Phillies May Have Reached 2014 Payroll Limit

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. left the impression at the Winter Meetings that the club would look to keep its payroll in line with last year's. As he told reporters, including's Jim Salisbury"We should be contending with this kind of payroll, at $165MM or $170MM, wherever it shakes out." 

After taking a look at the team's current obligations, writes Corey Seidman of, it appears that Philadelphia has already spent up to that level after accounting for pre-arb players and projected arbitration salaries. (Seidman's rough math shows the team currently standing at $165MM for 2014, which is the low end of the band suggested by Amaro.) The free agent signings of Carlos Ruiz, Wil Nieves, Marlon Byrd, and Roberto Hernandez tacked on over $22MM to the club's payroll for the coming season, seemingly coming close to exhausting Amaro's war chest. 

As I explained in breaking down the Phils' offseason needs, one option was for the club simply to tick through its list of needs by adding non-premier veterans. That seems to be essentially what has taken place, with the aforementioned players occupying the gaps found at catcher, the corner outfield, and the starting rotation.

Of course, as I also argued in that piece, the Phillies have roughly 17.5 wins above replacement to make up (as against their 2013 total) to look like a playoff team. If these signings work out, and things break right elsewhere, the Phillies should have the overall talent level to make a run at the post-season. But, on those kinds of favorable assumptions, so do many other clubs.

On paper at least, Philly still figures to land behind the Nationals and Braves in pre-season NL East forecasts. Indeed, it would not be surprising to see the Mets and Marlins tapped by some to finish ahead of the Phils. (After all, both New York and Miami have made some potentially impactful additions and generally feature younger rosters that may be more likely to make strides.) Not only does it remain unclear whether recent spending is warranted, given the rest of the roster, but the club has also not acted decisively to bolster its future talent pipeline.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether the Phillies have spent all available funds for the coming year, especially since there is still some possibility that they will shed some of Jonathan Papelbon's salary. But as things stand, the team's strategy of adding veteran pieces to its aging core brings with it much the same risk that came to life last year, when the club fell out of contention and suffered a significant attendance drop. For a franchise that faces a young talent deficit and is trying to negotiate a big, new TV deal, the consequences of those risks are increasingly magnified.

71 Responses to Phillies May Have Reached 2014 Payroll Limit Leave a Reply

  1. GrilledCheese39 2 years ago

    Do the Phillies really need much more? Maybe a few bullpen pieces but… Brown, Revere, and Byrd in the outfield. Ashe, Rollins, Utley, and Howard in the infield. Ruiz catching. Hamels, Lee, Gonzalez, Hernandez, and Kendrick in the rotation. Their bench isn’t great, but they can get by with Galvis, Frandsen, Ruf, Mayberry, and Nieves. They need a few BP arms to pair at the back of the bullpen with Papelbon, Adams, and Bastardo.

    • Jeff Miller 2 years ago

      It’s not so much that they need more, it’s the players they have need to produce like they used to and stay healthy. That’s asking a lot for a team fielding 5 everyday guys 34+ years old, most of who already have a problem staying on the field.

      • coolstorybro222 2 years ago

        The Phillies are easily one of the oldest teams in baseball.

    • Dylan 2 years ago

      You are correct that they have the positions filled, but they are an 80 win team if everything falls their way. They are probably sitting around 70-75 wins right now.

    • Jeremy Russell 2 years ago

      Beyond Lee and Hamels I see “average” everywhere.

      • Douglas Heller 2 years ago

        try mediocre……..Third place.

        • SpaceOwl 2 years ago

          Mets will finish ahead of the Phillies, they are a better team than last year and that team last year still finished ahead of Philies.

        • Andrew m 2 years ago

          Third? Try Last

    • raltongo 2 years ago

      yea…good rundown on the roster, there…that’s exactly what Amaro is thinking, that only a few tweaks are necessary…Of course, he is kind of hamstrung now by the long-term deals, so outside of a major trade there is not much he can do other than add little pieces…I’m way too optimistic I know; I still think that the roster you just identified can compete and that Howard and Rollins just had ‘off years’ when in reality, everyone else is more right than I am–they’re probably just too old.

