Breaking down the payroll for 2012 and beyond

Cliff Lee is scheduled to be the highest paid Phillie next season. (Ron Cortes/Staff File Photo)

Since Ruben Amaro Jr. took the reins as general manager, here are the major league free agents he has signed to guaranteed contracts:

Cliff Lee: 5 years, $120 million (2011)
Raul Ibanez: 3 years, $31.5 million (2009)
Placido Polanco: 3 years, $18 million (2010)
Jamie Moyer: 2 years, $13 million (2009)
Jose Contreras: 2 years, $5.5 million (2011)
Danys Baez: 2 years, $5.25 million (2010)
Brian Schneider: 2 years, $2.75 million (2010)
Ross Gload: 2 years, $2.6 million (2010)
Chan Ho Park: 1 year, $2.5 million (2009)
Jose Contreras: 1 year, $1.5 million (2010)
Juan Castro: 1 year, $700,000 (2010)
J.C. Romero: 1 year, $1.35 million (2011)

So what is in store for the pre-2012 signing period, which opens up on Thursday?

The way I figure it, Amaro has about $40 million to fill out the final 10 spots on his roster. That's assuming the Phillies are willing to head into the season with an Opening Day payroll of $175 million, which is right around where it ended up at the end of 2011.

Let's break it down:

1) Yearly Salary Commitments

As we all know, major league contracts are fully guaranteed, meaning there ain't no escapin' 'em. As you can see from the chart below, the Phillies have put their eggs in the collective baskets of Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay for the next three seasons, paying that trio about $65 million a season through 2014, assuming Halladay continues his Watson-like dominance over Earth's human population and earns his vesting option. Here is a look at all of the guaranteed money the Phillies have on the books (figures in millions).

Player 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Option/Buyout
1. Ryan Howard $20.0 $20.0 $25.0 $25.0 $25.0 $10.0* *$23.0/10.0

2. Clifton Lee

$21.5 $25.0 $25.0 $25.0 $12.5* X *$27.5/12.5
3. Roy Halladay $20.0 $20.0 OPT* X *$20.0 vesting
4. Chase Utley $15.0 $15.0 X  
5. Shane Victorino $9.5 X  
6. Joe Blanton $8.5  
7. Placido Polanco $6.25 $1.0* *$5.5/1.0 mut
8. Carlos Ruiz $3.7 $0.5* *$5.5/0.5
9. Jose Contreras $2.5 $0.5* *$2.5/0.5
Total Salary $108.95 $60.0 $50.0 $50.0 $25.0  
Total Buyout - $2.0 - - $12.5 $10.0  

Halladay's 2014 option vests with 225 innings pitched in 2013, 415 innings pitched in 2012-13, and no disabled list stint at the end of 2013.

The Phillies do have some flexibility beyond 2012, which means that they do not have to think small. Smart, yes. But not necessarily small. They should be able to save some money on the back end of the rotation, where Roy Oswalt is off the books this year and Joe Blanton is gone after next year. They also have a bunch of young, cheap options in the bullpen. Still, they have close to $109 million locked up in nine player for 2012. And that is before we factor in hefty salaries for Hunter Pence and Cole Hamels. But before we do that, let's look at the young, controllable talent that will be vying for playing time next season. . .

2) Players under club control

Baseball's reserve system is difficult to keep track of. Most front offices have a guy whose principle job is to manage all of this stuff. Major League service time and the 40-man roster are the two big components. Once a player is added to a team's 40-man roster, he can be sent to the minors in three seasons. Each season that a team assigns a member of the 40-man roster is considered an option year. Regardless of the number of times a player gets sent to the minors over the course of the season, it only counts as one option. A team has three options on each player. Once they use all three options, the player must be exposed to waivers before he is sent to the minors. John Mayberry Jr. is the only key player who that affects this season. If he does not make the Opening Day roster, the Phillies will have to put him up for grabs. Domonic Brown only has one option remaining. Amaro said after the season that he would like Brown to spend a full season in Triple-A in 2012, which would eliminate his final option and make 2013 the year he has to stick.

Each day that a player spends on the 25-man roster counts as a day of service time. A full year of service is 172 days. A player is eligible for free agency after his sixth year of service. Most players become eligible for arbitration after their third full year of service. For the first three years, the club gets to choose its salary, which usually starts at the veteran minimum in the first year ($414,000 in 2011) and progresses marginally (usually something like $425,000 in Year Two and $475,000 in Year Three). For the next three seasons, their salary is decided through the arbitration process. Then, their salary is decided by the open market (unless they agree to a contract extension beforehand). A handful of players will get four years of arbitration. These players are known as Super Twos, which is a class of players whose service time falls just under the three-year threshold.

In the chart below, you'll find the age, service time and projected progression toward free agency of the young players who have the best chance at breaking camp with the team in 2012. Service time is listed as Years.Days. So Antonio Bastardo enters 2012 at 2.054 years of service, which means 2 years, 54 days of service. He is not a Super Two, so his 2012 salary will be dictated by the club. Assuming he spends a full year in the majors, he will be eligible for arbitration in 2013. David Herndon and Vance Worley, on the other hand, are just shy of a full year, or 172 days, of service, which makes them potential Super Twos (although they also have options, and would stop acrueing service if they are sent to the minors).

One other note about the chart: the number in front of guys like Cole Hamels (10.) and Hunter Pence (11.) indicates that they are likely to occupy a spot on the 25-man roster on Opening Day '12. An XX. in front of the name means their status is up in the air.  

