Thursday, December 25, 2014

Amaro on Free Agency: Lee's option exercised, Myers gone, More

Ruben Amaro Jr. shed some light on the Phillies' offseason strategy today. Before we get into the interesting philosophical stuff, there are a few pieces of news that came out of the news conference:

Amaro on Free Agency: Lee's option exercised, Myers gone, More

The Phillies picked up Cliff Lee´s $9 million option for 2010, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said today.  (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
The Phillies picked up Cliff Lee's $9 million option for 2010, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said today. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

Ruben Amaro Jr. shed some light on the Phillies' offseason strategy today. Before we get into the interesting philosophical stuff, there are a few pieces of news that came out of the news conference:

1) As expected, the Phillies exercised Cliff Lee's $9 million option, officially bringing back the lefthander for next season. Furthermore, Amaro said the Phillies have had some preliminary discussions with Lee's agent about a contract extension that would keep him with the club beyond next season. Amaro emphasized that the discussions were introductary, and that no substantive negotations have taken place. Still, it sounds like the Phillies would like to keep Lee in the fold for the forseeable future.

2) Surgery remains a possibility for Raul Ibanez. Amaro said the veteran left fielder, who played the second half of the season with an injury in his groin/lower ab, was scheduled to undergo an MRI today.

3) Brad Lidge is having his elbow examined out of concern that he might have some loose bodies floating around inside of it, much like lefthander Scott Eyre. Amaro said that Lidge's knee, which caused him to go on the 15-day disabled list, is fine.

More coverage
 
Brett Myers won't be back next season
 
Phillies Zone: Phils exploring alternatives to Feliz
 
Rich Hofmann: Phillies should acquire Roy Halladay
 
Phil Sheridan: Gloom now, but Phils' future still bright
 
High Cheese: Phillies exercise Lee's $9M option, prep for free agency
 
10 questions facing the Phillies
 
Jim Salisbury: As Phillies stars age, workload help needed
 
As Phillies stars age, workload help needed

4) Amaro said later this afternoon that he informed Brett Myers that the Phillies would not be making a contract offer to him, effectively ending his eight-year tenure with the club. Amaro spoke with Myers shortly after his 12 noon press conference at Citizens Bank Park.

Stay tuned for more.

^

In today's paper we took a look at five questions facing the Phillies this offseason, starting with their projected payroll and ending with the rotation. But because there is a finite amount of space in the Daily News, we didn't cover half the stuff we wanted to get to. Fortunately -- or, depending on your point of view, unfortunately -- High Cheese is not subject to space constraints.

So I wanted to flesh out some things that had to be condensed in the paper, most importantly the Phillies' current and future financial situation, and whether they will have the money and desire to go big game hunting in free agency, or whether this will bring back Pedro Feliz and Joe Blanton and focus most of their improvement efforts on the bench and the bullpen.

1) The final 2009 payroll

You'll find different figures for the Phillies' Opening Day payroll depending on your source. Here at the Daily News, we factored in money the club paid to former players Jim Thome, Geoff Jenkins and Adam Eaton to get a total just under $131 million. According to the contract information we have obtained -- major props to veteran baseball scribe Paul Hagen for his copious record-keeping in this department -- the Phillies ended up paying just over $137 million after bonuses to 30 players. Their actual payroll is slightly higher, but we don't have enough information to figure exactly how much money was earned by players like Miguel Cairo, Tyler Walker, Andrew Carpenter, Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo, Steven Register, Rodrigo Lopez.

Here is a look at final money earned by players, including bonuses and the prorated salaries of partial-season players:

Ryan Howard: 15.075 (.075 in bonuses for ASG, LCS MVP)
Brad Lidge: 11.50
Brett Myers: 12.00
Chase Utley: 11.050 (.050 in bonuses for ASG)
Raul Ibanez: 8.550 M (2.0 signing bonus, 0.050 for ASG, maybe 0.050 for AP/TSN or BA AS)
Jimmy Rollins: 7.50
Jamie Moyer: 7.00 (.500 in bonuses)
Joe Blanton: 5.475
Pedro Feliz: 5.500 (.500 in bonuses for 500/550 PA)
Cole Hamels: 4.35
J.C. Romero: 2.754 (4 million minus 1.245902 for suspension)
Shane Victorino: 3.150 (.025 for ASG selection)
Chan Ho Park: 2.575 (0.075 in bonsuses for 30, 40, 45 G)
Jayson Werth: 4.525 (1 M signing bonus, 0.525 in other bonuses for 500/600 PA, ASG)
Ryan Madson: 3.015 (1 M signing bonus, .015 bonus)
Scott Eyre: 2.00
Pedro Martinez: 2.45 (.45 in bonuses for Games started and days on active roster)
Cliff Lee: 2.085
Chad Durbin: 1.65
Greg Dobbs: 1.15
Matt Stairs: 1.10 (.10 in bonus for 100 PA)
Eric Bruntlett: .800
Clay Condrey: .650
Carlos Ruiz: .475
J.A. Happ: .405
Jack Taschner: .835
Ben Francisco: .153
----------------
30 players, 137.372 million w/ Jenkins, Eaton, Thome

2) The projected 2010 payroll

You are more likely to catch David Montgomery singing karaoke at McGillin's than you are to hear him offer a definite number on what Phillies ownership is willing to spend in a given season. I sat down with Montgomery in Clearwater last spring and tried to gauge how much higher the team's payroll might climb in the coming years. While he did not offer anything concrete, he did say that the Phillies weren't on the fast-track to Yankeedom, and that the organization would have to rely more on internal player development than on yearly free-agent spending binges.

"We're at a point now where we're expecting to have about as much revenue as we can," Montgomery said in a wide-ranging interview with the Daily News. "That's why, if I look 5 years down the road, I hope that we are successful enough that we've been able to begin very seriously infiltrating another good group of young players, so that you can keep this successful period going. "

But Montgomery also said that the team couldn't expect to duplicate it's attendance success of 2008. But as it turns out, the Phillies eclipsed it, drawing nearly 150,000 more fans. They also had an extra home playoff date, thanks to three NLCS games (last year, they played two NLCS games at home). They likely won't make as much money as they would have had they defeated the Yankees in the World Series, but it is a safe bet that they made more money this season than they projected. How that translates into payroll spending is hard to tell.

3) Committed money for 2010

Once the Phillies pick up Cliff Lee's $9 million option for next season, they will have roughly $103.5 million committed to 12 players:

  1. Ryan Howard: $19 million
  2. Brad Lidge: $11.5 million
  3. Chase Utley: $15 million
  4. Raul Ibanez: $11.5 million
  5. Jimmy Rollins: $7.5 million
  6. Jamie Moyer: $8 million
  7. Cliff Lee: $9 million
  8. Cole Hamels: $6.65 million
  9. J.C. Romero: $4 million
  10. Jayson Werth: $7 million
  11. Ryan Madson: $4.5 million
  12. Greg Dobbs: $1.35 million

4) Will Joe Blanton be back, or will the Phillies make a play for another starter?

The Phillies have seven players eligible for arbitration, but only three are strong candidates to return. They could decide against offering contracts to RHP Chad Durbin, RHP Tyler Walker, INF Eric Bruntlett and RHP Clay Condrey. Durbin has been a big piece of the bullpen the last two years, but he will be due a raise from his $1.65 million salary, and the Phillies could choose to give themselves the option of spending that money elsewhere by letting him become a free agent. They could also decide that they want Durbin back, but only at a specific price, and offer that salary to him in a take-it-or-leave-it contract. Condrey pitched well when healthy and only made $650,000 last season, so he could stick around. Bruntlett was left off the NLDS roster and has hit just .202 in two seasons in Philly, so the team could decide that, at worst, they can find another back-up short stop with the $800,000 they paid him this season.

Right-handed starter Joe Blanton is an interesting case. He made $5.475 million last season and went 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA. Looking at past arbitration cases, a salary in the $7 million range would seem to be realistic for Blanton. Although each arbitration case is different, by looking at a composite of similar players and what they ended up earning, we can get an idea of what Blanton might be in line to receive.

Following the 2006 season, lefthander Doug Davis entered arbitration with 5 years, 138 days of services. Blanton has 5 years, 16 days of service. Davis went 11-11 with a 4.91 ERA for the Brewers in 2006, and had 33-33 with 3.84 and 3.39 ERAs the two years before.

At the time Davis was 62-63 with a 4.35 ERA, 1.467 WHIP in 1,089 innings pitched. Blanton is 63-54 with a 4.21 ERA, 1.331 WHIP in 1,026.2 innings.

