This is a second version showing Cole Hamels as being arbitration eligible. Thanks to the fine editors who are also my readers.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s 10-word answer to a question about the Phillies' 2012 payroll received little attention Tuesday.
"Don't know yet," he said. "I would say it would be similar (to 2011)."
Given Amaro's plea for a change in the approach by his hitters and the pending free agency of shortstop Jimmy Rollins and closer Ryan Madson, it was understandable that the payroll was glossed over at this embryonic stage of the offseason.
Nevertheless, it will be an interesting subject at some point when the quest to either re-sign or replace Rollins and Madson intensifies.
For the record, the Phillies' payroll was somewhere between $175 and $180 million this season and it's possible, once player bonuses are factored in, that the team passed baseball's $178-million threshold that requires a team to pay a luxury tax of 22.5 percent for every dollar it spends above $178 million.
The luxury-tax number expands every year, but it figures to be a challenge for the Phillies to stay below that figure again in 2012, especially if they re-sign Rollins and Madson and pick up the $16 million option on Roy Oswalt.
If the Phillies pay a $2 million buyout to Oswalt and, as expected, a $1.5 million buyout to Brad Lidge, they will still owe $110.45 million to the nine players already under contract for next season. That total includes the $3.5 million buyout total for Oswalt and Lidge.
Here's the breakdown of those nine players: Cliff Lee ($21.5 million), Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay ($20 million each), Chase Utley ($15 million), Shane Victorino ($9.5 million), Joe Blanton ($8.5 million), Placido Polanco ($6.25 million), Carlos Ruiz ($3.7 million) and Jose Contreras ($2.5 million).
Lefthander Cole Hamels, right fielder Hunter Pence, extra outfielder Ben Francisco and pitcher Kyle Kendrick are among the Phillies players eligible for salary arbitration. Let's say the Phillies only decide to bring back Hamels, Pence and Kendrick. Being conservative, Hamels will likely get $14 million, Pence will likely get at least $10 million and Kendrick will get somewhere around $3 million, bringing the payroll to just under $137.5 million for 12 players.
Amaro said that even if the Phillies do not re-sign Madson, they plan on going outside the organization for an experienced closer. Whether it's Madson or somebody else with experience at the role, it's likely to cost at least $10 million, bringing the payroll to $147.5 million for 13 players.
To fill out the bullpen and the bench, it will likely cost roughly another $12 million, so the total is up to $159.5 million and you still need a shortstop.
Amaro said some of his lieutenants believe that Freddy Galvis is ready to play in the big leagues right now and others do not. Before that, he said he thought outfielder Domonic Brown could use 500 at-bats at the triple-A level before he's ready for another shot at the big leagues. Brown, 24, is more than two years older than Galvis, who just got his first taste of triple-A baseball at the end of the 2011 season.
The smart money here is that the Phillies will either re-sign Rollins or try to sign a veteran to a one-year deal and give Galvis at least one more year to develop in the minor leagues. The going rate for someone like St. Louis' Rafael Furcal would probably be in the $6 to $8 million range while Rollins could cost $10 million for next season.
Let's say they re-sign Rollins. That would put the payroll at about $169.5 million.
Then the Phillies would have to decide if they needed another player -- a third baseman or super utility guy? -- to jumpstart the offense that has disappointed them each of the last two postseasons.
Regardless, given the economics, the emergence of Vance Worley and the likely return of Joe Blanton to the starting rotation, there does not appear to be room in next year's budget for Oswalt's $16 million option.
So get ready for the "And Then There were Three (Aces)" news conference next February in Clearwater.
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