Roster Spot/Player Age/Options 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
10. Cole  Hamels  28/X Arb4  X  X X
11. Hunter Pence 29/X Arb3  Arb4   X
12. Antonio Bastardo 26/2  2.054 Arb1 Arb2  Arb3 
13. John Mayberry Jr. 28/0 1.095 2.095  Arb1  Arb2  Arb3 
14. Vance Worley 24/1  0.152  1.152  Arb1  Arb2  Arb3  Arb4 
15. Michael Martinez  29/3 1.000  2.000  Arb1  Arb2  Arb3  Arb4 
XX. Kyle Kendrick  27/2  Arb2  Arb3  Arb4 
XX. Ben Francisco  30/1  Arb2  Arb3  Arb4 
XX. David Herndon  26/2 1.158  Arb1  Arb2  Arb3  Arb4 
XX. Wilson Valdez  34/0 Arb1  Arb2  Arb3 
XX. Mike Stutes  25/3 0.157  1.157  Arb1 Arb2  Arb3  Arb4 
XX. Domonic Brown 24/1  1.013 TBD TBD  TBD  TBD  TBD  TBD 

We will deal with the arbitration-elgible guys in the next section. For now, we'll estimate the salaries of the players still under club control. Unless the Phillies stray from their annual strategy of employing a low-cost utility man, Martinez is likely to stick, since they will only have to pay him $425,000 or so. We'll keep our figures in increments of $.25 millions to make adding easier, so plan on $425,000 salaries for John Mayberry and Vance Worley and a $475,000 salary for Bastardo.

That gives us a total of $1.75 million for those four players. Add that to the $109 million guaranteed to the nine players from section one.

Our Running Total: $110.75 million for 13 players

Remaining Budget: $64.25 million for 12 players.

So we're halfway done with our roster and we still have $64 million or so to spend. But before you start going all Willy Wonka on the free agent market, keep in mind that we still have arbitration cases to consider. And things are about to get expensive. . .

3) Likely arbitration salaries

The biggest decision the Phillies have to make involves Kyle Kendrick, who earned close to $2.5 million last year and is coming off a solid season. History suggests he could be in line for a salary approaching or even surpassing $5 million. The Phillies are not required to offer Kendrick arbitration. They could non-tender him, which means not offer him a contract, and make him a free agent. Kendrick would then become a free agent. For a team with unlimited resources, tendering Kendrick would make a lot of sense. He is the ultimate depth player, as he showed last season, bouncing between the bullpen and the rotation, often at a moment's notice. It does not seem to matter how long Kendrick goes without pitching, he still performs at his career level. With Joe Blanton's elbow problems and Vance Worley's youth, Kendrick would provide a dependable, if not spectacular, security blanket. But for a team that is operating on a budget, which we assume the Phillies are, $5 million is a lot to pay for somebody who does not have the type of dominant stuff that you look for in a reliever. Which means you are essentially paying $5 million for a pitcher to be on call. With the emergence of Mayberry, the Phillies could also decide against offering arbitration to Ben Francisco, whose salary would likely eclipse $2 million. That's not a bad price to pay for a bat off the bench. But the Phillies are in need of infielders more than outfielders. Which means they might be better off spending that $2 million elsewhere. Wilson Valdez seems like a no-brainer to non-tender. His defensive ability has proven valuable over the last two regular seasons, but it's hard to imagine the Phillies wanting to keep two utility infielders on the roster for another season.

But let's deal with our known quantities: Hunter Pence and Cole Hamels will both be offered arbitration if the Phillies are unable to come to terms on multi-year deals with them. You can plan on a salary of at least $15 million for Hamels and around $10 million for Pence. Hamels' number could easily go higher. For now, though, let's plan on $25 million in 2012 salary for the two players combined, whether it comes through arbitration or contract extensions.

Our Running Total: $135.75 million for 15 players (7 regulars including Mayberry, 5 starters including Worley and Blanton, 2 relievers including Bastardo and Contreras, 1 bench player including Martinez)

Remaining Budget: $39.25 million for 10 players

4) Ready, set. . .Spend!

Still awake? Now we get to the fun part: Fantasy General Manager. According to our calculations, the Phillies can enter free agency with a budget of about $39.25 million to fill out the 10 remaining spots on their projected Opening Day Roster.

Those 10 spots, in order of importance:

  1. Shortstop/Leadoff Hitter
  2. Closer
  3. Set-up man
  4. Third Baseman/Hitter
  5. Left Fielder/Hitter
  6. Set-up man/Middle Reliever
  7. Lefty Reliever
  8. Infielder/Hitter
  9. Long reliever/Rotation depth
  10. Back-up catcher

Throughout the week, we'll take a look at the free agent market at each one of these positions (except perhaps back-up catcher). You can plan on at least one, and probably two, of the reliever positions being filled by low-cost internal candidates (Stutes in middle relief and Herndon in the long relief role, or Joe Savery in the lefty role, for example). That would leave the Phillies with around $38.25 million to address short stop, closer, offensive depth, and another veteran for the bullpen.

The key, obviously, is maximizing every dollar spent. So as we examine the market, will focus our evaluation more on value than overall talent. From this vantage point, re-signing Ryan Madson is the best way to help the bullpen. But does a three-year, $32 million contract represent good value? Same goes for short stop. These are all things we will look at, along with the trade market, which you can't discount the Phillies exploring, although don't for a second think that the Mets are going to send you David Wright for Domonic Brown and an Italian hoagie from Sarcone's. Even though you and I see value in both.