In order for the Philadelphia Phillies to create a positive season in 2013, improved performances from the majority of players who will be retained next season must be seen. Most of the newly obtained players, to be added between now and next April, will also need to make productive contributions if this season's anticipated won-loss record is to be significantly improved next year.
General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. appears to be following a strategy that is somewhat similar to the one that his mentor Pat Gillick used in 2006. During that season Gillick determined that the Phillies weren't going to qualify for the playoffs. So, he created 'payroll flexibility' by trading Bobby Abreu to the New York Yankees and then employed a variety of creative methods to improve his team.
Sure, that season and this one aren't identical. But, Amaro referenced Gillick's strategy during an interview yesterday. So, the comparison is obviously apt.
As of now, the Phillies 2013 payroll will mostly be filled by the salaries of: Cliff Lee ($25 million), Roy Halladay ($20 million), Ryan Howard ($20 million), Cole Hamels ($19.5 million), Chase Utley ($15.286 million), Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million), Jimmy Rollins ($11 million), Carlos Ruiz ($5 million club option for next season) and Kyle Kendrick ($4.5 million). Those nine players will be paid a combined total amount of $133.286 million.
The combined current salaries of: Ty Wigginton ($3.5 million, with a $500,000 buyout option), Laynce Nix ($1.35 million), Nate Schierholtz ($1.3 million current salary, arbitration eligible), Pete Orr ($600,000, arbitration eligible) Antonio Bastardo ($505,000, arbitration eligible), Vance Worley ($495,000, not yet eligible for arbitration), David Herndon ($495,00, arbitration eligible), Michael Stutes ($485,000, not yet eligible for arbitration) and Josh Lindblom ($483,000, not yet eligible for arbitration) equal $9.213 million.
We can't yet project the exact combined 2013 salary amount for this lower-cost group due to noted arbitration issues. If all nine players are retained, which isn't certain, a fair estimate of their combined salaries will be in the range of at least $10-plus million.
Both the higher-cost and lower-cost contracts, covering 18 players on the 2013 payroll, should reach a combined approximate amount of $143 million dollars. Players like Domonic Brown and Freddy Galvis, both of whom aren't yet eligible for arbitration, could become part of this total team equation as well.
The trades of Shane Victorino ($9.5 million, pending free agent status) to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Hunter Pence ($10.4 million, arbitration eligible) to the San Francisco Giants were made for a variety of reasons. Obviously, the desire to open payroll space was one of them.
An August waiver trade of Joe Blanton ($10.5 million) also makes sense when we follow the money line, as the Phillies obviously seem unlikely to re-sign this pending free agent.
Facts and figuring
Baseball's 2013 luxury tax threshold will be $178 million. All costs for Philadelphia's 40-man roster, including bonuses, benefits (like health insurance) and reductions (like buyout agreements) will be incorporated by the Phillies' money men into their total payroll.
Currently, a projected amount of approximately $35 million is available for Amaro to improve his team. Third base, left field, center field, right field, one starting pitching slot, some bullpen positions and a few bench seats all need to be solidified before next season begins. Everyone can decide for themselves whether the Phillies will need to trade another high-salaried player between now and then in order to gain further payroll flexibility.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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