In Davis' case, the Diamondbacks offered $5.25 million, Davis asked $7.5, and they agreed on a 3-year, $22 million deal.

After 2007, Oliver Perez (4.43 ERA, 1.430 WHIP, 804.1 IP, 5.034 years of service) was awarded $6.5 million. The same offseason, Nate Robertson (4.60 ERA, 1.411 WHIP, 832.2 IP, 4.065 years of service) signed a three-year, $21.25 million deal with the Tigers. Last year, Erik Bedard (3.81 ERA, 1.337 WHIP, 739 IP, 5.171 years of service) agreed to a $7.75 million contract with the Mariners after making $7 million the year before.

Granted, all four of these pitchers are lefties, on which there is more of a premium. And Bedard and Robinson spent their careers in the hitting-friendly American League.

But given Blanton's consistent production, durability, salary, and service time, the Phillies likely figure that Blanton will be in line to receivea salary of at least $6.5 million, and perhaps even higher.

The Phillies could decide they are better off using that money to pursue another pitcher. They already have Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer and J.A. Happ under contract for next season. But if they elect to keep Pedro Feliz at third base (we'll get to that shortly), they'll be counting only on internal improvement to bolster what was an inconsistent line-up (Raul Ibanez staying healthy for the whole season and Carlos Ruiz carrying his postseason success over to 2010 would go a long way). Which means they could view bolstering their pitching as their best shot at another World Series. Toronto ace Roy Halladay, whom they pursued at the trade deadline, figures to be available. Angels righthander John Lackey is the cream of a so-so free agent crop, but he figures to command a huge multi-year contract.

Thanks to escalators that he met, Moyer will earn about $8 million next season. He is recovering from surgery and lost his spot in the rotation after an inconsistent performance last season, but is unlikely to be moved elsewhere. Several people in the organziation believe top prospect Kyle Drabek could be major league ready by the second half of next season, so it isn't out of the question that the Phillies enter the season with Moyer as the No. 5 starter while priming Drabek for an if-necessary promotion should Moyer falter.

Do the Phillies think they can get more bang for their buck elsewhere (Among free agent RHP starters: Jason Marquis, Joel Piniero, John Garland, Rich Harden, Brad Penny, Ben Sheets)? Or that they can bring back Brett Myers at an affordable price? Or that they can make a big upgrade by making a play for Lackey or Halladay? Or that Blanton's consistent production, and the risks of the aforementioned options (Who is the real Jason Marquis? Can Harden stay healthy? Is Sheets damaged goods? Is Lackey worth the money? Is Halladay worth the prospects?), makes him the best option?

5) Do the Phillies have the future money, and desire, to sign Lackey or Cliff Lee or Chone Figgins or Jayson Werth to a multi-year contract?

The Phillies' 2010 payroll is only part of any equation. While they have a considerable amount of money tied up for next season, their 2011 situation could give them some flexibility to dole out another big contract.

For the 2011 season, the Phillies have $71.5 million committed to seven players (Howard, Lidge, Utley, Ibanez, Hamels, Madson). Jimmy Rollins has an $8.5 million option with a $2 million buy-out. J.C. Romero has a $4.5 million option. Utley is the only player currently signed through 2012 (Brad Lidge has a $12.5 million option with a $1.5 million buy-out).

So the Phillies have both the wherewithall and impetus to look toward the future when considering this year's crop of free agents. Might they decide to lock up Cliff Lee to an extension? And what about Jayson Werth, who had a career year but will be a free agent after 2010?

One of the big decisions they have to make in the coming weeks involves third base, where Pedro Feliz has an affordable $5.5 million club option (up from $5 million based on bonuses received in 2009), with a $500,000 buy-out. Feliz has been masterful on defense over the last two seasons, but his offense has been inconsistent, and the power he displayed in San Francisco has not entirely carried over to the cozier confines of Citizens Bank Park (Feliz had at least 20 home runs in each of his last four seasons with the Giants -- He has just 26 in two years with the Phillies). The Phillies' minor league system is devoid of any clear third basemen who might make an impact in the next two or three years, and next year's potential crop of free agents is, at least at first glance, weak. Aramis Ramirez (.303 BA, .368 OBP, 173 HRs the last six years) has a $14.6 million player option with the Cubs. After him, there isn't much. Ty Wigginton and Jorge Cantu could both be available, but neither is the type of defender the Phillies want at third.