      Unfortunate thing with payroll is I guess the Phils are definitely not putting in a bid for Tanaka…was looking forward to seein him…A move like that would really shake things up, likely not to the 17 wins they need to make up but it would help bring attendance back and maybe re-gain a little buzz-factor

    • Phillyfan425 2 years ago

      The Phillies need health. That’s their biggest problem. People want to say they need to turn back the clock, but really health is what they’re banking on. While I’m not comparing the Phillies to this past year’s Red Sox, the Red Sox were banking on similar things. They needed a 31 year old Napoli to play and stay healthy (only eclipsed 115 games 1 time in his 7 year career before last year). They were hoping that a 30 year old Stephen Drew would bounce back (missed 150 games the previous 2 years). They were counting on a 29 year old Jacoby Ellsbury to stay on the field (after missing over 200 games the previous 3 seasons). They also relied on Lackey to bounce back from missing a full season.

      Again, not comparing the Phillies to the Sox. Just saying that what the Phillies are relying on isn’t unique to their situation.

      • Jonah 2 years ago

        I don’t like many of the moves that Amaro has made over the past three years, but their ability to compete is not as far fetched as its popular to say at the moment. Howard has already said he’s healthy. If he can return most of the way to form that’s a huge plus over last year. Everyone also keeps saying that Dom Brown had a “breakout” year last year. I saw an emerging player. I think 2014 will be his true breakout year. If Ruiz and Utley are also healthy that could be a seriously punchy lineup. Byrd is certainly an improvement over Delmon Young.Then you have wild cards like Asche and MAG. Could they be awful? Sure. Could Asche turn into a run producing fixture at third, and Gonzalez be a fireballing revelation? I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility. Yes, alot of ifs, but just as you are saying, that’s true for most teams.

    • Douglas Heller 2 years ago

      @GrilledCH39………so you want to go into theyear with a roation Of Lee, Hamels, Kendrick(sic), Hernandez and a pick em for the 5th spot in this division????

      • BeisbolJunkie 2 years ago

        I thought RAJ said Miguel Gonzalez was going to be in the Starting rotation?

  2. belky2 2 years ago

    “We should be contending with this kind of payroll” And yet, we aren’t. When does that fall on you, Rube?

  3. Tommets 2 years ago

    At least you do spend $170 mil

  4. Conquerbeard 2 years ago

    Are they legit at $165MM? For -that- product? Wow. That’s mind boggling. That’s like the mid to late 2000s Knicks or something.

    • Jeff_Todd_MLBTR 2 years ago

      Yeah, I double-checked the numbers and they are correct. If you assume $8MM for league minimum + accept Swartz arb projections, they are right at $165MM for next year.

      • Conquerbeard 2 years ago

        Oh, I hope I didn’t sound like I was doubting your figures… I was just taken aback by them, hah!

  5. Zach Ripple 2 years ago

    I’ve yet to figure out how Ruben Amaro hasn’t been in the hot seat. He just fired Charlie Manuel, a good manager, and basically placed the blame on him. That’s his one free pass. Now the Phillies have nothing but an aged core, little depth on their pitching staff and a bloated payroll with no significant money coming off the books anytime soon. Like the Yankees, they continue to tread the same guys out there, and they only look for free agents who are nearing 40. They haven’t been a very good team in a few years now, and to continue to rely on Rollins, Utley and Howard is absurd.

    • bigb69 2 years ago

      As a Braves fan, I say he is doing just fine!

      • Phillyfan425 2 years ago

        As long as Wren keeps signing guys like BJ Upton and Dan Uggla, it will be competitive for who is the worse GM.

        • raltongo 2 years ago

          Yea, well Braves scouting and player development is pretty damn good…They never should have dabbled in Free Agency with BJ Upton and just relied on internal guys

        • txftw 2 years ago

          Not even close lol

        • thekidfromyesterday 2 years ago

          I think all the East GMs aren’t the great, but to say Wren is competing for worst GM is crazy. Wren made one bad FA signing and a bad trade, given the limited payroll he’s done an excellent job. Our farm isn’t looking great due to the massive graduation.

    • burnboll 2 years ago

      In what universe is Charlie Manuel a good manager? He frequently made bad decisions.

