When Pat Gillick arrived to become interim president of the Phillies, he was quoted in the Inquirer saying about next year's team, "a tweak here or a tweak there, might make you a little more competitive."
Looking at the make up of the team — and salary requirements — Mr. Gillick may not be tweaking all that much. But then again, he may be.
In 2015, six players will command $111.5 million of the team's salary. No real surprises there — Howard, Lee, Hamels, Utley, Papelbon, and Rollins.
Another group will chip some $48.6 million more from the payroll — Burnett, Ruiz, Bryd, Adams, Miguel Gonzalez, Revere (maybe), and Sizemore (maybe).
So there's an estimated $160 million committed for 2015. Not a lot of tweaking room, considering the current 2014 payroll is $178 million.
Let's look at it this way.
Rotation: If the Phillies trade Hamels and Lee's career is over, that will free up close to $45.4 million, which would be nice, so let's put that money into the bank for the time being. Left would be Miguel Gonzalez at $3 million — peanuts — and Burnett, Jerome Williams (maybe) and Kendrick (maybe).
If Lee is ready to go in February we'll have to subtract $25 million from the bank unless he's traded and truthfully, I don't know of any GM in his right mind that would trade for a guy who's 36 (37 next August), has a bad elbow, and makes $25 million. Do you? If you do send Junior a note.
There's also David Buchanan, Ethan Martin, and Jonathan Pettibone, all at the major league minimum (major league minimum is $500,000, poker money for most major league players.)
Infield: It's pretty locked up with the exception of third base. Mike Franco seems headed there, but what about Asche? If the Phillies move Asche to the outfield, that's a big savings because Asche makes the major league minimum. Asche is a good ball player — lot's of good ball players get traded. He'd bring a decent outfield or bullpen prospect.
Now here's another an interesting situation. Mr. Gillick has some tweaking room at shortstop. Jimmy Rollins has an $11 million vesting option (2015 option guaranteed with 600 plate appearances in 2014; or 1,100 PAs in 2013-14; and, he's not on the DL at the end of the season. If he is on the DL, a mutually agreed upon doctor must deem him available for the 2015 opening day roster. If the option does not vest, i.e., Rollins does not meet the standards spelled out above, the Phillies hold an $8M club
option for 2015 and Rollins holds a $5M player option
Rollins injured his hamstring on Tuesday and is day to day. Will he be on the DL at season's end? Let's see.
And have you noticed Freddie Galvis is starting to hit. For you coupon clippers, Galvis is another major league minimum player and would be a huge savings at shortstop.
Bullpen: The bullpen is a block of double-coupon savings because except for Papelbon and Bastardo (maybe), the rest — Diekman, De Fratus, Hollands, Rosenberg, Giles, and Aumont, are all at the major league minimum. Trading Papelbon would free up another $13 million so let's, for the time being, add that to the $45.4 we have in the bank. So we now have $58 million on hold.
Outfield: Now here is where it get's tricky. Ben Revere is probably the only outfielder safe for next season, but he's arbitration eligible so he'll get a little raise from his 2014 salary of $1.95 million — which is no biggie. Unless the Phillies want to lock him up for three years — maybe Mr.Gillick will tweak that.
Next, you have Marlon Bryd, who, at $8 million, is a good deal for the Phillies because Bryd has good numbers this season. However, if the Phillies want to save $8 million, they could trade Bryd and move Asche to right field.
They may have to give Bryd away because he'll be 38 next August. Nonetheless, he can still play. Keeping him for 2015 might not be a bad idea. That depends on whether or not Hamels gets traded (Phillies could get outfield prospects for Hamels, making Bryd tradable.)
Then what about Sizemore? He's a good player, too, and his leadership in the clubhouse is important to the 2015 Phillies, a team that may lose 100 games. The Phillies got Sizemore on the cheap for $750,000 but to stay in Philly he'll want more.
Personally? I'd give him $4 or $5 million in a one year contract, but it's not my money.
D-Brown? He's in another uni in 2015.
There's also the bench to assemble, but Mr. Gillick and Junior ought to be able to tweak that into shape.
But here's the thing to think about: Are the Phillies better off trading Cole Hamels than keeping him? If they trade him, they get the money in the bank, and most likely 2-3 good, young players as long as Junior doesn't screw it up.
They can take the money in the bank and use it to get some quality players in the free agent market.
If they keep Hamels, they aren't going anywhere next season for sure, because everybody is a year older and 15 games back next August of 2015 might look good, if you get my drift (Ron is saying if they keep Hamels they will be 25 games back next August.)
If they can somehow unload Hamels, Lee, Papelbon, and maybe Bryd, get some youth in trades, go to the free agent market, and maybe, just maybe, baseball will be exciting again next season in Philadelphia.
How's that for tweaking here and there?
Send your comments to: Philly@Ron-Costello.com (and don't forget the dash)