One would think the Roy Halladay trade, executed during a golden age in club history, would suggest the Phillies have moved into the uppermost echelon, but instead, it raises awareness about the team's limitations.
Half the reports spun from last week’s blockbuster were framed around the notion that the Phillies are operating within a hard spending cap, even though Halladay will be raking in $20 million a season over the next four seasons. Reason being: Halladay guarantees the Phillies a linchpin atop the rotation, but just as importantly, fiscal certainty beyond 2011. At that point, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Brad Lidge, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Greg Dobbs, J.C. Romero, Ross Gload and J.C. Romero, who has an option, are set to walk, meaning Halladay, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels would become a worst-case, last bastion of hope.
Payroll is widely believed to allow for $140 million in spending, which leaves little-to-no wiggle room depending on the outcomes of several negotiations with arbitration-eligible players, including first-time All-Star Shane Victorino, who made $3.25 million last year, and right-handed workhorse Joe Blanton, who made $5.5 million. Point being, the Phillies, despite packed houses, the sea of red down Broad Street, record-setting television viewership and a pair of extended excursions deep into fall, aren’t the New York Yankees in a variety of ways.
That said, the preemptive measure with Halladay, and need to restock the farm rather than go all in with Cliff Lee for one season, makes sense. It’s actually to the point where one can start to project the Phillies’ future moves based on their minor league maneuvering. They went out of their way to protect Domonic Brown and clearly view him as one of their future corners. I’m already willing to say Ibanez will be gone in 2011, and Jayson Werth, a free agent after this season, may already be gone by then. What it means is that fans have a great chance of seeing Brown in red pinstripes in two seasons, as long as he continues to progress. The Phillies are up to their eyeballs in centerfielders with defensive skill and speed, including one of the players acquired in the Lee deal, Tyson Gillies, a late bloomer in the very general mold of Shane Victorino, though not a switch hitter like Vic. Anthony Gose is a much younger prospect with a very exciting skill set. My advice: It might not be the wisest play to invest in a Flyin’ Hawaiian jersey this season. In addition, go back and look at the list of 2011 free agents and you’ll see the entire back-end of the bullpen is set to leave. That’s why the Phillies need to keep grooming former Seattle first-rounder Phillippe Aumont as a reliever, his personally preferred position, rather than move him back into the rotation.
Anything can happen in two years, but it’s a fun exercise, and just as fun to predict who the Phils will attempt to resign. Note that two players on the list – Howard and J-Roll – are least likely to be pushed by a high-rising prospect during the next two years.