03/01/12 3:15 PM EST
Victorino looking forward to a new deal
Veteran center fielder hoping for five-year contract with Phils
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
Hamels and Victorino are the Phillies' two biggest potential free agents following this season.
Victorino said this week he would prefer to make a deal with Philadelphia sooner rather than later. He also said he is looking for a five-year deal, but is willing to take a reasonable hometown discount to avoid free agency.
"I look at it this way," Victorino said. "If it's a significant difference, I have to weigh my options more than anything. I obviously love to play in Philly. They gave me my opportunity. They made me who I am. In that regard, that sits in the back of my mind. But I also understand there's a window in this game. I would like to play until I'm 50, 60 years old. Who wouldn't? But age and time comes into play. When I say I don't want to go anywhere, yeah, I call this home. I want to finish my career here. I won't say I won't take a hometown discount, but I also will say I want to maximize my opportunity with not only what I've accomplished as an individual, but as part of a team."
In other words, Victorino is willing to take a little less to avoid hitting the free-agent market. But not a lot less. Not something well below market value.
Victorino said he expects his agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, and the Phillies to talk about a possible extension during Spring Training. Victorino said he prefers not to talk during the season, but it sounds like he will allow negotiations to continue during the year.
"I'm not going to put a timetable on it," he said.
Victorino would not offer any specific offers or proposals from either side, but he indicated they have a way to go before reaching an agreement.
"I don't know if you could say far apart, but I don't think we're close," he said.
It would seem a three-year deal makes the most sense for the Phils, at least early in negotiations, while Victorino's camp certainly is looking at deals signed in recent seasons by other center fielders. Torii Hunter signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels following the 2007 season. Aaron Rowand signed a five-year, $60 million contract with the San Francisco Giants in the same offseason.
"I'd like five years, yeah. Why wouldn't I?" Victorino said. "I signed for three [on my last contract]. Why wouldn't I want the next one to be longer?"
Victorino has been one of the most productive center fielders in baseball, so he certainly can make his case to be paid like Hunter and Rowand. Victorino ranks fifth among center fielders over the previous four seasons with a .800 OPS. The only ones better are Matt Kemp (.847), Curtis Granderson (.838), Andrew McCutchen (.822) and Jacoby Ellsbury (.801). In that same four-year span, Victorino ranks second in hits (645); third in runs (383); fourth in slugging percentage (.452); sixth in doubles (122) and stolen bases (114); seventh in batting average (.281) and on-base percentage (.348); eighth in RBIs (250); and 10th in home runs (59).
Victorino also has won three National League Gold Glove Awards and made the NL All-Star team twice.
Asked what is more important, playing on a winning team or years and dollars, Victorino said, "To play on a winner, but I'm also not going to say, 'Well, give me a three-year deal and I'm going to sign.'"
But Victorino also looks around the clubhouse, sees a lot of talented players and knows the Phillies might be forced into a difficult decision. If they sign Hamels to an extension, can they afford Victorino? Can they afford Victorino and Hunter Pence, who becomes a free agent following the 2013 season?
"We're all in that boat," Victorino said. "You're a team where payroll is becoming a big topic. You look at the great players you have here, and if you have great players, you've got to spend the money in that regard. Do I understand the situation we could all be in? Absolutely, I understand. I'm not stupid."
The luxury tax comes into play as well. The tax threshold is set at $178 million in 2013 before moving to $189 million in '14. So far the Phils have been reluctant to pass it, although they are extremely close. But it would seem difficult to stay underneath it while retaining Hamels, Pence and Victorino.
"Unless they say, forget it, we're going to go over the luxury tax or we're going to be like the Yankees," Victorino said. "I don't know. I'm not in the front office. I understand. Why wouldn't you want to get the best left-handed free agent next year and try to lock him up? And then it comes to me, 'We don't have it in the budget.'
"Cole is definitely important to you. You've got Chooch [Carlos Ruiz], you've got [Joe] Blanton, you've got myself, you've got Hunter next year. I understand the business. I'm not one of those guys that just goes out and plays the game. I understand. I pay attention to those kinds of things. If it comes down to that, it comes down to that. But you know what? Why not try to make something happen now? I'm willing to say, 'Let's try to work out something now. Let's try to make it happen.'
"Most athletes want to go to free agency because that's when you maximize and you really feel what you're worth. But I'm willing to not even worry about going that route. I love this place. This is the place that gave me my chance. I'm a World Series champion in this city. That's stuff that forever that will be remembered. I want to be here. My family loves it. Everybody loves this place."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.