Philidelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels’ press conference after signing his extension. Pretty slick haircut too. (Bleacher Report)
So yes, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone here a little by writing about a team other than the Mariners. But this needs to be said. The Phillies made a rather surprising move by signing starting pitcher Cole Hamels to a 6-year extention for $144 million. That makes him the second highest paid pitcher ever in baseball history, second to CC Sabathia’s 7-year $161 million deal with the Yankees before the 2009 season. It also makes him the highest paid Philadelphia athlete ever.
All signs pointed towards Cole Hamels being traded to a contending team before he signed his extension, which in my opinion probably would have worked out better for the Phillies. Cole Hamels is a 28-year old in the middle of his prime, and I seriously don’t see the Phillies turning things around fast enough to compete before he starts to decline. The The Phillies are listed as the second oldest team in the majors, with 30.2 years old being the average age on the roster (this chart I found on ESPN also has them listed as the 6th fattest team in the majors, if that has any relevancy). Because of this, they have a lot of players who appear to be on the decline in their career (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, I don’t know if you’d count Chase Utley because of injuries, Ty “untouchable” Wigginton), which is not a good thing for any team. It’s an especially not-good thing when your farm system has been completely gutted from trades in acquiring the players I just listed, as the Phillies have the 4th worst farm system in the majors according to baseball america.
The Phillies are basically the Boston Celtics of baseball. They’ve got a bunch of older players that are used to winning together. The only thing is that the Phillies haven’t been as resilient as the Celtics. The Celtics still made the playoffs this last year and gave the Heat a very good run for the title in the east, whereas the Phillies are in last place in the NL East, 9.5 games out of a wild card spot and 14 games out of first place in the NL East. Yet, we get this tweet by Bob Nightengale yesterday:
“The way the
#Phillies have played of late, Amaro certainly waiting to see whether they are buyers or sellers at the deadline.”
What’s more is the Phillies are rumored to be looking for bullpen help. Yeah, bullpen help. The kind of thing contending teams look for. So the Phillies go on a 4-game winning streak and they suddenly think that there’s a possibility they will be like the Cardinals and Rays were last year who made big pushes to make the playoffs after being 8.5 games back each at the beginning of September. Not likely. Plus, let’s say they do make the playoffs by some miracle. They’re no match for the Reds, Nationals, Giants, Dodgers, or whoever else makes it. Then, what do they do next year? They’re still old. I suppose some could say they can always just sell during the offseason. A lot of opportunities will have been missed by then though. With the addition of a second wild card for the playoffs starting this year, there are a lot of teams that think they can contend for one of the wild card spots. There are a lot of teams that could use a Cliff Lee or a Ty Wigginton. The haul for some of these players could be very significant. Enough to bolster their farm system so that they can get the ship back on track sooner.
At some point the Phillies are going to have to go into sell mode. The longer they delay it, the longer it will be until they compete again. Simple as that. They’ve got a ton of great trade pieces in those players I listed before plus others. They’ve also got a ton of money to work with, so that when these players contracts are relieved from the Phillies, they can just go crazy on the free agent market and sign younger players. The question then becomes: Does Ruben Amaro Jr. really know how to rebuild a team? He’s been the General Manager of the Phillies since 2009 and was the assistant from 1998-2008. The Phillies had 4 losing seasons while Amaro was the Assistant GM, but not while he was the GM.
There are rumors on the Phillies being willing to trade Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Hunter Pence so far. I’m going to guess that Amaro won’t trade more than one or two players from his team before the trade deadline and see if the Phillies ride off into the playoffs in magical, unicorn-like fashion. And when that doesn’t work, he’ll consider having a fire sale of the whole team. I just think he’s making a mistake by waiting that long. For the Phillies’ sake, I hope that this money they spent on locking up Cole Hamels for 6 years is well-spent and will end up helping them in the long run.