With the news of a three-year 26 million dollar extension for catcher Carlos Ruiz yesterday afternoon, some Philadelphia Phillies fans were elated to have Chooch back in the fold for what will likely be the remainder of his MLB career. Other fans, like me, thought that the Phillies not only overpaid Ruiz for the production they will get at the front of the deal, but the back of the deal especially. And when I sat down and looked thoroughly through all of the players that the Phillies have money committed to for the 2015 season, I cringed at the amount of players not just on the wrong side of 30, but the wrong side of 34.
2015 Money Committed
- Ryan Howard–$25 million-35 years-old to start 2015 season
- Cliff Lee– $25 million-35 years-old to start 2015 season
- Cole Hamels-$22.5 million-31 years-old to start 2015 season
- Chase Utley-$13.5 million-36 years-old to start 2015 season
- Jonathan Papelbon–$13 million-34 years-old for 2015 season
- Carlos Ruiz-$8.5 million-36 years-old for 2015 season
- Marlon Byrd-$8 million-37 for 2015 season
That alone is $115.5 million committed to just seven players, only one of whom will be under the age of 34.
The Phillies also have a few players, who could be in the fold for 2015 if they meet their vesting options, none of whom are exactly going to help the Phillies youth movement.
Mike Adams has two potential vesting options, that guarantee him at least six million dollar salary in 2015. The first of which, is if Adams pitches a combined 120 innings in 2013 and 2014, while pitching at least 60 of those innings in 2014, he automatically gets a six and a half million for 2015. Unfortunately for Adams, he would have to pitch 95 innings next season for that option to vest, which would be an unheard of amount for a reliever in the modern day MLB that protects pitchers arms so much. Also, if Adams isn’t ready to be with the Phillies on opening day, which he says he will be, then that part of the option goes away. The part of the option that would vest for six million for 2015 would be a little more attainable for Adams, who needs to pitch 60 innings in 2014 for his 2015 option to vest. Still, coming off of an arm injury and only having pitched over 60 innings three times in his career (2008,2010, 2011), it doesn’t seem like that Adams will be able to meet the option. Hopefully, if Adams does get close to meeting the option requirements, the Phillies will micro-manage Adams’ innings enough to make sure that the option doesn’t vest. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t re-sign him if they chose, but it keeps their options open to re-sign him for a little less or go in another direction.
Jimmy Rollins is in a similar boat to Adams. Rollins has underachieved so far in the first two-seasons of his contract, batting just .251 combined, and has seemed to show a declining approach and motivation to playing the game. Of course, in a potential contract year, when money is on the line, I wouldn’t expect to see those same tendencies.
Unlike Adams though, Rollins has a vesting option that he almost certainly will meet.Despite declining numbers (and motivation?) Jimmy Rollins will likely do enough in 2014 to meet his vesting option for 2015.Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
- 2015 option guaranteed at $11M with 1) 600 plate appearances in 2014 or 2) 1,100 PAs in 2013-14 and Rollins is not on disabled list at end of 2014 season (or if he is on the DL, a mutually agreed upon doctor deems him available for 2015 Opening Day roster)
Rollins posted exactly 600 plate appearances last season and and 632 in 2011, so unless the Phillies give him a ton of days off to avoid the option from vesting, he will likely be able to meet the 2015 $11 million option. Even if that option doesn’t vest, it is nearly impossible that Jimmy Rollins won’t meet the second vesting option, which would only require 500 plate appearances in 2014 to go with the 600 he had in 2013. So barring a trade, Jimmy Rollins will be in the fold for 2015, his age 36 season.
So let’s take a look at where the Phillies would be at if things goes the way that we expect. Assuming that Jimmy Rollins option for 2015 vests and Mike Adams isn’t still in Philly, the Phillies have $126.5 million committed to eight players. Out of those eight players, only Cole Hamels will be under the age of 34.
That leaves you without a set-up man, three through five starters that we have any certainty in at this point, and potentially a long-term deal for Domonic Brown, among other things. While some of those problems, like the three through five starters, could very well have cheap internal answers like Jonathan Pettibone or Ethan Martin, the Phillies will be left out to dry if their internal options don’t work out.
Sure, the Phillies may have their new television deal by then, and a near $200 million payroll might not be an obstacle, but even then, given how Amaro has spent on some of the deals above, will $200 even be enough for the Phillies to contend?
I mean that completely realistically. That’s $126.5 assuming Adams option doesn’t vest and the Phillies don’t sign a reliever like Edward Mujica or go after another outfield upgrade like Jacoby Ellsbury. Where are you if one or numerous of those things happen?
The real issue is that the Phillies not only are going to be depending so much on less than half of their roster, but that they are depending on guys who are already declining.
Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have struggled to stay healthy over the past two or three seasons, and usually as you get to your mid-30’s those issues don’t get better.
Jimmy Rollins seems to need a change of scenery, which I guess he could technically get through a trade even if his 2015 option vests, but who will want to trade for a declining 36 year-old short-stop making 11 million?
As Jonathan Papelbon approaches his mid-30’s, is his already declining fastball velocity going to improve? Most likely not.
Carlos Ruiz was declining already, and there wouldn’t be any scenario where I would pay him 8.5 million next season, let alone in 2015 and beyond. But Ruben Amaro thought that was a good idea.
And then there’s Marlon Byrd. Byrd could play at a high level next season and in 2015, but we really don’t know if he will be able to duplicate, or even come close to, his career year of 2013, especially as he reaches his late-30’s.
Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are the only two players on the list that I am sure will produce at a high level. Even with them, I have some questions. I never felt like Cole Hamels was the type of pitcher to give over 20 million to, but that is neither here nor there. I expect that Hamels will still win 15 plus games and have an ERA around 3.00, give or take a little. Lee will be approaching his mid-30’s as well, but I’m not concerned that he will be able to 15-20 games and pitch to an ERA around 3.00, again give or take a little. So while both are slightly overpaid, they are the two players that Amaro overpaid that I still have long-term certainty in.
The rest leave me with little certainty and given how bad some of the contracts look now, I can only imagine what they will look like in 2015. I don’t mean to be Mr. Negativity, but my job is to give my unfiltered thoughts on the Phillies, and sugarcoating isn’t my style. If our opinions on the long-term contracts Ruben Amaro has dolled out in 2013 are any indication, it won’t matter whether Amaro is ultimately fired as the Phillies general manager, because the Phillies will be hamstring with a ridiculously old, expensive, and likely under-performing roster.