    • raltongo 2 years ago

      yea, Charlie was a tough guy to hate but he wasn’t the greatest manager. He continued to stick with Rollins and Howard in their respective spots in the order even though it was clear they weren’t producing. He benched Rollins a few times for not hustling, but took forever to move him out of the 1-2 hole for fear it would hurt Rollins’ poor feelings. Kind of the same thing with Bastardo, actually, when he could barely find the strike zone but continued to log painful innings because Charlie was convinced that he could recapture the magic of 2011. I hope Sandberg is more apt to put Rollins and Howard at 7 & 8 in the batting order if that’s where their production levels are going to be situated.

  6. Terry O'Brien 2 years ago

    The Phillies did what you do, extend the core that brought you to prominence and hope they continue to produce, just like every other successful club in MLB. Unfortunately, production hasn’t kept up with the contracts. It happens.

    • Jeff Miller 2 years ago

      Yes, but Ruben/ownership continue to extend them even when they shouldn’t.

      • Terry O'Brien 2 years ago

        I don’t necessarily disagree, but what were the 2B and SS options out there when it came time to redo Jimmy and Chase? Is this team any better with Galvis and Imaginary SS?

        • Jeff Miller 2 years ago

          Were there better options? Possibly. When Rollins was a FA after 2011 Jose Reyes was available and only 28. This year’s FA class had 2B Robinson Cano, though a 10-year deal at 31 is a terrible investment.

          They could’ve moved Utley last summer for Michael Choice or Joc Pederson as both the A’s and Dodgers were looking to upgrade at 2B. Might’ve been able to get a 2nd mid-level guy too as teams were throwing prospects around like rag dolls. If the Phillies had moved Utley they could’ve re-signed him in the off-season.

      • raltongo 2 years ago

        the Hamels extension is not a problem, the Howard extension looks bad now of course, but when it was signed he was a premier hitter in the game and it will pale in comparision to what will become of the contracts of Pujols, ARod, and Cano.

        Like Terry says, without a clear replacement for Jimmy and Chase, do you just roll the dice on Galvis? Maybe. But if the goal is to put the best product on the field with still a decent shot at win-now, then Jimmy and Chase present the best case for that. Of course, it didnt work last year and it odds are against it to work this year, but I think its a weak farm system here that plays into the Jimmy and Chase extensions rather than Ruben being delusional

        • KJ4realz 2 years ago

          No, Howard was not a premier player when it was signed. Amaro out smugged himself when he offered the extension. Howard, while still ‘good’, was trending downwards in terms of production. It was a bad move even then

          • Phillyfan425 2 years ago

            While I get killed for this, it’s still something I firmly believe. I’d rather have 5 years of Howard than 10 year of Pujols, 9 of Fielder, or 7 of A-Gon. Yes, it’s easy to say they wouldn’t have signed those guys, but could you imagine the fans uproar if they let a HR hitter like Howard go and replaced him with a James Loney or Carlos Pena type player?

          • PhilliesFan28 2 years ago

            I agree and we are going into season 4 or 5 of this contract so it is almost over

          • Yankees420 2 years ago

            Howard’s only 2 years through his 5 year extension, it just seems like it’s 4 or 5 gone because it didn’t kick in until 2 years after it was signed. Howard will be around for the next 3 years at 25MM per, then you’re looking at a 23MM option with a 10MM buyout.

          • NickinIthaca 2 years ago

            Especially because the extension didn’t go into effect until two years after it was signed…

        • Farmer Tan Colin! 2 years ago

          A good farm system gives a club so much payroll flexibility. Byrd for example was signed for 8 mil a season. The odds of him repeating last season to me seem very slim. If the Phils could use a rookie or second year guy at 500k for similar production. That is how teams stay out of these payroll crunches. You can afford to have a couple big contracts but you need to be utilizing cheap talent everywhere else, not picking up Ruiz and Byrd. Scouring the farm system, waiver wire and roster crunches of other teams is where you find bargains.

          • antsal 2 years ago

            I hope I don’t get bashed with saber stats but bottom line is, Ruf could play right field everyday and hit 25-30 homers and bat .260. If Byrd does that Ruben will tear a rotator patting himself on the back. Ruf will never get the chance in Philly. Trade him to the Marlins or Astros so everyone can say, “he never would have done that here.” How do you know if your farm system can help if you don’t give them a real chance?

