Free Agency

Heyman: Phils Looking at Choo, Cruz, Ellsbury, Grandy to the latest from CBS Sports Jon Heyman, the Phillies are well aware of their outfield woes and are preparing to make runs at outfielders Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Curtis Granderson. Of that group, only Cruz is right handed.

According to FanGraphs, Choo, 31, should expect a five year deal around $15-16.5 million a year, Cruz, 33, around $9-10 million a year for two to three years, Ellsbury, 30, around a five year deal for between $17-18 million per year, and Granderson, 32, a three or four year deal for $12-14 million per year. All four are expected to be offered qualifying offers but none are expected to accept.

Of note in the Heyman piece is Heyman’s source’s claim that indicates the Phillies were prepared to offer Hunter Pence a contract had he reached free agency. Heyman also says that Amaro won’t yet address specific players but instead referred to the Phillies needs as “catching, pitching, outfield.”

Analysis: To me, what is incredibly surprising are the caliber of players listed among the Phillies targets. As I found out while researching for this article, the Phillies will be at almost exactly their Opening Day salary of 2013 even after Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz come off the books. Where is the money coming from? Is the new TV deal set? Or is Amaro bluffing?




  1. Bob D

    October 31, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Think about it, with players like Lee, Rollins, Howard, Utley, and maybe Ruiz they need to give the playoffs another shot before they lose them. I foresee much of them gone after 2015 and replaced by a whole nother group. The bullpen and outfield is in a rebuilding process now while the rotation and infield for the most part is the same. If they have that much invested then they have to go for it. If 2014 proves to be another bad/down/injury plaqued season, then I see them dismantling it and starting over.

    • Brass Villanueva

      October 31, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      That seems to have been the mantra for the past two seasons – trying to avoid a “bad/down/injury plagued season”. As we’ve found out, it’s not really a plan. It’s more like crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

  2. Ken Bland

    October 31, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    I have a semi wild prediction to offer, relevant to the catching position. Because they never seemed to get serious about signing Ruiz back, coupled with Amaro prioritizing it at least several times over the past few months (Yes, Virginia, you CAN believe some of everything you read and hear), this is gonna be vintage Ruben where he has a free agent he has a bug up his butt about and will do all he can to grab him early.

    Like the Raul and Papelbon signings.

    Whoever it is he likes, he likes him a lot. But I won’t venture a guess as to which catcher that is.

    My only comment on this outfielder related post is that Granderson’s name has been very scarce in mention as tied to the Phils. He’s as viable as anyone else mentioned on a net basis, and I could see the Phils being attractive to him, the latter point not based on any credible insight, more semi wild hunch than anything.

  3. George

    October 31, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    The Phils have had much bigger payrolls than last year’s, so the money isn’t an issue, in my opinion. And if they want to win, they’ll have to go for the best available talent.

    • Ian Riccaboni

      October 31, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      Their attendance dropped by over 7k a game. This doesn’t feel like the year they’ll blow through the Luxury Tax.

    • George

      November 1, 2013 at 12:01 am

      I didn’t say a thing about the tax, Ian. All I’ve said is that they’ve spent much more than they did last season. I also don’t recall them going over the tax limit yet.

      Yes, their attendance dropped, but a bad team will only cause attendance to drop even more. They might have to go over the tax to get the attendance boost they wish for.

      • Mike B.

        November 1, 2013 at 12:40 am

        Agreed. With the TV deal on the horizon, now is not the time to save pennies. Money spent on the team now to get it back into contention will pay dividends in the TV deal. They have to get back to winning now, to get viewership up. This year’s team was just no fun to watch. I have been a huge Phils fan all my life, but I watched a lot fewer games than in the past (including the early 2000s), just because I didn’t feel like watching them stumble through yet another game. At least in those years I felt like they were improving and moving forward…last season, not so much.

      • wbramh

        November 1, 2013 at 4:49 am

        Unfortunately, neither low attendance or lousy teamsmean much to some owners.

