Monday, January 6, 2014

Tanaka or Bust?

In my last post, I focused on a salary comparison between the 2008 and 2014 Phillies. With pitchers and catchers reporting to Clearwater in 37 days, it begins to raise questions about what remains in the free agent period. Keep in mind, the Phillies have already spent $140.5 million on ten players through this date (i.e., Howard, Lee, Hamels, Utley, Papelbon, Rollins, Ruiz, Byrd, Adams, and Hernandez)*. Additional players that have been newly signed and will be on roster or are returning and are guaranteed to be on the opening day roster, per Ruben Amaro, Jr., include:

> Miguel Gonzalez (SP) = $4.0 million
> Wil Nieves (C) = $1.125 million
> Brad Lincoln (RP) = $500,000. 
> Domonic Brown (LF) = $500,000.
> Cody Asche (Util) = $500,000.

Brings overall team salary to $147.125 for 15 players

The Phillies also have five arbitration-eligible players** including:

> Kyle Kendrick (SP) = $6.7 million
> Antonio Bastardo (RP) = $2.0 million
> John Mayberry (Util) = $1.7 million
> Ben Revere (CF) = $1.5 million
> Kevin Frandsen (Util) = $1.3 million

Would bring overall team salary to $160.325 for 20 players

So, as much as a number of Philly hopefuls are wondering, it doesn't seem an attempt at Masahiro Tanaka will unfold. Granted, the Phillies could use a boost in the rotation. However, if we consider the following scenario, we begin to understand Ruben's thinking heading into the season. Here is a breakdown of other cost considerations and other players that will make the roster as the season progresses resulting in their salary being added to the overall payroll:

> player bonuses (e.g., All Star, incentives, etc.) = $2 million
> payroll flexibility for mid-season pick-ups = $6 million
> Jake Diekman (RP) = $500,000.
> Jonathan Pettibone (SP) = $500,000.
> Michael Stutes (RP) = $500,000.
> Freddy Galvis (Util) = $500,000.
> Darin Ruf (Util) = $500,000.

Would bring overall team salary to $170.825 million for 25 players and normal season costs

At this point in the offseason, the only certainty is that Ruben has not completed all of his roster moves. Traditionally, RAJ likes to make a few minor moves at the end of this month, but only a Magic 8 ball could tell you what specifically the management is thinking. Could Ruben Amaro, Jr. make a push to sign Tanaka without going over the salary cap? Yes, based on an anticipated annual salary of $17 million per season. Would signing Tanaka put the Phillies over the salary cap? It is decidedly so. And based on the adopted Boston Red Sox management logic (i.e., short-term contracts and a budget that does not flirt with the salary cap), Amaro and Montgomery have been preaching, it almost is a guarantee the only remaining moves to be made are minor ones. In fact, I'm speculating that where there is smoke there is fire, and the rumors related to a reunion with former closer Ryan Madson will lead to an incentive laden deal and a return to the Phillies bullpen. If Madson is healthy, then Papelbon will once again be dangled at the trade deadline. Simply put, Ruben has considered clearing payroll via trade, but it simply has not played out. So for the time being, be content with supporting player type transactions, keep your fingers crossed that players are still interested in playing in Philadelphia, and hope for addition by subtraction that will clear up some payroll issues that Ruben has created since taking the helm in November 2008.

*per Baseball Prospectus

**estimated salaries per MLB Trade Rumors

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