          • Farmer Tan Colin! 2 years ago

            Saberly Ruf almost had a fine season still definitely worthy of getting the lionshare of a platoon.10+% walk rate and huge numbers against RHP. Signing Byrd was not needed in this case. Signing a guy to smash lefties to go with Ruf would’ve made a lot more sense and cheaper. Jeff Baker for example.

  7. Joe Orsatti 2 years ago

    I think it all rests on the shoulders of Utley, Jimmy and Howard. If 2 out of 3 of them produce, then the Phillies can win. I am not worried with much else. Just sign some low risk relievers like Madson or watch the waiver wire.

  8. Jason 2 years ago

    love when a team i hate is tapped out. cant get better than that. Sub par roster.

  9. BeantownGreen 2 years ago

    What an awesome way of spending 22 million dollars Amaro!!

  10. Modifish 2 years ago

    I think a huge factor other than health of course is Sandberg. If he can motivate these men to perform with pride and learn how to work hard again, this team can win 90 games. Manuel let the clubhouse fall apart and he should have been replaced last June before the team completely disintegrated. Some may not remember, but the team was still hovering around 500 and staying close in the division until that horrible swoon after the all star break.

    • Phillyfan425 2 years ago

      Right after Ryan Howard and Ben Revere were both diagnosed with 6-8 week injuries (and the Phillies then held them out the rest of the year).

      • Modifish 2 years ago

        Correct. That is when a manager needs to inspire and motivate and keep a clubhouse together. Manuel wasn’t even willing to admit to himself these guys quit,much less lead them.

        • Phillyfan425 2 years ago

          There’s only so much “motivating” that a guy can do. When he has to trot out JMJ, Frandsen, Delmon Young, Roger Bernadina, Casper Wells, or Darin Ruf as regular starters (to go along with John McDonald and Freddy Galvis as your spot starters), he’s not going to be too successful. This shouldn’t be misconstrued as me saying Charlie did an amazing job with the team. Because I did believe this past season should have been his final season regardless of the outcome. But, obviously, the manager change didn’t make that much of a difference (they were 14 under .500 with Charlie at the helm last year and 2 under with Ryne at the helm). The nose dive happened after losing those two players (they went 5-19 from the time those were announced till Charlie got fired). That was also their hardest part of the schedule (playing a 18 of those 24 vs the Cards, Tigers, Giants, Nats, and Braves).

          • Modifish 2 years ago

            He lost the team. That was his job and his way of leading did not work with the situation he was in. Sandberg had his work cut out for him after he took over. There were a lot of bad habits to undo and it is a process.They improved 12 games under Sandberg,that was a good start. This year will be his test and it is my opinion that this team can win 90 games as it is now. I don’t know if that’s a playoff team or not but I think it’s not far- fetched.

          • Phillyfan425 2 years ago

            Agreed that he lost his team, but the team also got dealt some big blows. You cite Sandberg’s 10 game improvement, but really, they weren’t much better. Just played easier teams (played the Rockies, Padres, Cubbies, Marlins and Mets in 23 of his 44 games). If they win 90 this year, it will have more to do with health, than it does to do with Sandberg.

          • antsal 2 years ago

            The day Charlie got fired I reminded everyone on this site that “29 of the remaining 41 games are against teams with losing records so if they “finish strong” please don’t “credit” Sandberg or Amaro”. They had little to do with that “improvement”. Credit the schedule maker!

  11. phillies1102 2 years ago

    I’m surprised Rube managed to spend only $22 million to fill out C, RF and complete SP. That is not easy to do in this market, so I can give him credit for that. If I had to spend $22 million, I would get a Ferrari, mansion… jk. I would get:

    Byrd at similar deal, different structure. I would do $6 in 2014, $8 in 2015, and $10 option with $2 million buyout, unless he gets X PAs.

    Dioner Navarro, market value, but $3 in 2014, $5 mil in 2015.

    Then I would wait on Ubaldo Jimenez, until his market dwindles like Lohse’s, then chase him only because our best pick is protected, which gives us bargaining strength. I would chase a 4 year, $52 million deal, but only pay $11 in the first year.

