Looking Ahead: Phillies impending Free Agents and the 2011 Season.

I do realize that we are only two weeks into the season and that this is way early to want to think about, but the truth is, it may have an impact on this season as well. RAJ has already been on record that for as much as he is a “win-now” GM, he is also a “win-down-the-road” one too. So, I thought I would take a look at what MIGHT happen during the course of this year and the offseason.

The Phillies Opening Day Payroll for 2010 was a record high $138,178,379.00. 2011 projected opening day payroll? $134,728,000.00. And that is for only 19 under contract. An additional 2 players have options that would increase that 134 number even more. Romero’s club option is 4.5 Million and Castro’s club option is 750k. That would bring the number to 140 million for 21 of 25 players. As of now, even though Castro is filling in nicely, I don’t see them retaining him for next year unless he has a career year and actually hits over the Mendoza line. But that is a contract worth less than a million dollars.

Contracts coming off the books include RF Jayson Werth, RP Chad Durbin, SP Jamie Moyer, and RP Jose Contreras. The only two that are really significant losses are Werth and Durbin. Werth because he is the only right handed power threat the Phillies have. Could Francisco or Mayberry turn into someone that could take over for Werth? Yes,I believe so, but neither one is really proven. The two of them combined have hit 37 career HRs, or exactly one more than Werth hit by himself in 2009. Both could be options to play a platoon in right next year and cheap, but are you gonna bat both of them 5th?

Durbin, when healthy, is a really effective reliever. He proved in 2008 and is showing the beginnings of a solid season through 4 appearances. Durbin will be no where near a type A free agent, but he may be resignable. It would have to be a max contract of around 2-3 years and 7-10 million to be feasible.

Between the options the Phillies are developing in the minors and the nearly four dozen free agent starting pitchers projected to be available, losing the Ageless Wonder (Jamie Moyer) would not be a bitter pill to swallow. I would love to retain him as an advisor to Rich Dubee, but I think if anywhere a coaching job in Seattle would be made available for him. Even if Moyer is the Moyer of 2008, I would not hesitate to pass on him for the 2011 campaign.

Contreras just seems like a mercenary to me. With the uncertainty of both Lidge and Romero, Contreras was just a veteran arm to fill a spot. If healthy, a guy like Scott Mathieson could easily fill his spot in the pen.

Granted all four free agents could be filled internally, but that would create major question marks at key positions. The only way possible to assure high levels of success may be to trade away some players, either at the deadline or in the offseason. I know some will kill me for this, but the list of trade candidates should include:1B Ryan Howard, RF Jayson Werth, LF Raul Ibanez, RP Chad Durbin, and RP J.C. Romero.

You won’t get much value in return from Durbin or Romero and if the Phillies plan to go all the way, there is no way you trade both if not one, unless you are already receiving a quality reliever in return. Right now, if Ibanez didn’t have negative trade value, he wouldn’t have any value. He is barely hitting over the Mendoza line and has yet to hit a homerun. Ibanez is probably the player the Phillies would like to move most if they had to. Between the 12+ million per year contract he has through 2011 and the assumption that Ibanez may have hit a wall is what is giving all of us heartburn. So your two realistic trade chips are Howard and Werth.

Werth could be very valuable to a team close to contention at the trade deadline. In no way, shape, or form should he be moved any where but an American League team. Even if you are getting completely bowled over. You don’t want to help your competition. Let me worry about seeing him again in the World Series, not before. Teams with OF concerns early like Boston, New York, or just about any team in the AL West outside of Texas could have a need for an outfielder. Werth’s two greatest strengths are the fact that at mid season an acquiring team would only be responsible for roughly 3.5-4.0 Million of his contract and the fact that Werth can play all three outfield positions. Three useful pieces in return should be expected for the rental. If the Phillies decide to stick with him and let him walk, you can atleast bank on two high draft picks to stock the farm, but that doesn’t help us in 2011. The Phillies will very much be looking to sign Werth long term, atleast they should be.

The only problem would be the fact that Ryan Howard is sucking up 20.0 Million next season by himself. Realistically, we would have to shed Howard and Ibanez to sign any marquee names for 2011. Ryan Howard would bring a truck load of talent in return, even more if RAJ is willing to pay part of that 20.0 million. I would see where paying nothing gets you first. Trading Howard would require bringing back a stud 3B or 1B MLB ready player plus a stud pitching prospect I would hope.

When Ibanez does indeed find his stroke, he may gain some value. Then the question becomes do you have faith in a combination of Mayberry, Francisco, and Domonic Brown fighting it out for the outfield positions. If for some chance of random luck the Phillies moved  Howard and Ibanez, Werth would instantly become resignable.

No matter what happens, this 2010 calendar year will probably be RAJ’s most important.


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