        Maybe this is what Phillies ownership has in mind:

        The worst team in baseball with the lowest team salary and third worst attendance.
        Yet the most profitable – especially for their fat cat owner who made more money than any other team owner in MLB..

        I sometimes get the feeling that successful franchises on the field exist these days only due to the competitive egos of a handful of owners. They’re usually the ones interjecting their own personality ahead of the players and coaches; the Steinbrenners and Jerry Jones’s of professional sports come immediately to mind. Like the extreme case of the Astros, most owners can comfortably sit back and enjoy their perpetual money machines at the fans’ expense. No doubt there is an end game for the owners, too. At some point, broadcast ratings may dive and effect future contract numbers but the value of these franchises only soars. For now, there are no losers, no “have nots” among ownership and only a few guilty of poor non-baseball related investments in recent years have seen their fifedoms threatened. The great irony of collective bargaining is that despite being fought tooth and nail by owners who saw players’ salaries increase 20-fold, they’re own profits and franchise values have increased at an even greater rate since the advent of free agency. To this day they hate Marvin Miller while secretly kissing the path he laid for them. Makes you wonder whether business schools aren’t fundamentally flawed. Moreover, it teaches us that owning a MLB baseball team is a pretty solid (and no-brainer) bulwark against inflation.

        So I guess what I’m suggesting is that the Phillies will be a winning franchise if ownership really wants to win and if only to scratch their own egos, first and foremost. I’m sure some enjoy the adulation of us peons but probably not as much as we think. Empty seats can be filled with cardboard cutouts and a sound effects track if ownership even wants to bother. The Marlins’ Loria and the Rays’ Sternberg have probably considered that already while simultaneously squeezing the last nickel out of their players’ salaries. Like the Astros and others, those Florida team owner are proving that live attendance is nice but relatively meaningless and the concept of winning is quickly being relegated to the egocentric chumps out there.

        The outlier is the Dodgers’ whose new ownership appears to be taking a different route, gambling on established stars and trolling the foreign markets for unheralded future stars. They’ve spent mega-millions beautifully renovate their wonderful but aged stadium and lead (by far) all of MLB in attendance (over 3.7 million this year). Additionally, they’ve penned a $7 Billion (Billion with a B) TV deal with Time Warner. How quickly their dark days have disappeared (shame to waste it on those stupid fans, but I digress).

        But by either measure, owners make money – a lot of money. Most are content to maintain their independence from any ethical responsibility to the ultimate buyers of their on-field products and off-field merchandise – and likewise, feel no responsibility to the taxpayers who so often foot the bill for their plush luxury boxes.

        I invite rebuttal.

      • schmenkman

        November 1, 2013 at 8:15 am

        The owners’ investment has already appreciated by 1 billion dollars in value from when they purchased it for $30 million in 1981, according to Bloomberg. They will make plenty of money when they cash out, either individually or as a group.

        To your considered and well stated comment, my only rebuttal is that I think the owners are averse to “throwing money away” on the luxury tax, but also that they like winning and will spend up to close to the LTT to make that happen, and that the past few years validate that belief. To me the only question is whether that money will be spent judiciously. Or, to put it another way, since no front office is immune to mistakes, the only question is whether this FO can get enough value for the money to put the team back in contention.

  4. CS

    October 31, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Ian what’s the odd’s pillies blow the lux. tax out the door this offseason? I’d much prefer signing 1 major FA, acquiring a Cuddyer type and improving the pen.

    • Mike B.

      November 1, 2013 at 12:42 am

      I can see them going all in. There is a chance it will blow up in their faces, but also a chance it works. Can’t win if you don’t play, and all that.

      Of all of them, Cruz seems like the best bet. Relatively short deal, and the highest upside of what they need.

  5. Zay Zillionz

    October 31, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Give up the latter for Stanton, sign Granderson, also sign Brian McCann he’s killed us so long its only right we grab him.. That situates the lineup… McCann, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Franco or Asche, Brown, Granderson and Stanton… Thats a einning formula to say the least…..

