Philly Sports Talk

Only Got $170m in My Pocket

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In the world of fantasy and rotisserie baseball, it is easy to look at a list of free agents like a winner on the old Wheel of Fortune on a shopping spree.  You usually end up with a $3500 porcelain Dalmatian and the $100 leather-bound deck of cards.  The rest is on a Gucci gift certificate.  The point is you don’t often get value for your money when you spend indiscriminately.

As the 2014 Free Agent season dawns, the Phillies are in an interesting position.  They have grown in the last decade or so from a large-market team with a small-market mentality to one of the real big spenders in baseball.  This has not yet translated into ultimate success.  Their lone championship was won with a team of largely homegrown talent and bargain basement acquisitions.

So, before Pat and Vanna pull back the curtain, let’s focus on what we have to spend and what we need to get.  The current luxury tax threshold is $189million and that is for the entire 40-man roster.  Phillies management has made it clear that they are loath to exceed that number and pay the accordant penalty.  In fact, even with the looming windfall of a new TV deal, they appear to have set their own limit of $170m.

$170million?  I can play in that sandbox.

Remember, they have about $120m tied up in 8 players (Hamels, Lee, Howard, Utley, Papelbon, Rollins, Mike Adams and Cuban pitcher Miguel Angel Gonzalez).

After that, you have the 15 guys on the 40-man that will be playing in Reading and Lehigh Valley.  They won’t add much more than $3-5m, if that.

Then, you have the players who have not yet reached three years of major league service and are not yet eligible for salary arbitration.  They are, for the most part, making the league minimum ($480k in 2013) or just slightly above.  With the money they have tied up in their stars, they will need these inexpensive young players to make significant contributions.  The question becomes, where do you spend on upgrades and upon which of the young players can you depend?

They will most likely keep Kyle Kendrick.  Warts and all, he would be more expensive to replace.  Besides, if the other four starters stay healthy, he will be the 5th.   Many of the young bullpen arms from last year were not ready for prime-time, forced into action by the injuries and ineffectiveness of the veterans we had acquired.  Look for many of them to return to Triple A for further seasoning.

This puts us in the neighborhood of $135-140m with no starting catcher, a light bench and in need of a few more arms.  Ok, then … let’s go shopping!!

Here is a list of the projected free agents. I have starred (**) my targets.

First Basemen

Paul Konerko – Will be 38 when the team comes north next year.  After 14 years on Chicago’s South Side, does he want to go anywhere else?

Kendrys Morales – Impressive bat, but his DH skill set is better suited for the AL.  Has not been the same since a walk-off leap into the arms of his teammates ended in the O/R.

**Mike Morse – A nightmare 2013 may lower his $10.5m price tag.  He could be the right-handed power bat this team has needed since Jayson Werth left.

Mike Napoli – 32, interesting solution to the starting catcher, back-up first base and the right-handed power bat issues.  But, with each key hit in the post-season, his price and/or the chances of Boston keeping him go up.

**Mark Reynolds – Ridiculous power, laughable strike out numbers.  Would make CBP look like a Little League park while making Ryan Howard look like a contact hitter.

Juan Rivera – He has been in the league for 13 years and 99% of you have no idea who he is.  There is a reason for that.

Kevin Youkilis – 34 years old, made $12m in 2013.  Hard to imagine him coming here to back up Howard and pinch hit.  But, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone with his patience and gift for pitch selection around this team?

Second Basemen

Mike Fontenot – If they wanted him, he’d still be here.

Omar Infante – Too expensive for the bench role he would be serving. Someone is going to pay him to play every day.

**Nick Punto – He’s 36 now.  But, he has been a solid utility guy throughout his career.  Just finished a 2-year/$3m deal.

Brian Roberts – Also 36 and in obvious decline.  Hard to say what is left in the tank for the long-time Oriole.

Ramon Santiago – Career utility guy with a $2m price tag.  Classic Amaro guy (see Juan Castro, Wilson Valdez, etc …)

Shortstops

**Alfredo Amezaga – 35 but capable of playing multiple positions.

Clint Barmes – Has always played his best ball under Clint Hurdle.  Look for him to stay with the Buccos.

Willie Bloomquist – Again, mid to late 30′s, plays multiple positions.

Rafael Furcal – Unless Doc Brown has perfected the Flux Capacitor … no.

Alex Gonzalez  – Stop it. Cesar Izturis – Really??

Brendan Ryan – Hits for neither average or power.  Carries a $3.5m price.

Third Basemen

Eric Chavez – Always liked him.  But, the last thing this line-up needs is another lefty.

