Everyone is wondering how, or if, Philadelphia Phillies' general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. can basically remake one-half of his starting lineup in one offseason?
Cutting ties and moving forward
Pence isn't coming back. Victorino could return, but that doesn't seem to make sense at this point in time?
Unless he's traded, I think the Phillies are going to stick with Domonic Brown for another year. Unless he's traded, I think Darin Ruf will be seen on the Phillies' major league roster by next summer at the latest. Ruf's power surge after the trade deadline might also have been the "lucky break" that Amaro needed, as it could enable him to reallocate somewhat limited payroll resources beyond the outfield.
Amaro moved Victorino because his contract was expiring, the Phillies were unlikely to make the playoffs and because he was setting his 2013 plans in motion. Pence was moved, even though he was eligible for arbitration, because the Phillies didn't see him as a good fit in the short- or long-term.
The Pence trade was somewhat unusual because he's only 29, hits right-handed and has power. But, he plays right field and that's where the Phillies planned (and likely still plan) for Brown to take over.
Sure, Brown hasn't been impressive during his three partial big league seasons. But, the organization has invested a lot of time in him and he did exhibit a much calmer approach to the game in 2012.
I don't know if the 25-year-old will ever become a full-time player. But, he's likely to get another shot in right field for the same reason that Ruf could platoon in left field. That one big reason is money. Both players will earn approximately $1 million combined next season.
"Following the money" helps to tame random conjecture about what the Phillies' (or any team's) options might realistically be.
Money at the bank
Again, unless they are traded, Amaro will pay these players the amount of money that appears in brackets aside of their names in 2013: Cliff Lee ($25 million), Roy Halladay ($20 million), Ryan Howard ($20 million), Chase Utley ($15.286 million), Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million), Jimmy Rollins ($11 million), Carlos Ruiz ($5 million), Kyle Kendrick ($4.5 million) and Laynce Nix ($1.35 million).
Some other players (Nate Schierholtz, Antonio Bastardo and Kevin Frandsen) will gain guaranteed deals, for "modest" amounts, depending upon arbitration. If all three players are on the team next season, they will earn approximately $6 million combined.
The Phillies' assured financial obligations total $115.136 million for the nine veteran players mentioned above. When the other three players are included the Phillies' fixed payroll is approximately $121 million before any trades, or free agent signings, are factored into this equation. Include Brown and Ruf and the team's fixed payroll will be in the range of $122 million.
The luxury tax threshold is $178 million in 2013. That leaves approximately $56 million to be used for the 11 other players who will be on the opening day roster and for the remaining 15 players who will be part of the 40-man roster. Of course, those additional players won't take much payroll space.
Amaro could be seeking a big-money man for one of the outfield positions, or for third base. But, in order to make that type of addition he would almost certainly have to subtract some current players from his team.
A simple offseason plan could see Brown slotted for right field and Ruf designated as a platoon player in left field. The Phillies would also add a modestly priced centerfielder, a modestly priced third baseman (potentially on a one-year deal), a few relievers and some bench players in preparation for next season.
Amaro has put himself into a tight situation because of his past roster gambles. So, it will be very interesting to see how he handles these critical offseason months.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his professional career in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons' front office (the Philadelphia Phillies former Triple-A affiliate), later worked as a freelance sports writer and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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