    • lefty

      October 31, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      Jay, give up what latter for Stanton? What do we have that the Marlins would want for their superstar? Could we give tthem some of your zillions?

  6. lefty

    October 31, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Ian, Heyman knows nothing. He takes stabs in the dark and hopes to get one or two a year right. IMO-Your infomative postings on FA’s are much more reliable as possibilities than anything he throws against the wall. I swear I don’t know how this guy keeps his job. Thanks for your great FA series this year, its really been fun reading.

  7. Joe

    October 31, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Hopefully the TV deal gets done and we get some great players.

  8. baldy

    October 31, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Deja vu if true about Pence. Traded Lee for nothing only to resign him…and now same rumor with Pence. If that was the case…why even trade him? Many people got down on him for how he performed in the first half of 2012…remember…he was acquired to be a 5-hole hitter…and he excelled in that spot. Hit him 4 with no protection and anyones protection will go down…as his did.

  9. Chris

    October 31, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    I can’t be the only one wondering if they go after Napoli to catch. They ask if he’s willing to catch 100 games or so a year the rest he plays first base against a lefty to sit Howard and start kratz or one of the other catchers. It solves our rh sluggin problems among many others

    • wbramh

      November 1, 2013 at 6:04 am

      I don’t think they’ll make a play for Napoli but it’s not a crazy thought.
      He does help solve a myriad of the teams current problems.

      Any real interest would assume Ruf won’t be playing in a Phillies uniform next year since he’s not likely play right field and his greatest value to the team (minus a Napoli) would be platooning with Howard at 1st – and obviously Ruf is not a part-time catcher.

      I don’t think Ruf is a good enough contact hitter to be retained primarily as a pinch hitter but his power is certainly attractive – and something that’s been sorely lacking in most of the lineup. He performs a passable job at first and is the obvious choice over Howard when facing lefties. But then, my grandmother would have been an obvious choice over Howard against lefties. The woman was all of 5 feet tall but had surprising power to all fields.

  10. bacardipr

    November 1, 2013 at 5:01 am

    Well first i have to say that i dont know the ins and outs of these players. On a quick glance and in my head Ellsbury makes the most sense. Him and Revere (yes i know Revere isnt as fast as most thought) could create havoc on the basepaths for us. However we do seem to need another RH bat. Also from a financial standpoint Cruz makes sense as well. Seen that they have other needs as well. Im not liking Granderson so much. Also dont know if i want to hand out a five year deal to Choo.

  11. wbramh

    November 1, 2013 at 5:36 am

    I’m guessing management is looking at Ellsbury for CF and Cruz for RF.

    Those two positions have only been rented since Shane and Hunter were handed tickets out of town.

    If John’s sources are correct, the existence of three lefties out of four players on the FA wish list tells me the Revere experiment is over and hell be part of some future trade – perhaps for a solid catcher if Ruiz walks. Ellsbury pretty much gives the team more of everything, from power to stolen bases to fielding.

  12. Chuck A.

    November 1, 2013 at 6:49 am

    I am not opposed to doing some long-term deal for either Choo or Ellsbury. Someone else mentioned that now is not the time to pinch pennies with the new TV deal on the horizon so handing out an fairly expensive 5 year contract for one of these guys isn’t all that big of a deal.

  13. hittingforavg

    November 1, 2013 at 9:04 am

    It’s no surprise the Phillies are going to be tied with the top tier FAs. Their top draft pick is protected and signing anyone one of those FAs (if they received a qualifying offer from their former team) won’t harm them besides a 2nd round pick. While the TV money may or may not be available, the one thing most people don’t think about this offseason is that the luxury tax threshold is rising to $189 million, up from $178. If the Phillies were looking to spend, the TV money and an $11 million dollar buffer will surely help.

    As for the names mentioned in the post, only Cruz is a RH. Unless Ruben makes moves with roster to obtain a RH power bat i don’t see them going after any other player. No one on the roster that is guaranteed a spot is RH, and as the last couple seasons has shown, this team sorely needs a power hitting RH bat.