Mark DeRosa – Seemed like a sensible choice a few years ago.  He took more money elsewhere.  I wouldn’t expect him to come here now.

Mark Reynolds – See above …

Kevin Youkilis – See above …

Catchers

Rod Barajas – Words cannot express how much I dislike this guy.  HELL, NO!

Henry Blanco – Old.  Would make some sense as a back-up/mentor if we were turning it over to Tommy Joseph. But, we aren’t.

John Buck – He’ll be looking for a deal like what Ruiz will probably want.  Might as well just sign Chooch.

Jesus Flores – Has never played more than 90 games in a season … back-ups we have.

Ramon Hernandez – 38 in May. Not what we need.

Gerald Laird – Has carried the starter’s load only twice in his 11 year career … back-ups  we have.

Brian McCann – Makes the most sense. But,, he will probably get a bigger offer from somewhere else.  At his age and with his injury history, any long expensive contract could be regrettable.

Jose Molina – Old back-up … ’nuff said.

Dioner Navarro – Hasn’t carried the load since 2009 in Tampa.  Only made $1.5m last year.  Makes for an intriguing option.

Wil Nieves – No.

Miguel Olivo – No.

Ronny Paulino – If they wanted him, he would still be here.

Brayan Pena – No.

A.J. Pierzynski – No.

Humberto Quintero – If they wanted him …

**Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Potential has never won a game in this league.  But, at 29, if he is ever going to put it together, now is the time.  He made $4.5m in ’13.  Benched in favor of David Ross in the series.  May not be long for the Hub.

Kelly Shoppach – Stop it.

Chris Snyder – Ugh … it’s really starting to look like Chooch is sticking around, huh?

Geovany Soto – 2008 Rookie of the Year, pedestrian at best since then.  No, thank you.

Yorvit Torrealba  – No.

**Carlos Ruiz – Chooch will get serious interest from a few teams, most notably the Yankees.  At $7-8m, he may be the best option.
Outfielders

**Alfredo Amezaga – See above …

Rick Ankiel – No.

Jason Bay – Stop it.

Carlos Beltran – Keep dreaming.

Shin-Soo Choo – Intriguing.  But, a left handed bat that will be looking for a raise of his $7.4m 2013 salary.  Not likely.

Nelson Cruz – Big, right-handed bat with with a PED stigma.  Will get $10m+ from somebody.

Rajai Davis – We already have Ben Revere.

David DeJesus – No.

Mark DeRosa – See above …

Matt Diaz – This guy has historically been a Phillie killer.  That is not enough reason to sign him.

Jacoby Ellsbury – Someone is going to pay this guy the big money.  It won’t be the Phils.

Jeff Francoeur – Big arm, dead fast ball hitter.  $7.5m in 2013.  Intriguing, but not at that price.

Curtis Granderson – Expensive lefty … unlikely.

Franklin Gutierrez – No.

Tony Gwynn Jr. – Absolutely!!  Wait, Junior??  No.

Corey Hart – Intriguing if healthy.

Raul Ibanez – WHAT???

Austin Kearns – Stop it.

Nate McLouth – Could be a buy.  Earned $2m in’13.  Will probably be looking for more playing time than we could offer.

Nyjer Morgan – I thought we, as a nation, were finished with this knucklehead …

**Mike Morse – See above …

David Murphy – No.

Xavier Nady – No.

Laynce Nix – Stop it.

Luke Scott – No.

**Andres Torres – Switch-hitter, nice price ($2m), could serve a purpose. 

Delmon Young  – Really??

Starting Pitchers

Bronson Arroyo – In Citizen’s Bank Park??  After 8 years in that launching pad in Cinci? Don’t expect it.

**Scott Baker – If he is healthy, he could be a solid 3 or 4 in a rotation.

Erik Bedard – Yeah … pass.

A.J. Burnett – Will either retire or re-up with Pittsburgh.

Chris Carpenter – Isn’t he about due to get hurt again.

Bruce Chen – Is he still alive??

Bartolo Colon – PED’s and overweight??  No.

Aaron Cook – If we wanted him … we’d still have him.

Jorge De La Rosa – No.

Scott Feldman – No.

Gavin Floyd – Nope.

Jeff Francis – Hasn’t really made it back from his arm troubles.

Armando Galarraga – Hasn’t really ever recovered from Jim Joyce.

Jon Garland – No.

Matt Garza – Will probably get a bigger offer from a more pitching desperate team.

Jason Hammel – No.

**Rich Harden – Since going 10-2 in 2008, he is 18-18 and had shoulder surgery in 2011.  If healthy, he might be worth a minor-league contract and a spring invite.

Dan Haren – Not as good as the $13m salary he carries.

