Thank You, Philly!
Posted by JD on April 26, 2010
The Phillies signed first baseman Ryan Howard to a five-year, $125 million extension (with a team option for a sixth year, which, if exercised, would make the total value $138 million). Thank you, Ruben Amaro!
There are two reasons for my reaction: the impact on the Phillies’ payroll, and the ripple effect throughout the league. Let’s tackle them in that order.
The Phillies’ Payroll: According to Cot’s Baseball Contract’s, the Phillies payroll for this season is about $138 million. That’s bound to increase next season as they already have commitments to 17 players exceeding $134 million. They can basically kiss Jayson Werth goodbye, and they better hope their farm system produces a few cheap replacements, because they’re not going to be able to spend a lot on the open market.
Now, you can’t blame that on entirely on the extension because 2011 is the final year of Howard’s current deal: the Phillies were already committed to (over)paying him. The extension starts in 2012 and the Phillies payroll for that season is already $86 million (for just eight players). Now, this is where it starts to get fun. Howard will be 32 that year and, mostly likely, he’s going to be an old 32. Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder will both be free agents heading into that season (barring any trades or extensions, obviously) and will be 30 and 28, respectively. The Phillies commitment to Howard, who can’t play anything but first (and not very well at that), takes them out of the market for Gonzalez and Fielder. As much as we all love Ike Davis, the Mets would have to get involved. With the Yankees committed to Mark Teixiera and the Phillies out of the game, they’d probably have only the Red Sox as competition, meaning Davis would be moving out to the outfield in 2012.
The Ripple Effect: This is what makes me positively giddy. Howard is inferior to both Gonzalez and Fielder, yet the Phillies just signed him to an extension that has an average annual value greater than everyone other than A-Rod. Think their agents aren’t sending gift baskets to Citizen’s Bank Park? What’s particularly intriguing about the scenario is that Milwaukee and San Diego are two of the smaller markets in the league. They don’t have the resources to devote $25 million to one player. The Mets do, and they’re aided by an additional factor: Carlos Beltran’s $17 million contract comes off the books after 2011, giving them even more payroll room*. It’s like the Perfect Storm: the Phillies took themselves off the market, but elevated the price tags to the point that only the large market teams can afford to pay them.
*As much as I love Beltran, I’m slowly coming to grips with the fact that he may never be the awesome force that he once was. He’ll turn 35 in 2012 and will likely still be dealing with the fallout from his current injury. I just don’t know how wise it would be to resign him to a big-money deal. Only time will tell, but for purposes of this discussion I’m going to assume that the Mets will look to move on.
And then there’s the elephant in the room: if a 32 year-old Ryan Howard is worth $25 million a year, what is a 32 year-old Albert Pujols worth? $35 million? $40 million? More? The Cardinals have substantially more flexibility in 2012 than the Phillies with only $31 million committed to just four players (but my gosh, how horrible does that $12 Kyle Lohse commitment look now?). But I have to think that if Pujols refused to give the Cardinals a discount, they’ll be hard pressed to meet his demands.
If Pujols does hit the market, the Mets will face competition from both the Yankees and Red Sox (regardless of who they have under contract at the time). Landing Pujols would be a long-shot, but stranger things have happened. And we would have one of our most hated rivals to thank for making it all possible.