While the Phillies have put a premium on loyalty and extending the contracts of popular home-grown talent like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins that make them part of the team deep into their 30s, the Philadelphia NFL team, puts a premium on age and are willing to let their popular players go once they reach 30 or at least shortly afterward.
The Phillies must start to think along those same lines.
Baseball analytics have shown that production once past the early part of the 30s drops off dramatically and, instead of rewarding long-term contracts to guys once they reached 30 and beyond, the Phillies should do that to players who have already determined significant value in their 20s.
Even keeping Cliff Lee, who turned 35 on Aug. 30, around involves some risk. Lee’s ERA during the first three seasons of his five-year, $125 million contract 2.82 and under 3.00 all three years. Over the last 10 years, only six pitchers 35 and over posted sub-3.00 ERAs.
That should dictate a permanent goodbye to pitchers like Roy Halladay, who has had both fatigue and arm problems over the last two years. While he will be missed as a person and a positive clubhouse influence, his value as a starting pitcher is minimal going forward. He’s no more than a fourth or fifth starter now and the Phillies can save a lot of money and age by going after a dependable, if not overpowering, younger starter.
Another player on the decline is the popular Carlos Ruiz, 34, one of the many catchers on the free-agent market. Letting Chooch go frees up money to sign Atlanta Braves’ free agent Brian McCann, 29, who buys the club both increased production and the value of an extra five years of youth.
While it might not be a popular move with the fans, it is really the only one to make for a team already top-heavy in aging veterans.
Mike Gibson, an Associated Press Sports Editors’ Association and Keystone Press Association award-winner for Best Sports Story and Best Sports Feature, is a Phillies writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @papreps , “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.