Early last week, Ruben Amaro signed Delmon Young to a one-year contract, seemingly putting a cap on his offseason moves.
In the time that has passed since, the public has chastised Amaro for his re-structuring of the team. On social media and talk radio, people have spouted off about how he has failed to address the Phillies needs and turn them back into a contender this offseason.
To be perfectly honest, the frustration is understandable. While the Braves got the Upton brothers, the Phillies got the Youngs, who I believe are of no relation. The Nationals reeled in Dan Haren, while Amaro signed John Lannan.
The acquisition of talent hasn’t really stacked up. On paper, it seems the Phillies will once again be unable to contend with the two teams they finished behind in the standings last season. While the Braves and Nationals got better, it’s hard to argue that the Phils did the same.
So, in grading Amaro on how he has set the team up for the 2013 season, it’s fair to suggest he deserves no better than a C, and maybe an even worse grade.
To critique Amaro simply on how he set the team up for 2013 is unfair, however. When the offseason is viewed through a wider lens, Amaro has done a good job with his moves this winter. Unlike in years past, he avoided the long-term, expensive commitments to players not worth their salt, opting instead to bring in players to fill voids on short-term deals. In fact, the most expensive contract Amaro handed out was to Mike Adams, a deal that is worth just $12M, assuming his third year vesting option isn’t met.
The result is a team that will have a ton of financial flexibility following the 2013 season. Let’s take a look at the Phillies expiring contracts after this season. It should be noted that, for values, I included Lannan and D. Young’s incentives, since the team had to make room for those amounts in laying out their budget. I also assumed that Roy Halladay would not reach the total innings needed to make his 2014 option vest (not a far-fetched assumption), and that Kyle Kendrick and John Mayberry Jr. would not be offered arbitration following the season. Here’s the contracts that expire and their average annual values:
Roy Halladay – $20M AAV
Chase Utley – $12.2M AAV
Carlos Ruiz - $3.34M AAV
Michael Young – $6M AAV
Kyle Kendrick – $3.75 AAV
John Lannan – $5M AAV
Delmon Young – $3.5M AAV
Laynce Nix – $1.25M AAV
John Mayberry, Jr. – $500K AAV
In expiring contracts alone, the Phils gain about $55.54M in spending money for 2014. That number doesn’t include arbitration eligible guys Antonio Bastardo and Kevin Frandsen, though. So let’s call it $53M. Consider the fact that the Phillies payroll projects to be about $165M in 2013–assuming incentives are met and including buyouts. There could always be a trade or two during the season, and that could push it to $170M. That gives them another $8M to spend before they hit the $178M luxury tax threshold. However, in 2014, the threshold raises to $189M, so the Phils find another $11M to spend. That brings the grand total to somewhere in the range of $70M additional dollars to spend on the 2014 season, if the Phils opt to go right up to the luxury tax threshold. While that may seem unlikely, they did push the threshold last season ($173.5M), and are in line for a nice cash influx with a looming TV deal that may allow them to loosen the purse strings.
That’s $70M to spend on a free agent class that includes the likes of Robinson Cano, Brian McCann, Ben Zobrist, Josh Johnson, James Shields and Tim Lincecum, among many others (For a complete list, click here). I don’t think there’s any question that next year’s free agent market is much stronger than this year’s. Because of Amaro’s reluctance to hand out big contracts this time around, the Phillies will be in position to sign at least two of the big names on the market, plus some second-tier players (He could sign Cano and Shields for $45M a season, and still have $25M left to spend). This is all hypothetical, but it gives an idea about the Phillies potential spending power in the not-so-distant future.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: That’s all well and good, but what about the 2013 season? What about winning now?
The fact is, if the Phillies are going to win in 2013–which is still a possibility, mind you. I don’t intend to write this team off–they’ll need the guys they’re already paying handsomely to perform up to their standards. Guys like Utley, Halladay and Ryan Howard need to step up. There wasn’t a player on the market worth signing who could change that.
Amaro recognized that fact, and he shrewdly opted to maintain the team’s flexibility going forward. I haven’t been in love with everything Amaro has done this offseason, but he deserves credit for doing that much.
If 2013 should end the same way 2012 did, the Phils will be in a position to completely revamp their roster. Amaro’s prudence this offseason makes that possible.