    Non-tender Mayberry ($-1.8), then use extra money to pick up Jeff Baker, 1 year, $4 million. His ability to play 1B, 2B, 3B, LF (positions that we have a lefty), he would be a beautiful fit and play almost daily.

    I would also shop Ruf for relief talent. Frankly, Ruf and Brown are both RHP mashers who cant play defense, we only need one or the other. Baker would fill out the super utility roll anyway.

    Overall, I like this team slightly better, what do you think?

    • Christopher Velez 2 years ago

      Dioner Navarro is, for better or worse, a back-up catcher, due in no small part to a career .650 OPS vs. RHP. (Which is terrible, even by the standards of catchers.) And yet you want to run him out thre every day. As the Phils have actually gotten a solid OBP rate from Chooch, you’d be replacing one of the few guys who actually gets on base at a decent clip with a guy who’s a gaping offensive blackhole against most of the league. That’s probably only going to make things worse.

      And Ruf’s 2013 splits were SSS noise: Over his much broader corpus of minor league work, he’s shown himself a typical RHB thumper with a noticeable platoon split. (Though, while the platoon split’s there, it’s more a function of his murdering LHP while being merely mortal RHP.) But I do concur that he should be shopped, as he does have some value in this thin 1B market.

      • phillies1102 2 years ago

        If you want to look at career numbers, then you might as well knock on Byrd too. But just like Marlon, were counting on a continuation of 2013. Besides, with our kind of lineup, I would like to see some one who hits better vs. LHP. Whats the point of OBP if the guy is batting 6th or 7th, who will drive them in? I prefer a power hitter at that slot in the lineup, and any form of 2013 he shows next year is a plus.

        Based on the deal of Trumbo, I would look to shop either Brown or Ruf. They are suprisingly similar, and I would be happy with either one in LF, batting 6th, behind Howard, Byrd. Ruf was better defensively than Brown, a point worth noting.

  12. greggofboken 2 years ago

    The Phillies got caught trying to follow the Yankees model without the Yankees resources. Amaro handed out extensions to too many players as though they were candy, and is late coming to the realization that his only real solution is to try to infuse some talent into the farm system he depleted with the high-end free agent signings/trades. Cholly took the fall for him. The most damming sentence in this recap is “Not only does it remain unclear whether recent spending is warranted, given the rest of the roster, but the club has also not acted decisively to bolster its future talent pipeline.”.

    Banking on sustained health for a team this old is a rotten gamble. 4th place. And a cue for a more tuned-in, less in love with his own image GM.

    • lt michaels 2 years ago

      Keep in mind the Phillies are next in line for a mega LA Dodger type TV deal. In a year or 2 once the TV deal is signed the Phillies revenue streams will dwarf the NYY’s.. Which makes you wonder why the owners have been so tight with the fiscal belt the past couple offseasons .
      —-Say they had invested another $25M-$30 M to stay competitive the last 2 years?
      — 1. The investment probably pays for itself in increased revenue from added tix sales/playoff gate.
      —- 2. $25 M is literally pocket change compared to the riches that will be pouring in via the new TV deal in 2015. The Phillies are looking at $175 M- $200 M per year ,from their local TV deal alone.
      —-3. Don’t want to hear maybe the Phils owners are cash strapped right now. All of their owners are uber wealthy, 1 is worth Billions. It makes no sense what the Phillies owners have done to this product the past few years as they head into their new TV deal..

  13. GrilledCheese39 2 years ago

    Hey the Pirates will take Ruf and Brown if you’d like! We could trade you one of our pitching prospects (not named Tallion) and maybe Alen Hanson? I don’t know of a SS in the phillies system to take over for Rollins..

    • Phillyfan425 2 years ago

      There’s a SS we just drafted last year (JP Crawford), who may be ready by the end of Jimmy’s deal (after it vests – which would be start of 2016). And he’s a high school SS who actually projects to stay at that position. Also, it’s trading one or the other (I’d prefer losing Ruf).

    • Rico Carson 2 years ago

      The Phillies have Roman Quinn and JP Crawford as good shortstop prospects in their system. Ruf is not really an upgrade over Gaby, and Dom Brown is definitely not an upgrade over Polanco. The Pirates need to trade Jeff Locke to the Mets for Ike Davis, then roll with their 40 man roster the way it is, STACKED!

