WDEL Blog: WDEL Sports

Phillies conduct necessary payroll surgery

The Phillies went under the knife of Dr. Ruben Amaro, Jr. Tuesday.

The team that brought great joy and a parade to Broad Street was beginning to show signs of wear and tear, and the team's general manager attempted to renew the spirit.

Interestingly enough, he did so by taking out two of the best personalities in the locker room in Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.

Victorino, who was always available in the locker room after games, unlike virtually any other player on the team, did it best to remind the Phillies media to keep things positive.

One of my favorite moments of the season is when the Flyers won game 1 of their series with the Penguins, and he stopped mid-answer to go "Did we win! Yeah, Flyers!" Following that with being asked and answering his comments on the team's win.

Meanwhile Hunter Pence started as a player who was at his locker every night, but that seemed to stop late last season, seeming to learn the Phillies way of dealing with the media.

The problem is, while both have infectious personalities you like to be around, they have another trait in common: Overpriced Contracts.

Victorino is currently making $9.5 million in the final year before unrestricted free agency, and had reportedly been hoping for a higher-priced, long-term contract. A .261, 9 homer, 40 RBI season wasn't what the centerfielder was looking for, but at least he'd been playing better. But someone you're willing to invest $14million to? Even with his great defense, which often gets overlooked, nope.

Pence is making $10.4 million this year, and still has one more year of arbitration remaining before becoming a free agent. Given his 17 homers and 59 runs batted in, the 29-year-old likely would see that number rise, potentially a few million higher. The absence of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley actually gave Pence the chance to show he could shine and carry the offense like you'd expect a double-digit million dollar player to, but instead, he swung wildly and was batting just .268 in the clean-up spot before Carlos Ruiz's scorching start got noticed and then Ryan Howard returned.

Compare those numbers to the 2008 team. The World Champions had just 2 players making $10million or more: Ryan Howard ($10M) and Pat Burrell ($14.3M). Chase Utley made "just" $7.8million despite hitting 33 homers with 104 RBI. World Series MVP Cole Hamels only made $500,000.

You pay a premium for premium numbers, but this 2012 Phillies team isn't getting it from any of their stars. Mostly due to injuries, but Ryan Howard ($25M), Chase Utley ($15), Jimmy Rollins ($11M), Roy Halladay ($20M), and Cliff Lee ($21.5M) just haven't played like the elite players they have been and are being paid to be.

When you're winning 102 games, being a high-priced under producer is okay, when you're a threat to lose 100 games despite paying a luxury tax and selling out games? That's a problem.

The only way to stop the bulging payroll was to cut some of the pieces. The hope is scouting department hits on some of the prospects. The only prospect to make the majors recently was Jeremy Horst, acquired in the Wilson Valdez to Cincinatti deal, who has allowed 2 runs in his first 10 appearances in pinstripes.

If Amaro is correct on the catching prowess of Tommy Joseph, and Josh Lindblom can prove to be a reliable arm in the bullpen, maybe Phillies' fans can forget a little bit about two pieces that had become too expensive to keep.

The moral of the story is this: When you put over $90 million into five players, at some point you need to find discount talent for the other 20 roster spots.

That is when we will know whether today's surgery was a success, or the Phillies are about to flat line for a few years after a thrilling decade of success.


Posted at 5:59pm on July 31, 2012 by Sean Greene

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Comments on this post:

mrpizza
Sun, Aug 12, 2012 1:34am
I remember when the Cardinals lost the world series in '68 after winning in '67 and my mother telling me: "Well, they can't win it every year!"


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