the Phillies still have Geoff Jenkins as a fallback plan.
If the Phillies follow my blueprint, their 2009 roster would actually be more affordable (around $105 million, assuming Rivera makes approximately $6 million) and would look like this:
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF Shane Victorino
RF Jayson Werth
2B Chase Utley
1B Hank Blalock
LF Juan Rivera
3B Greg Dobbs
C Carlos Ruiz
SP Cole Hamels
SP Matt Cain
SP Brett Myers
SP Jamie Moyer
SP Joe Blanton
CL Brad Lidge
Here’s the problem with the new lineup: fewer home runs. Replacing Howard, Burrell and Feliz with Blalock, Rivera and Dobbs means less power. But a full season of Werth should translate into more home runs from the right field position. I’d predict a net loss of about 20-25 homers, though maybe as few as 10 if Blalock and Rivera live up to their potential. Meanwhile, adding Cain to the team makes Philly’s rotation certifiably nasty, and the bullpen remains a strength, anchored by Lidge.
UPDATE: I should note that I realize that this is exactly the kind of pointless speculation that only the most hopeless of baseball nerds indulge in. But it was a slow day at the office.