      • Jeff Miller 2 years ago

        Hard to say Brown isn’t an upgrade over Gregory Polanco when Brown has been a big-league all-star and Polanco has 70 “ok” games between AA-AAA. Polanco might end up being a better player, but at this point Brown is the better player.

        • Rico Carson 2 years ago

          I can almost guarantee that Pirates management would not trade Polanco for Brown straight up. Also, the argument could be made that Brown has had only one good month in his whole major league career to this date.

          • Jeff Miller 2 years ago

            You’re probably right that they wouldn’t trade Polanco for Brown, but Brown still has done something at the big league level while Polanco was just ok between AA-AAA.

            I think sometimes people value prospects a little bit too much over proven big league players. That’s not to say Brown is proven, but he did make an all-star team in his first full season.

          • Rico Carson 2 years ago

            Yeah, well Polanco is building his stock right now in Winter League, against AAA pitching. He also walked as many times as he struck out at AA. With Polanco, its more about the tools than the numbers, because he has been pushed quickly, and the development has been a transition for him, but hes very close to being a sure thing.

          • Jeff Miller 2 years ago

            Polanco is definitely a highly touted prospect and could be a very good big league player. I’m only saying that he’s still a prospect and more than a few highly touted prospects have been a bust against MLB competition.

          • Rico Carson 2 years ago

            Yeah, well Polanco is building his stock right now in Winter League, against AAA pitching. He also walked as many times as he struck out at AA. With Polanco, its more about the tools than the numbers, because he has been pushed quickly, and the development has been a transition for him, but hes very close to being a sure thing.

  14. BeisbolJunkie 2 years ago

    How does Amaro still have a job?

  15. lt michaels 2 years ago

    Phils current ownership group(most of them are in their 70’s & 80’s) bought team for $30 M. The Phils are now worth $900 M , will escalate to $1.4 Billion when new Tv deal is signed in a year or 2.
    —Phils led MLB in attendance and TV ratings from 2009-2011. So the fans do their part. helped the Phils owners turn about $200 M per year in gate /concession/ad revenue etc etc ..
    —Everyone is aware of the National TV revenue increasing to $52 M annually with another $5 M in mass media.
    —Last but not least the Phils owners are in line to sign a $5 BILLION dollar local TV deal with Comcast. Current contracts ends in 2015.
    —So How/Why can/does this franchise have a payroll limit?

  16. Pingston 2 years ago

    Lots of interesting comments here. Thanks to all.

    The ‘reached the limit’ comment can be misunderstood, of course.

    What if Hamels and/or Lee were traded to, say, the Blue Jays? In return for, say, Drabek (off Tommy John 14 months ago), some other SP prospects (not their top ones), plus a bat or two (e.g. Adam Lind, prospects). Then they’d have more to spend going forward and could pick up a FA SP, too. Of course, they could make that trade with someone else, but the Blue Jays have money, some players with which they’d part, and the need for a top SP right now.

    Would such a trade appeal to the faithful? What if it brought Jose Bautista?

    • Jeff Miller 2 years ago

      Kyle Drabek has almost no trade value right now. He’s pitched poorly at the big league level and is coming off his 2nd TJ surgery. The Phillies should have no interest in Adam Lind as they’ve already got Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf as 1B/DH types. Jose Bautista would be a nice add, but he’s got problems staying healthy and like too many players on their roster, he’s older at 33.

      It would have to be a 3-team deal that gets the Phillies what they need going forward if the Blue Jays are involved. They don’t appear to have what the Phillies really need going forward in a young, power OF bat and good, young SP that has at least dominated the minor’s upper levels.

      Something like Jose Bautista to the Astros, Cliff Lee to the Blue Jays, Mike Foltynewicz, Domingo Santana and John Stilson to the Phillies.

  17. Zak A 2 years ago

    At least RAJ is realizing and admitting he made bad moves sooner. Pretty soon, in like 2 years, he’ll have the prudence to not make these bad signings.

    • Jeff Miller 2 years ago

      Only because he’ll no longer be a big league GM. He’ll probably send out feelers to see if he can sign a friend or two.

  18. Carriersailor 2 years ago

    That’s probably why they signed another sore arm for no money who cannot decide what his name Is. Probably good for batting practice only but Bowa can do that job.

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