Taking all of that into consideration, they could decide that this year is the year to lock up a third baseman who can upgrade the line-up both now and in the future.

Here is a look at the avaiable third basemen:

A) The cream of the crop

Chone Figgins, Angels

Perhaps the most intriguing option, particularly with the flexibility the Phillies have with Rollins after 2010. Figgins is a true leadoff hitter. This year, he hit .298 with a .395 on base percentage and stole 42 bases. In five of his six years as an everyday player, his on base percentage has been at least .350 (Rollins' career-high is .349, and he has finished under .340 in six of his nine full seasons). Figgins, like Rollins and Shane Victorino, is a switch-hitter. He doesn't have much power - he hit five home runs last season and his career-high is nine - but the last thing this team needs is more power.

Adding Figgins to the line-up would give the Phillies flexibility to move Rollins out of the leadoff spot and would give Charlie Manuel an array of options with his line-up. He is also a solid defender, although arguably not on Feliz's level.

The downsides? He'll be 32 years old on Opening Day, one year older than Rollins. Figgins has also hit just .172 with a .223 OBP in 35 career postseason games.

Figgins has spent his entire big league career playing in Southern California, and he will likely command a big free agent contract.

Adrian Beltre, Mariners

Here's another intriguing candidate, albeit one that might carry more risk than a guy like Figgins. From 2006-08, Beltre hit at least .266 with 25 home runs for the Mariners. Last season, he missed time due to two separate injuries (surgery to remove bone spurs from his non-throwing shoulder and a badly swollen testicle he suffered from an errant ground ball) and finished hitting .265 with eight home runs in 111 games.

Beltre is also a Gold Glove fielder (he won the award in 2007 and 2008) whose UZR was the second-best among MLB third basemen in 2008.

He kills lefties but struggles against righties. He hit .298 against lefties but .253 against righties in 2009, and .340 with eight home runs in 150 at-bats against lefties in 2008, compared with .239 with 17 home runs in 406 at-bats against righties.

He also could stand a change of scenery.

In 2009, Beltre hit .279 with a .324 on base percentage with four home runs and 25 RBI in 229 at-bats away from the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. In 2008, he hit .292 with a .349 on base percentage, 15 home runs and 54 RBI at home and .240 with a .303 on base percentage, 10 home runs and 23 RBI at home.

Beltre is just 30 years old. But like Figgins, it is tough to tell exactly how much he will command on the open market.

Mark DeRosa, Cardinals

DeRosa, a Univ. of Pennsylvania product, should come cheaper than Figgins or Beltre. DeRosa earned $5.5 million this season. Had surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his left writst, but is expected to be ready for spring training.

From 2006-08, he hit at least .285 with a .351 on base percentage and 10 home runs for the Rangers and Cubs. He is a .299 career hitter against lefties, but also hits .265 against righties. He has alos hit 44 home runs in his last two seasons. This year, he hit just .228 with a .291 on base percentage after being traded from the Indians to the Cardinals, but he suffered from a wrist injury that required offseason surgery.

The Phillies liked DeRosa last offseason. He'll be 35 on Opening Day, so he likely isn't a long-term solution. This was the first year since 2004 he played mostly at third base, and he would be a significant drop off in defense from Feliz. But he isn't such a huge defensive liability that it would overshadow the potential bat he would bring.

DeRosa has also played extensively at second base and in the outfield. Even if they retain Feliz or look elsewhere at third base, the Phillies would love the bat and defensive versatility that DeRosa brings. But would they be able to guarantee him enough at-bats to convince him to sign as a back-up?

B) Short-term rentals

If the Phillies do not exercise Feliz's option, it isn't necessarily a sign that they will look to make a big free agent splash at third. There are plenty of veteran options available that could upgrade the line-up. Melvin Mora is 37 years old and coming off a season inwhich he hit .260 with a .321 on base percentage and eight home runs for the Orioles. But he hit .285/.342 with 23 home runs and 104 RBI in 2008 and at least .274 with a .341 on base percentage and 14 home runs from 2005-08.

Troy Glaus, who played just 14 games due to injuries this season, is another option with big upside. He hit .261 with a .364 on base percentage and 122 home runs from 2005-08 and two years ago was one of the best defensive third basemen in the game.

David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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