**Roberto Hernandez – The former Fausto Carmona might be past his usefulness. But, could be a 4-5 at that price.

Tim Hudson – At 38, I can’t imagine he wants to leave home.  He’ll stay a Brave or hang ‘em up.

Phil Hughes – The long-time Yankee prospect has never put it all together.  At 27, it’s now or never.  If someone is willing to give him $10m on a ‘maybe’, the gamble could pay off.

**Josh Johnson – Hasn’t been the same since his 2011 arm injury.  Just wrapped up a 4yr/$39m deal.  An arm like that is worthy of a look.

Jeff Karstens – He’s been part of the long resurgence in the Steel City.  If they give him an offer he may choose to stay.  Nothing special.  But, a dependable and affordable arm.

Hiroki Kuroda – $15m+ for a career .500 starter?  No, thank you.

Colby Lewis – Bone spurs in his hip slowed his return from elbow surgery. At 34, it could be the end of the road.

Ted Lilly – On the surface, he looks like the second coming of Jamie Moyer.  But, over the last two seasons, he has pitched less than 72 innings total.  Hard to imagine he’ll be as productive in his 40′s as Moyer. 

Derek Lowe – How’s Doc Brown coming on that Flux thingy?

Paul Maholm – A career record 19 games under .500 and an ERA north of 4.00, he is still a lefty and will be paid accordingly.  Hopefully, not by the Phils.

**Shaun Marcum – I could be persuaded to allot $6-7m toward him.  It may take more than that to lock him down.

Jason Marquis – An overwhelmingly average pitcher that always seems to find his way on to contending teams.

Daisuke Matsuzaka -  Intriguing, but pricey.

Ricky Nolasco – His asking price should be above $10m.  Look for the Dodgers to make the investment.

Mike Pelfrey –Captain Mouthpiece peaked in 2010 with the Mets, struggled mightily in his one AL season.

Jonathan Sanchez – His flash of brilliance in 2010 makes his name sexy.  But, he hasn’t been successful since.  No.

Ervin Santana – He is a top of the rotation talent.  The bidding could start as high as $15m.  With Lee and Hamels at 1 and 2, Ruben should show some restraint.

Tim Stauffer – No.

Jason Vargas -  Not sure if we want another lefty in the rotation, especially one that could command $9-10m or more.

**Edinson Volquez – He has never duplicated his rookie success in ’08.  f you can get him for less than $10m, might be worth a look.

Chien-Ming Wang – No, thanks.

Barry Zito – Nope.  Maybe if he grows that mustache again?  Nope.

Relief Pitchers

David Aardsma – Opponents OBP around .340.  At only $500k in ’13.  His averageness might be overlooked.

Matt Albers – Opponents OBP around .310, only allowed 2 homers in 63 innings last year.  May get between $2-3m.

Luis Ayala – No.

Grant Balfour – Amazing that a pitcher named Ball Four has had any success.  But, his time in Oakland should earn him a sizable payday from a team in need of a closer.

Joaquin Benoit – We’re all set at closer … and ours wears his hat straight.

Bill Bray – Spent last year in the Nationals farm system.  Historically, a lefty-lefty specialist.  $2m or less.

Joba Chamberlain  – After 7 years of ‘Joba Rules’ the Yankees will probably let their once prized prospect walk away.  Someone will grab him based on the name.  But, he has never been the pitcher he was expected to be.

Jose Contreras – He’s 206!!!

Manny Corpas – Is he still dumping cups of mysterious liquids on his jersey?  Guess not, since his ERA since that 2007 playoff run is well north of 4.00.

Jesse Crain – No HR allowed in 36.2 innings, a 0.74 ERA and a 4 to 1 K/BB will make him a popular fella this winter.  Look for him to go as high as $8-10m/yr.

Octavio Dotel – At 40, the colorful righty looks near the end of his run.

Scott Downs – $5m+ is a little steep for a strictly lefty-lefty guy.

Kyle Farnsworth – No.

Pedro Feliciano – No.

Frank Francisco – A career 9.9k/9inn … good.  $6.5m in 2013 … not good.

**Chad Gaudin – Very average, but very affordable.

Mike Gonzalez – Nope.

Kevin Gregg – Nope.

Matt Guerrier – Nah.

Joel Hanrahan – Will probably see a nice pay day as a set-up or closer.

LaTroy Hawkins – Didn’t he pitch to Ty Cobb???

Clay Hensley – No.

**Rich Hill – An affordable lefty-lefty guy, he was excellent for Boston in 2012. He struggled in Cleveland last year.  Might be worth a look.

