How has Ruben Amaro done this off-season with what the Philadelphia Phillies had to work with? This writer’s opinion: better than expected. This off-season, more than others past, offered its fare share of mirage players. Most of these mirage players are in the outfield, incidentally the Phillies biggest need. These players are mirages because by and large their contacts were too pricey to justify their annual salaries.
Don’t believe me? Fine, here are some examples:
B.J. Upton – (Atlanta Braves, 5 years $75M) I think you’ve seen what you’re going to see from B.J. Upton. I would not be surprised to see his production continue at its current pace. However, at 15 million I don’t think the Braves had his current production in mind when they signed him. Plus, fast doesn’t get any faster over time. He’s definitely good, and would have been worth the $50M over 5 years the Phillies offered, but at $15 million a year for 5 years Atlanta can enjoy him.
Melky Cabrera – (Toronto Blue Jays, 2 years $16M) I have never been a Melky Cabrera fan. I was convinced he was a flash in the pan when he was a New York Yankee, and those suspicions were confirmed when he struggled in Atlanta. Just as I buried him he broke out as a Kansas City Royal and that surge continued in San Francisco Giants uniform. But alas, I was correct as usual and Cabrera tested positive for PED’s before the All-Star break. I think a reintroduction of Melky in the NL East coupled with his recent fall from grace is a recipe for disaster. Good fit for Toronto, as they have clearly gone all in this season and he certainly couldn’t hurt their chances.
Nick Swisher – (Cleveland Indians, 4 year $56M) Swisher had two good years while an Oakland Athletic, and a slew for New York, but I think those good years are behind him. As Swisher hits the wrong side of thirty (he is 32 now) expect his power to decline. He may be able to maintain twenty home power this season, and possibly next season, but all four? No way. Which means for 50-75% of Swisher’s contract you would have an under performing player. $14 million is just too much to spend on a player whose decline is this predictable.
Angel Pagan – (San Francisco Giants, 4 years 40M) I see Pagan as a guy who can give 3 or 4 quality years over the course of his entire career. That’s not meant to be a bad thing. He is the type of player that has littered MLB since its inception, a talented player who does his time and quietly retires. He is about enter his third year of top tier production. Pagan has no power, he’s all speed and slap hitting. And, write this down, 31 year olds who rely on speed tend to decline steadily as they age. What do you think the Giants will get from a 34 or 35 year old Pagan? Not much.
Tori Hunter – (Detroit Tigers, 2 years, $26M) Not a horrible value, but with the Phillies in such a close proximity to the luxury tax, spending 13 million a year on an over 35 outfielder who just played out a contract year is not very prudent. In fact it has flashes of Raul Ibanez all over it. His contract would make moves at the trade deadline very difficult since the Phillies would not be able to take on salary without going over the luxury tax.
Shane Victorino – (Boston Red Sox, 3 years $39M) When Shane Victorino signed that contract every fan in Philadelphia’s collective jaw dropped. “Boston gave him how much?!?” However, Shane is one of the most beloved Phillies in recent memory, and as such I guarantee there is nothing but good wishes for him.
Josh Hamilton – (Los Angeles Angels, 5 years $125M) I doubt any Phillies fan would have been averse to signing Hamilton, but the 5 years was too many. The Phillies reportedly offered Hamilton a contract in the neighborhood 2 years 55 million which would have been perfect given his predicted declince. Instead someone was willing to over pay him, good for the Phillies, bad for the Angels (long term at least, this season watch out for that lineup).
Not every outfielder has been overpaid, there are still a few good values that the Phillies missed or are currently missing out on. I think Jonny Gomes would have been a good fit (Boston, 2 years $10M). He is a good value at 5 million a year and would take the pressure off of one of Dominic Brown or Darin Ruf to produce this season out of the gate. Ryan Ludwick (Cincinnati Reds, 2 years $15M) would have been another player in a similar vein as Jonny Gomes. A good value and not so expensive that he can’t be benched or traded when young talent develops.
At the price most of these outfielders claimed the Phillies are better off rolling the dice on Darin Ruf a guy who could hit 25-30 home runs in the near future, and Dominic Brown their most prized prospect for 3 seasons. At least if neither Ruf or Brown work out they will only cost the major league minimum (I expect next to nothing from Laynce Nix). Sure, Amaro could sign Michael Bourn, who is not a mirage player. I believe that not paying Bourne is the smart move for the Phillies unless the climate changes to a one year contract or a salary the $10-12 million a year range.
Signing Bourn means that the Phillies give up their first round draft pick in compensation. Under the best of circumstances the Phillies need their draft picks, as the team is visibly aging. Factor in that signing him would mean that the division rival, and always competitive Atlanta Braves would get that pick and it becomes a no-brainer. The Braves are one of the best in the business at talent evaluation, a big part of why they’ve been competitive for a quarter century. If the Phillies give the Braves a first round pick you can bank on the Braves making them regret it.