First, let's begin with the positives: On Thursday, the Phillies signed two very fair long-term contracts with two important players -- Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino. The players received decent value for their services and the Phillies didn't overpay and now have a better sense of their future commitments in money.
Not that we like to harp upon the negatives around here, but consider this: The Phillies now have around $129 million guaranteed to 14 players in 2011. That's probably not going to work -- unless the team is willing to significantly expand its budget, which is already at the highest figures in franchise history.
So, something has to give eventually.
We're looking in the general direction of Jayson Werth. Werth, who signed a two-year, $10 million deal to avoid his final year of arbitration last year and buyout his first year of free agency this year, goes onto the market for the first time after the 2010 season. And if he has another season similar to 2009, with 36 home runs, 99 RBI and 20 stolen bases, there should be a handful of teams willing to pay the man decent bucks.
Does the signing of Victorino preclude the Phillies from bringing Werth back? Not necessarily. Werth could take a discounted salary to stay in the fold in Philadelphia and the Phillies could maybe work a trade for Raul Ibanez. But that's a long shot considering Ibanez's age and the fact that the Phillies would probably have to throw in some money in any deal involving Ibanez.
We should find out later Friday what Ruben Amaro Jr. says about the commitment to Victorino. The number of years may be different from his contract and Werth's, but the principle is the same: The Phillies bought out the final arbitration years for each, plus their first year on the free-agent market. Victorino just has less service time, so he had one more year of arbitration left than Werth did.
Here are the players under contract for 2011: Ryan Howard ($20M), Roy Halladay ($20M), Chase Utley ($15.286M), Raul Ibanez ($12.167M), Brad Lidge ($12M), Cole Hamels ($9.5M), Jimmy Rollins ($8.5M), Joe Blanton ($8.5), Shane Victorino ($8.25M -- an estimate), Placido Polanco ($5.417M), Ryan Madson ($4.833M), Danys Baez ($2.750M), Brian Schneider ($1.625M) and Ross Gload ($1.6M).
Amaro said "cost certainty" is a big part of what the team is trying to do. They at least have a good idea of how much money is tied up at this point. Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock was asked about the financial situation and said this was part of the plan.
"You're going to have some money possibly coming off," Proefrock said. "You never know what we're going to with the other cases with some extensions or whatnot. We're certainly aware of the commitments we've made. We've got a substantial amount of money tied up for the next couple of years. And that was part of the plan last year and this year with regards to maximizing our opportunities to keep these teams together, to get back to where we want to go."
Just a thought: For everyone who is still upset about paying Joe Blanton and not Cliff Lee, keep 2011 and beyond in your mind. Knowing the money they had tied up for 2011, the team had an idea it was basically impossible to meet what Lee will bring in free agency next offseason. So instead, the team chose three years of an affordable Joe Blanton along with three prospects over one year of Cliff Lee. Will that backfire? It's certainly possible.
Even if Werth ends up being out of the picture, does the team still have enough flexibility to fill out the rest of the roster for 2011? Or does someone under contract need to be traded to free up cash?
It's all a ways down the road, but nearly every move the Phillies have made this offseason was done with 2011 in mind, too.
We're still awaiting official word on the Victorino signing. There should be an announcement some time this morning and we'll pass it along.