The Philadelphia Phillies will be major players for Robinson Cano next offseason. That is only if the New York Yankees can’t find a way to give him a long-term contract. Given the Yankees’ Scrooge McDuck-esque history I doubt that Cano is going anywhere. On the other hand, nothing in life is certain, and I’m paid to discuss ‘what if’s’. If the Yankees can’t come to terms with Cano, there would be no reason the Philadelphia Phillies shouldn’t bid on the elite, World Baseball Classic MVP second baseman.
If Cano looks beyond New York it will be because they Yankees didn’t go to $25M per year and at least 5 years, a figure Ruben Amaro Jr. will certainly balk at. Amaro should take a lesson from Teddy KGB and “Pay that man his money”.
The Phillies should pay Cano for a few reasons, the first of which is because they could shed a lot of salary after this season. The Phillies can, and likely will, lose the contracts of Roy Halladay, Michael Young, probably Chase Utley and possibly Carlos Ruiz, who make $20 million, $6M, $15M, and $5M respectively (totaling $46M). Halladay may be back, but at a cheaper rate, Young will be dismissed for minor league prospect Cody Asche, same for Ruiz and catcher Tommy Joseph (though they are less likely to dismiss Ruiz), and finally, since the Phillies are going after Robinson Cano, they obviously have no need for Chase Utley.
The Phillies should not balk at a 6 year $150M contract because, by trading and signing big name pitchers and outfielders over the years the Phillies depleted their farm team, and left themselves few options apart from using their checkbook. They’ve made the transfer to a big market team, and if you want to be a big market team you have to spend the money on elite players. The Phillies have not hesitated to do just that with pitchers the last few years, and as such the offense has suffered. I know $150M is a lot to pay anyone (in any walk of life), but in Cano you know you are getting the very best second baseman for the next three to five years. Paying money to get the very best is not a bad investment.
There are several logical reasons not to pursue Cano. First of all paying Cano $25M a year would mean $121M is sunk into only six players (Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, Cano) until after the 2015 season, when they lose Jimmy’s contract, followed by Lee and Papelbon’s contracts after 2016. That is not a very diverse portfolio going forward.
There is also the possibility that Chase Utley has a good season, plays 120+ games and hits reasonably well. Then the Phillies could resign him to a 2 or 3 year contract, probably in the $5-$8 million range, and save themselves around $100M over 5 or 6 years and still have a slightly better than average second baseman. The Phillies could then look to make a splash in some other way over the next few years.
The Phillies farm system is not very deep with high ceiling position player, but there are a few prospects that look like they could develop into something special, like Darin Ruf, Domonic Brown, Tommy Joseph, and Cody Asche. Outside of them, the farm team is not strong enough to depend on the next few seasons.
In 2014, if the lineup were Ben Revere, Jimmy Rollins, Robinson Cano, Ryan Howard, Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, Cody Asche and Tommy Joseph, augmented with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and another mid level free agent pitcher, would you feel that bad about the Phillies chances? There are a lot of high money guys, but a similar number of low salary players to offset those costs
The Phillies have to either clear a lot of salary over the next two years and build for a run slowly, or they have to double down while their two aces are still elite and their first baseman is still viable.