J.P. Howell – The losing pitcher in the deciding game of the 2008 World Series.  He was dependable for the Dodgers this year.  He’ll be looking at $4-5m and will probably stayin SoCal.

Kameron Loe – The 6’8” righty cuts an impressive figure.  But, he doesn’t get enough people out.

Boone Logan – Solid situational left-hander, he may see $4m/yr.

Javier Lopez – As good a lefty-lefty guy as there is right now.  Should get $5-6m from somebody. 

**Mark Lowe – The 30-year-old righty with the 100mph fastball may be best known as the guy that served up the game-winning gopher ball to David Freese in Game 6 of the 2011 Series.  He has drifted through 3-4 organizations since then.  But, an arm like that could be worth a $750k reclamation project.

**Brandon Lyon – He has run hot and cold throughout his career.  But, for the price, he might be a nice piece for the pen.

Ryan Madson – Hmmm … Has not thrown a pitch since leaving for Cincinnati after the 2011 season.  Spent last year on the DL in Anaheim.  Could be worthy of a spring invite.

Carlos Marmol – Made just under $10m in 2013, 27k in 21 innings after a mid-season trade to LA.  Look for the Dodgers and their deep pockets to make a push to keep him.

Nick Masset – The big righty may see$3-4m to leave Cinci.  Hopefully not from us.

Kyle McClellan – No.

**Peter Moylan – The Aussie right-hander was unimpressive in a late-season run with the Dodgers. Prior to that, he had established himself as a dependable righty-righty specialist.  Might be worth his $2-3m price tag.

Edward Mujica – I don’t see a scenario where the Cards allow him to leave.

**Pat Neshek – Quirky sidewinder alert!  He might be the bargain of the class.  For $1-2m, you get a guy with an unorthodox delivery that can befuddle both sides of the plate.  His career opponent OBP is under .300.

Eric O’Flaherty – In the unlikely event that he and the Braves part ways, he will command $6-7m.

Will Ohman – No.

Hideki Okajima – The lefty from Kyoto may be done.

Darren Oliver – Junior??  NO?!?!?  The Darren Oliver that was in the starting rotation with Nolan Ryan and the 1993 Rangers??  I don’t think so.

Juan Carlos Oviedo – A Leo Nunez by any other name would still not interest me at all.

Vicente Padilla – The former starter found a second life as a situational reliever.  That being said … NO.

Manny Parra – The Reds should see the value in keeping this lefty.  If they don’t he’ll get snatched up for $1-2m

Oliver Perez – Stop it!

Rafael Perez – Nothing special.

Chad Qualls – I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Jon Rauch – Since his tremendous stretch run for the Twins in ’09, the big man has been average at best.

Fernando Rodney – He will get big closer money.

J.C. Romero – Has not been the same since his supplement-related suspension.

Joe Smith – The last 3 years in Cleveland he has had over 70 appearances and a sub-3.00 ERA. He should be a highly sought after set-up man.  He could reach $5-6m.

Koji Uehara – Does anybody think the Sawx are going to let this guy go anywhere?? 

**Jamey Wright – Journeyman right-hander will be 39 when spring training opens.  Coming off 3 decent seasons, he could be a nice veteran arm for about $1m.

So, if all falls nicely for us, here is my projected 25-man opening day roster.  It comes in at a tidy $170m.

Starters 

Cole Hamels – $23.5m

Cliff Lee – $25m

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez – $4m

Shawn Marcum / Josh Johnson – $9m

Kyle Kendrick – $6.5m

Catcher

Carlos Ruiz / Jarrod Saltalamacchia – $7m

Erik Kratz – $500k

1st Base

Ryan Howard – $25m

Mike Morse – Salary counted in outfield

2nd Base

Chase Utley – $15m

Kevin Frandsen – $1m

Shortstop

Jimmy Rollins – $11m

Freddy Galvis – $500k

3rd Base

Cody Asche $500k

Frandsen / Galvis – Salaries counted above

Outfielders

Dom Brown – $1-2m

Ben Revere – $1m

Mike Morse – $9m

Darin Ruf / John Mayberry, Jr – $500k

Andres Torres – $2m

Relievers

Jonathon Papelbon – $13m

Mike Adams – $7m

Michael Stutes – $600k

Antonio Bastardo – $2m

Pat Neshek – $1.5m

Rich Hill – $2m

Jamey Wright – $1m

As with all armchair GMs, my opinions are subject to second guessing.  What it comes down to is that the big money guys need to produce.  Everybody on the team has to do their jobs.  But, if we don’t get our money’s worth from the 8 for $120m crew, none of this will matter.

Say goodnight, Vanna.

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