10/29/11 11:44 AM EST
Amaro's top decisions are Rollins, Madson
Phillies' free-agent plan will be built around shortstop, closer
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
Maybe they reach the World Series.
Maybe they win it all.
But the Cardinals beat the Phillies and then beat the Texas Rangers in the World Series. It remains a tough loss for Phillies fans, but with the World Series finished, the offseason begins. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will try to retool a team that won a franchise-record 102 games, which won't be easy. In fact, this could be the organization's most interesting offseason in recent memory.
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The Phillies already have $106.95 million committed to nine players next season: Lee ($21.5 million), Roy Halladay ($20 million), Ryan Howard ($20 million), Chase Utley ($15 million), Shane Victorino ($9.5 million), Joe Blanton ($8.5 million), Placido Polanco ($6.25 million), Carlos Ruiz ($3.7 million) and Jose Contreras ($2.5 million). That gives them roughly $70 million (subject to change, of course) to complete the rest of their roster, not including raises to Cole Hamels and Hunter Pence. They are two of five Phillies players eligible for salary arbitration. Hamels made $9.5 million last season. Pence made $6.9 million.
Both Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Madson are eligible to become free agents, which is why this offseason could be particularly memorable.
Both could require significant commitments to return. Rollins has said publicly he wants a five-year contract, which seems like too much for the Phillies. Madson is one of the top closers on the market, and he could get a big pay day. If the Phillies can't retain them, they will be scrambling to find replacements.
Amaro has never been afraid to make the big trade or shake things up. He might have to do just that to restock a team that -- for six months in the regular season anyway -- was the best in baseball.
The Phillies have seven free agents: Rollins, Madson, Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Raul Ibanez, Brian Schneider and Ross Gload. The Phillies will try to re-sign Rollins and Madson. They declined a $16 million mutual option on Oswalt, although they continue talking with his agent, Bob Garber, about bringing him back. They also declined a $12.5 million option on Lidge, and continue talking to his agent, Rex Gary, about bringing him back. Ibanez seems unlikely to return. The same goes for Gload. Schneider could be back on an inexpensive deal.
Areas of need
Shortstop: If Rollins signs elsewhere, the Phillies will have a gaping hole to fill at shortstop. They could turn to Freddy Galvis, who was the Phillies' Minor League Player of the Year. But can a team intent on winning a championship go with a rookie shortstop? Or do they sign a free agent? They won't get Jose Reyes, but there's nothing terribly exciting on the market, as the potentially available names include Yuniesky Betancourt, Orlando Cabrera, Rafael Furcal (St. Louis has a $12 million club option), Alex Gonzalez and Edgar Renteria.
Closer: Madson is in line to score big. Amaro already has said if they can't keep Madson, they will try to find a frontline closer to replace him. Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Rodriguez are the top closers available. The Phillies tried to acquire Bell before the Trade Deadline, but fell short. He would be an ideal replacement, although Bell has told the Padres he would accept salary arbitration if it's offered to him.
Left field: If the Phillies want to get younger, this is the place. If they let Ibanez walk, John Mayberry Jr. could be his replacement. Of course, one problem is Howard is expected to miss time recovering from left Achilles surgery. That could force Mayberry to first base (he played 18 games there this season), which would leave another hole. Amaro has said he would like Domonic Brown in Triple-A the entire season, although the Phillies have made that their preference the previous two seasons. Ben Francisco is eligible for salary arbitration.
Bench: There are health concerns surrounding Howard and Polanco, so the Phillies might try to add a player that could provide pop to the lineup while they're out. The Phillies tried to acquire Jim Thome before the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline. He would be an interesting acquisition. It's unclear if he can play first base, but Charlie Manuel carried Gload on his bench the entire season and rarely played him in the field.
The Phillies' payroll should hit the $175 million range, which gives Amaro some flexibility, but not a lot. He's fortunate much of his bullpen is young, which means that shouldn't cost too much. If the Phillies make a trade, Amaro has had a knack at getting teams to pick up some of the player's salary (think Oswalt and Pence).
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.