I think I'm about through with the 2010 version of the Phillies. Too many injuries, an old left fielder who is pretty much through, and an under performing first baseman whose contract is going to be an albatross for the Phillies for the next few years.
In case you are a person that ignores mainstream media, underground media, alternative media, and the streets of Media and rely solely on the semi-annual updates of this blog for your Phillies news, let me be the one to tell you: Ryan Howard just robbed Citizen's Bank. The Phillies decided to give him a 5 year contract extension (note: Howard's current contract runs out after 2011) that is worth $125 Million and includes a $10 Million buyout after 2016.
Instead of getting my opinion on the contract, I called up my friends Point and Counterpoint to get their takes on the contract and engage them in a dialogue.
Point: Hey Cp, did you hear? The Phillies signed Ryan Howard to a 5 year deal. He's going to retire as a Phillie!
Counterpoint: And that's a good thing?
P: Ha, you're hilarious. Seriously, how is this contract a bad thing for the Phillies?
Cp: Well let's see. Ryan Howard will be 36 when this contract is over. They will be paying him $25 million a year in the last three years of the contract when he his performance will most likely be on the decline, possibly a steep one. Assuming their payroll is still around $125 million, the Phillies will allocating 20% of their budget for a first baseman on the bad side of 30.
P: That's it? But what about the homers.
Cp: You're right, he still hits homers. He'll most likely hit 40 plus home runs for the next few years and will reach 500 during the lifetime of the contract. But this isn't home run derby. His walk totals have gone down in the last four years, from 108 in 2006 to 75 in 2009. If you're hitting 40 home runs, it should be a piece of cake to get 100 BBs.
P: Eh, maybe, but he is still a feared hitter.
CP: Let's clarify that. Right handed pitchers fear him. The Alan Embrees of the world love seeing Howard step to the plate. He just can't hit left handed pitching any more. His performance has gone from good (.923 OPS in 2006) to average (.826 OPS in 2007) to bad (.746 OPS in 2008) to awful (.653 in 2009). This is an insanely scary trend, particularly as Howard ages and his bat speed slows down.
P: But the RIBBIES!!!
Cp: Have we gone back in time to 1986? The Phillies have the best offense in baseball. If he didn't drive in 120 runs a year, there would be something seriously wrong.
P: Won't it be great to see him retire as a Phillie?
Cp: I'm scared that by 2014, we'll all just want him to retire. Here are his Top 5 comparables at his age: Richie Sexson, Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn, Willie McCovey, and David Ortiz. Four of those guys didn't age well at all.
P: OK. So you don't like the contract.
Cp: You think?
P: What do you dislike more, the money or the years.
Cp: Both. Let's say the Phillies let Ryan Howard become a free agent in 2011. Does any team give him a contract even close to 5 years, $125 million? The Yankees have Texieria so they don't need a first baseman. The Red Sox will have figured out how to get Adrian Gonzalez by that point. The Cardinals will have to give a billion dollars to Pujols at the same time. So that leaves the Cubs, Dodgers, Mariners,and Angels as teams that would have the money to bid on Howard. Maybe Howard gets 4 years, $80 million from one of them, but no way he gets 5 years and $125 Million. AND THE PHILLIES WERE BIDDING AGAINST THEMSELVES.
P: But it's not your money.
Cp: You're right, it's not. But as a fan of the team, I don't want them spending this much of their payroll on a position that is easily replaceable when the money could be spent much smarter. This contract is going to be an albatross to the team in 2013-2016 and really kill their flexibility. You'd think they'd have learned from now.
P: I love you.
Well thanks guys for taking the time out of your busy lives and helping us out. We appreciate your service to this site and our country.
I think Ruben Amaro is a pretty good General Manager. He sees that the current team has about another three year window, he understands the importance of a strong farm system, and he has a mancrush on Roy Halladay, like we all should. However, his Achilles Heel seems to be unending quest to give too many years to veteran players.
First, it was two years for Jamie Moyer's Cretaceous-era left arm, then it was three year contract for Raul Ibanez that will take him through his 39th birthday. And this past off-season it was three years for Placido Polanco. Fortunately for the Phillies, they have the flexibility with budget and minor league replacements that they can afford to make big mistakes like these. But it is still a disturbing trend.
I don't think I'd be going to far out on a limb to say that Moyer is cooked. He's obviously lasted longer than anyone could have ever imagined, and he should be applauded for his ability to be a major league pitcher into his late forties. But sending him out there every fifth day is basically telling the offense that they need to score a minimum of seven runs. No pressure.
So what can the Phillies do?
1. Release him and eat the $6-7 Million left on his contract. I don't think this will happen, particularly with the dearth of left handed relievers out there. Guys like Alan Embree and Eddie Guardado have kept their careers going just because of the arm they throw with, so they may be able to extract some return on their investment by putting him in the bullpen.
2. Kindly ask him to retire. Not a lot of incentive for Moyer to do this as the Phillies wouldn't have to pay him his cash, and his reaction to Pedro replacing him last year pretty much demonstrated that he's already become an old crank. Pretty much rule this one out.
3. Pitch Halladay every other day. I'm sure he could do it.
The good news is, the Phillies are good enough to keep running Moyer and Kendrick out there for a few more starts until Blanton is healthy and Pedro is ready to start pitching again. But until then, there are going to be some games that are difficult to watch.
I hate Rick Sutcliffe. He adds nothing to any broadcast that he is a part of (at least when he is sober). But to make life worse, ESPN's broadcast geniuses figure he will be easier to listen to when paired with Berman. I hate you ESPN. Why can't Yahoo start a sports network?