Rebuild vs. Reload
There’s this idea that has been floating around that the Phillies do not need to rebuild, but just “reload”. Bob Brookover mentioned that in his column today. Ruben Amaro has brought that up as well. Basically, this means that the Phillies just need to make a couple of moves and they will be contending again as soon as next year. The Red Sox is a team that has been mentioned by supporters of this idea, and Brookover also mentioned the Cardinals, too. He also implied that because the Phillies have such a high payroll, they don’t have to be like the Padres, Royals, etc and never contend.
While I hope that is the case, there are some flaws in this line of thinking. I am not as optimistic as Brookover or Amaro. First, let’s tackle the payroll idea. Yes, this allows a team to make more mistakes and sign higher-priced players. And yes, teams with a higher payroll do tend to be more competitive. However, has anyone taken a look at the Chicago Cubs lately? Their payroll is just above middle-of-the-pack, but they are a big market team that has been floundering for four years now. The Angles have a huge payroll, but they are six games under .500. Also, there is a lot of talk about the huge deal the Phillies will get in 2015 and that will be the solution to all their problems. While true, there still will be the luxury tax to deal with, and the team has shown a reluctance to go past that.
Next, this team is not the Red Sox. The Red Sox got lucky that the Dodgers took their bad contracts, but they also had some good, young players. How many good, young players do the Phillies have? One. Dom Brown. Okay, Hamels still counts I guess. Hopefully. Right now the Phillies have a problem with players who are past their primes and really can’t be traded. Ryan Howard is going no where. Period. The only way he could be traded would be if he has an amazing first half next year, which probably will not happen, much as I’d like him to. Jimmy Rollins is not going anywhere. He said so himself. He has a full no-trade clause. Jonathan Papelbon is not going anywhere anytime soon. He’s is going downhill fast and makes too much money for too many more years. We hope this is a fluke year for Cole Hamels. And I don’t want the sabermetric people telling me he’s actually having a good year if you look at the advanced metrics.
What do the Phillies have in the minors? They have some decent prospects, but no can’t-miss guys at this point. Brookover conceded that the Cardinals have been able to stay good because of their excellent farm system. One good point he did make was that a lot of their home-grown stars weren’t hotshot prospects. But notice that enabled them to say good-bye to Albert Pujols. Who’s regretting that now? Not the Cardinals.
The point is that the Phillies need to be careful and avoid the hubris that comes with being a big-payroll team. They also have to be open to letting some younger guys play (and I don’t mean Michael Martinez) and not being afraid to trade some big-money guys who can still be traded. I can be critical of Amaro in a number of ways, but I can’t criticize him for trying to go for it a few years ago in getting Halladay, Pence, and Oswalt. Some of the prospects we gave up are now staring to shine elsewhere. But that’s the price you pay for going for it in 2009 and 2010. It didn’t work out, but that’s the way it goes.
I still haven’t gotten to Utley’s situation yet, but I will. The rumor is the Phillies and Utley are close to a deal: 3 years for around $40 million. I’ll write more about that later and I’m sure there will be all sorts of trade rumors around, too.