    • wbramh

      November 1, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      True about the need for a right-handed bat but as I previously suggested, John Heyman’s list of left-handed heavy hitters doesn’t preclude the possibility of an upgrade of a current left-handed bat in the line-up. First and foremost, that makes Revere expendable – especially if they can land Ellsbury who is a clear improvement over Revere in every category, including steals.

      In other words the FA list is more likely to replace Revere who then becomes a possible piece in a trade for a second OF and one who brings a right-handed bat into the lineup… unless they land Cruz along with Ellsbury.

      And frankly, I wouldn’t rule out a deal with the Marlins for Stanton. Yes, other teams might offer more but perhaps the Phillies have a better fit to offer the Marlins, a deal that includes Asche, Revere and Ruf and possibly Biddle and/or cash. Plus, Loria has his own agenda and that may favor the Phillies’ cash as much as the replacement players the Marlins would receive. From a personnel standpoint I think that trade strengthens the Marlins in multiple positions while opening the way for the Phils to put Franco at 3rd and a possible stab at Napoli to platoon between catcher and 1B – especially if Ruf is traded and Ruiz walks. Also, some teams will likely be wary of Stanton despite his talent due to his injury record. The Phillies have to gamble and Stanton’s immense power would be a beautiful thing to watch in little CBP.

  14. Hogey's Role

    November 1, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Idk if there was a write up or not for ubaldo Jimenez or not, I probably missed it, but I would definately go after him this winter for our number three starter…

    I’m thinking we might be better off going for a trade to fill our outfield needs

    • George

      November 1, 2013 at 10:27 am

      I agree with your thoughts on both counts. The free agent outfielders out there aren’t optimum as the needed RH power bats with good defensive metrics, and there’s going to be a lot of other teams looking for those outfielders, so they’ll be expensive. The problem the Phils will have is that they don’t have a ton of prospects to offer in trade.

      As far as Jimenez is concerned, I’d certainly go after him, as well as a number of others. Jimenez had an excellent year, and he’s been very good in a few past years. That Cuban guy they signed is a pretty big question mark, Kendrick is a question mark, Pettibone I see as a 5th starter, and there’s no one else around in case of injury. Even if they get a bat, it won’t do a lot of good if the rotation coughs up 5 runs three games out of five. It’ll also kill the bullpen.

      • Hogey's Role

        November 1, 2013 at 12:14 pm

        And the bullpen doesn’t have much life to kill either lol

  15. Dave P

    November 1, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Here’s an interesting article that seems to contradict what you said, Ian.

    The article says that the 2013 payroll for the phillies was $159,000,000 and that their 2014 payroll obligations are just $121,800,000.

    As far as the question as to where the extra money is coming from, this article also answers that – “That’s $1.5 billion in national TV revenue per season that will go into MLB’s Central Fund, or $750 million more than under the contracts that just expired. MLB can spend money from the Central Fund in a variety of ways, but it’s been assumed in the reporting that the league will distribute the TV money to the teams. If so, each team will receive $25 million more in national TV revenue in 2014 through 2021 than they did in 2013.”

    With a first round protected pick, the phillies have to sign someone big to make that protected pick worth it.

    • Ian Riccaboni

      November 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      I can tell you without reading it that they likely didn’t factor in the raises that Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Mike Adams, and others will receive and just subtracted Roy Halladay, Chooch, and Michael and Delmon Young from last year’s Opening Day number. 🙂

    • Ian Riccaboni

      November 1, 2013 at 12:46 pm

      From my article outlining why a drastic rebuild isn’t likely.

      “The Phillies entered 2013 with an Opening Day payroll of $159.58 million, about $30 million short of the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014, but not including things like minor league contracts that also count against the luxury tax. Gone from this number are the contracts of Michael Young ($6 million), Delmon Young (included in the Opening Day projection at $500 K), Roy Halladay ($20 million), and Carlos Ruiz ($5 million), bringing the total to $128.08 million.

