Monday, February 8, 2016

Replenishing the farm with money

This won't happen overnight because you do not replace Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Jason Knapp, Michael Taylor, Travis d'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, Anthony Gose, Jonathan Villar, J.A. Happ, Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Domingo Santana and Josh Zeid that soon.

Replenishing the farm with money

Marti Wolever, Phillies director of scouting, will help restore a depleted Phillies farm. (Michael S. Wirtz/Staff File Photo)
Marti Wolever, Phillies director of scouting, will help restore a depleted Phillies farm. (Michael S. Wirtz/Staff File Photo)

This won't happen overnight because you do not replace Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Jason Knapp, Michael Taylor, Travis d'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, Anthony Gose, Jonathan Villar, J.A. Happ, Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Domingo Santana and Josh Zeid that soon.

That's 14 players, almost every one of them ranked in the Phillies' top 10 prospects upon their removal from the organization over the past two years. They, of course, have spawned what could be the greatest starting rotation by ERA in 19 years and a new right fielder.

The price was steep.

But maybe Monday was the latest lesson in the maturation of a front office still adapting in its quest to keep the machine churning. Certainly you remember the day Dec. 16, 2009, and not just because the Phillies acquired Roy Halladay. They flipped Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners for three prospects, none of which look particularly inspiring at this point.

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"If we had just acquired Roy and not moved Lee, we would have been in position to have lost seven of the best 10 prospects in our organization," Ruben Amaro Jr. said that day. "That is not the way you do business in baseball."

Now, they hope an increase in draft spending — and not a move like the Lee trade — can offset the lost talent.

On deadline day, the Phillies agreed to terms with their first-round pick (Larry Greene), second-round pick (Roman Quinn), fifth-round pick (Mitch Walding), 17th-round pick (Jesen Dygestile-Therrien), 27th-round pick (Braden Shull) and 49th-round pick (Jonathan Knight). In each instance, they awarded a bonus above the recommended slot by Major League Baseball.

There were more chances taken by Marti Wolever and his people in 2011. A larger budget allows for that. The Phillies spent slightly more than $5 million to sign 30 of their 51 picks. They inked 13 of their top 15 picks.

That money will likely put the Phillies only in the middle of the pack in draft spending. Part of that is because they do not possess the high picks that require massive bonuses. The Washington Nationals, for example, dolled out $16 million to sign their first four draft picks.

But 2011 represents an increase in spending for the Phillies. In 2009, according to Baseball America, only the Mets spent fewer dollars on draft signings than the Phillies ($3.2 million). Last season, the Phillies were 27th in draft spending at $3.9 million. For a team with an ever-expanding payroll at the major-league level, it simply was not as high of a priority. Typically, the Phillies will draft high-ceiling, high-risk players they fancy — and can easily sign.

It's an inane process, this draft slotting system. The Greene and Quinn deals had been near-finished for a few days, but not announced until Monday because the commissioner's office wants to keep bonuses down. In reality, no team adheres to it, and that's why a flurry of big-money signings weren't announced until minutes before (or after) the midnight deadline. It costs players days as a professional in the minors and trivializes the whole thing.

A lot of the extra Phillies money came in bonuses for two prep shortstops. Walding, a fifth-rounder from Stockton, Calif., signed for $800,000, according to Baseball America. He was committed to the University of Oregon. The slot recommended $129,900. Tyler Greene, an 11th-rounder from West Boca Raton, Fla., signed for $375,000 to eschew a commitment to the University of Georgia. The slot is approximately $100,000.

Shull, dubbed Iowa's best prep prospect by Baseball America, is a 6-foot-6 left-hander who throws in the low 90s. The Phillies invited him to Busch Stadium in June to throw a bullpen session. He was committed to Kansas State until the Phillies bought him away with a hefty bonus for a 27th-rounder.

They went about $150,000 above slot to sign Larry Greene and $200,000 above to sign Quinn, to be expected for the high picks. That's mostly an indictment of the slotting system itself.

But how you win the draft is spending strategically. Sure, the Phillies would have loved to sign all of their picks, but throwing around that type of money on a bunch of 18, 19 and 20 year olds is irresponsible. They targeted a few picks they particularly liked and believed could be swayed by money.

The last time the Phillies spent big in the draft was 2008, when bonuses totaled $6.7 million. Of that, $2.4 million went to the top two picks. Anthony Hewitt ($1.4 million) is an unequivocal bust. Zach Collier ($1 million) is still an unknown after wrist surgery a year ago. 

They spent $1.2 million to sign three over-slot pitchers named Vance Worley, Jon Pettibone and Trevor May. And a total of $1.9 million was dedicated to sign three over-slot players in Anthony Gose, Jason Knapp and Jarred Cosart.

That's how you replenish the system — and create new trade chips.

Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.

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