The Phillies are next in our Offseason In Review series.
Major League Signings
- Cliff Lee, SP: five years, $120MM. Includes $27.5MM vesting option for 2016 with a $12.5MM buyout.
- Jose Contreras, RP: two years, $5.5MM. Includes $2.5MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout.
- J.C. Romero, RP: one year, $1.35MM.
- Total spend: $126.85MM.
Notable Minor League Signings
Trades and Claims
- Claimed IF/OF Michael Martinez from Nationals in Rule 5 draft
- Acquired 2B Albert Cartwright from Astros for RP Sergio Escalona
- Claimed RP Brian Schlitter off waivers from Yankees
The Phillies pulled off the surprise of the offseason, righting a past wrong and adding Cliff Lee to an already-strong rotation. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. stretched his payroll to accommodate Lee, so the signing sums up most of the team's offseason. Given all of their recent success, the Phillies extended Amaro in March, just after he'd extended manager Charlie Manuel.
The Phillies made an attempt to re-sign Werth, reportedly offering three years and $48MM plus a vesting option. With Werth ultimately landing a seven-year, $126MM deal, the Phillies' offer appears half-hearted. Still, plenty of people pegged Werth for something like four years and $65MM heading into the offseason, and with that in mind the player's biggest concession to the Phillies would have been accepting a fourth-year vesting option.
No one predicted the Phillies would sign Lee, and reports of a Mystery Team in the mix in December were initially scoffed at. Technically Lee left a guaranteed $28MM on the table to sign with his preferred team, though this wasn't Andre Dawson giving the Cubs a blank check. Lee's $24MM a year salary is higher than it would have been had he taken a seven-year offer from the Yankees or six years from the Rangers, and it's a record for pitchers.
The Phillies checked the "bill me later" box on the Lee contract, designing it to pay him only $11MM in 2011 before his salary jumps past $20MM thereafter. They also potentially left the biggest bill for 2016, the lefty's age 37 season. A $27.5MM option for 2016 vests if Lee is not on the disabled list at end of 2015 season with injury to left elbow or left shoulder, and has 200 innings pitched in 2015 or 400 innings pitched in 2014-15. If the option does not vest, the Phillies will presumably take the buyout, which at $12.5MM is the biggest I've even seen. Hopefully those numbers won't look as scary entering the 2016 season.
Prior to the Lee deal, the Phillies re-signed Contreras to a two-year deal. Even at his age the contract doesn't look bad now, in light of the ten eight-figure contracts given to free agent relievers later in the offseason.
The Phillies appear light at second base, right field, and the bullpen this point, though the injuries to Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, and Brad Lidge didn't happen until Spring Training. I don't see much Amaro should have done differently during the offseason. Adding a Jerry Hairston Jr. or Willie Bloomquist just to be safe wouldn't have made much difference. Perhaps Amaro could've dabbled a little on the low end of the relief market, nabbing a Jon Rauch, Dan Wheeler, or Chad Qualls in the $3MM range. I liked that Amaro held onto Joe Blanton rather than doing some kind of salary dump deal.
Amaro put all his eggs in the Cliff Lee basket this offseason, and it's hard to find fault with that. The Phillies' rotation appears historically good. It's possible all the big salaries will limit flexibility this year and in the near future, though Amaro always seems to find a few million bucks in the couch cushions when needed.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.
Rube sure does seem to like those 8 figure buy-outs. Howard’s buy out for 2017, when he will be 37 years old, is $10 Million.
Those buyouts are already part of Howard’s ‘125MM’ and Lee’s ‘120MM’. So I’m looking at the Lee 2016 option as a 15MM club option for a pitcher who may still provide value in excess of that.
I understand what you are saying, but I think that is the wrong way to look at it.
If 2016 were purely a $15M club option I would agree with you, but the decision is between either $12.5M in “sunk cost” or $27.5M for one year of services. The $15M is just the difference between the two, but in order to get to that option, you will pay $12.5M first in order to pick up that additional $15M. In 2016, the payroll obligation will either be $12.5M in “go away” money, or $27.5M for one year of Cliff Lee.
Similarly with Howard, the Phillies are eating $10M in 2017 regardless, they have the option of paying another $13M on top of that for his services that year, but that does not excuse them from the first $10M which is already committed money.
Regardless, I was just agreeing with Tim, it’s pretty rare to see 8 figure buy outs, and the Phillies have two such obligations.
Yes, you’re right in terms of the 2016 club budget. But in terms of strictly talking about the Lee contract, you can’t say that Lee is going to average 24MM AND having the nasty 2016 buyout, as the 24MM/YR average already includes the buyout.
Basically if you’re going to talk about 27.5MM for 2016, then you have to say that his previous 5 years only cost 5/107.5MM instead of 5/120MM
I was not making any claims about the average yearly balance of the contract. Since the MLB is an uncapped league, I don’t find much use for such interpretations. I understand, but don’t agree with the logic of treating this as a five year deal with a sixth year that is bought out. In 2016 (Year 6) there will be at least a $12.5M payment for a player who is no longer here, or a $27.5M payment for a pitcher.
That $12.5M is more than any of the Phillies current position players, not named Ryan Howard or Chase Utley, make. This is not a one-off type of buy out like the $500k that Romero got after 2010. I understand why someone would look at this as a 5 year deal, but this buy out, along with the one due Howard in 2017, is going to represent a significant financial handcuff for the Phillies in 5 years from now. I think it is a case of window dressing on the scale of Lehman Brothers to ignore what these buyouts may do to the Phillies ability to attract talent in those years.
But I suppose its all in how you choose to look at it, and in this case there appears to be several “right” answers.
I always look at buyouts in the same way; I just never have been able to type it out so well.
I’d love to find a few million dollars in my couch cushions.
I bet Rube is wishing he would have dumped Blanton’s salary before they broke camp. Oh, well. Hindsight is always 20/20.
You do have to worry about payroll flexibility, especially if another starter joins Utley on the DL for an extended period. People seem to think the Phillies print money, but they are in no position to go grab an all-star at the deadline. What you see on the roster and at AAA/on the injured list (Belliard, Barfield, Brown) is what you get this year.
Moyer had a great career and haha next year he will be 50 years old
If you have it spend it