Based on the moves the Philadelphia Phillies have made so far this offseason, it is clear that they still don’t understand what their problem is. When I look at their team structure, I compare them a lot to the New York Yankees: They are far too loyal to their aging, veteran players and spend way too much money to retain them.
At first, I thought giving Marlon Byrd a two-year, $16 million deal was fine. The more I thought about it, the more puzzling it became. Byrd is already 36 years old — that is old, even compared to the rest of the Phillies roster. Factor in that Byrd is just one year removed from a 50-game ban for being caught using PEDs, and in baseball years the Phillies are basically the equivalent of a retirement home. The Phils added to their age problem on Monday when they re-signed 34 year old catcher Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26 million contract.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest moves the Phillies have made in recent seasons with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. in command. Prior to 2012, the Phillies signed 32 year old Jimmy Rollins to a three-year deal worth $33 million with an option for 2015. Rollins will be 36 when the contract is up. Ryan Howard was given a five-year deal worth $125 million that won’t end until after his age 36 season at the earliest. Chase Utley, 34, was given a two-year deal worth $25 million with three vesting options that could extend his deal until his age 39 season. Four of their starting eight position players are old and on bad contracts.
Maybe the worst move of all, aside from the Howard deal, was giving closer Jonathan Papelbon a four-year, $50 million deal. The deal also includes a vesting option that could carry his contract through his age 35 season. The problem with Papelbon’s contract isn’t as much about his age — it is about the money he is making. Giving a pitcher $13 million per year to pitch 65 innings is ludicrous.
These are just some of the free agent signings that Amaro Jr. has made in recent years; we haven’t even gotten into his trades he has made that have completely emptied the Phillies’ farm system. Their farm system isn’t the worst in baseball, but it is considered one of the weaker systems according to most experts. The Phillies are a mess. They have several old players locked up to long-term deals that the players have no chance to live up to. The Phils need to learn that baseball players aren’t like wine — they don’t get better with age.