Let’s see, now. Joe Blanton is locked in for the next three years at $24 million, and figures to give the Phillies a bit more for virtually the same money than Adam Eaton ever did.
Roy Halladay is on the books for $60 million—in addition to the final year of his old contract—taking him through at least 2013.
Cole Hamels has two years left on his three-year, $20.5 million deal, while No. 4 man J.A. Happ and Kyle Kendrick won’t see arbitration, let alone free agency for at least more years
And with Danys Baez recently signed to a two-year, $5.25 contract as a hedge against Brad Lidge (two more years at $24.5 million) to complement Ryan Madson (two years remaining, $9 million) and J.C. Romero (one for $4 million, with a team option) and just re-signed Chad Durbin (one-year, $2.125 million) the pitching staff seems to be in relatively good shape for the short term.
That’s minus Cliff Lee, whose $9 million option year before he hit the free agent trail wasn’t enough to make the Phils keep him around at such a bargain rate. And, of course, it’s barring injury, which can throw everything out of whack. Just ask the Mets.
But once you start adding up the numbers, it becomes more and more apparent how small this window is for the Phils to add to their trophy case. Essentially they’ll have only two years before the mortgage comes due—virtually in full.
Who’ll still be wearing red pinstripes when they all convene in Clearwater in February, 2012 is the unanswered question? While it would be nice to believe Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley will be all be a part of things, even now that seems wildly optimistic.
Werth is about to start the final year of his two-year $10 million steal of a deal, after which he’ll undoubtedly start seeking real money. Will they ante up or let him walk to open up an outfield spot for top prospect Domonic Bown? And remember the Phillies just picked up the option year on Rollins’ five-year $40 million contract, which means he’ll want more the exact time Howard’s three-year $54 million windfall runs out and he’s free to go to the highest bidder.
With Raul Ibanez contract (3 years, $31.5 million) also expiring at that point, though it appears both Victorino and Carlos Ruiz will still be around, according to reports. The Flyin’ Hawaiian could ink a new long term deal as soon as tomorrow and Ruiz could be right behind.
That means other than new third baseman, Placido Polanco, who’s locked in for three years at $18 million, the only other one assured to be here as long as Blanton and Halladay is Utley. He’s not even midway through the seven-year, $85 deal he signed in 2007.
But looking ahead, it’s understandable why General Manager Ruben Amaro was so insistent the Phillies improve their farm system, after giving up so much to obtain first Lee, then Halladay. Unless there’s a change in corporate fiscal policy—and consider how much that’s already changed from years gone by—he knows they won’t be able to afford them all.
The likeliest scenario then would be for Howard, who’s eager to see what he’d bring on the open market, to leave. It’s for precisely that reason the Phillies were willing to part with Lee for a package of Seattle prospects,, having an idea how much he’d command, while working out an agreement with Halladay. Also, don’t expect Hamels to hang around that long, especially if he continues to pitch erratically and believes he’d have a better chance to succeed elsewhere.
Come 2012, then Phillie fans may suffer the same kind of anguish as they did in Toronto losing their ace or as Twins, Marlins, Royals and other small market team fans regularly do whenever one of their stars opt for “greener’’ pastures like New York or L.A.
But by locking in Blanton now, to go with Halladay and Happ the Phils are trying to protect themselves from impending disaster. This way even in the worst scenario—the departure of Howard, Hamels and Rollins—the cupboard won’t be completely bare. And that’s also assuming the Phillies don’t move one or more of their stars if they come to the reluctant conclusion they won’t be able to sign them.
So, while happy Phillies fans should enjoy the short range implications of knowing their core group should be in place for awhile, they should also realize how fleeting success can be in this game. After all, even the Yankees had to wait nearly a full decade before winning their latest championship.
Come October into November they can only hope they’re still smiling