      There are a few arbitration eligible players that will likely be back. Ruben Amaro has stated that Kyle Kendrick will be tendered a contract for 2014, which is estimated to be around $6.6 million. Add to this Antonio Bastardo ($2.0 million), Ben Revere ($1.5 million), and possibly Kevin Frandsen ($1.3 million) and John Mayberry ($1.7 million). Worst case scenario, the Phillies will add $13.1 million back to their payroll in arbitration-eligible players, pumping their likely Opening Day roster back to $141.18 million before raises built into contracts kick in.

      The first raise goes to Ryan Howard, who is set to earn $5 million more in 2014. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels is set to earn $3 million more and Mike Adams $2 million more in 2014. And of course, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is signed for about $4 million in 2014. The number for the team before considering minor league costs then jumps back up to $155.18 million, just $4.40 million less than their 2013 Opening Day payroll, leaving them very little wiggle room to sign anyone, yet alone a top tier free agent.”

      • schmenkman

        November 1, 2013 at 12:57 pm

        Ian, that seems right. In terms of average annual value, which is what is used for the luxury tax threshold, according the list linked below, they are at $152.3 million, including benefits.

        So they have $36 M or so left to reach the LTT, with these positions still to be filled:

        starting pitcher, swing man, reliever, outfielder (top tier), IF/OF (lower tier)

      • George

        November 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm

        I don’t think there’s much worry about “IF/OF (lower tier).” I’m sure the likes of Galvis, Hernandez, Ruf, and maybe Frandsen have that covered.

      • wbramh

        November 1, 2013 at 5:41 pm

        Maybe there’s a way out of this mess in bits and pieces that may take another year or two to massage out of the equation.

        Based on return for dollars spent, I think it’s safe to assume the salaries of Howard and Papelbon are killing this team’s chances of improving. I wonder whether the Phillies wouldn’t be in better shape paying a portion of those exorbitant salaries to have other teams take them off their hands… if those teams exist. If they don’t , it just illustrates how little they’re actually worth in the eyes of other GMs. You’d think some team would take a chance on Papelbon at the right price and an American League team would find a place for Howard as a DH facing righties and available for duty at 1st in a pinch. It would probably extend his career. Trading Kendrick for a promising pair of minor leaguers would save another 6 million and they likely already have Kendrick’s equal or better in one of their young arms. Same for Mike Adams and his $2 mil. Trade him for potential if any other team thinks he’s worth a $2 mil risk. If not, again it shows just how much dead wood is currently on this team.

        Chooch and his $5 mil are probably gone but I believe you’ve taken that into account. I’d dump Mayberry’s half mil (or whatever arbitration brings him) for a minor league prospect and trade Revere (probably in a package) and his 1.5 mil for whatever they can get back in return.

        And frankly, if it allowed the team just enough free cash to sign a stud player, I’d dump any or every other non-essential player on the team making more than the minimum to pull it off. Trading them even up for UCLA’s bench wouldn’t have made them any the poorer. But RAJ has to stop wasting what he thinks is pocket change on the Delmon Youngs of the World because that money added up can kill the team’s future- especially when your adding multi-million dollar weight-loss incentives on top of an already useless $750,000 guaranteed contract. RAJ would have done better putting that money in a 1.5% interest savings account.

      • wbramh

        November 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm

        I should have said dump Mike Adams and what I assume would be his $7 million if he’s getting a $2 mil raise for 2014.

  16. jim

    November 1, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Sign Beltran, a r handed bat; trade biddle and asche for david price, bring up that phenom from triple a, the 3 rd basemen, and keep fransen just in case, and two decent relievers, and lets roll with ruiz again behind the plate, along with everybody else they already have
    the are not that far out of it but beltran and price are the keys

    • jeff of nova

      November 1, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      Definitely agree, not likely but agree, onlt thing I would do is sign Cruz not Beltran…. what made the billpen so good in 2011 was that thier rotation was consistently going 7-8 innings. I would make a stab at Jimenez too. Either sign and trade KK and let the Cuban be a 5th starter

      Sounds crazy but here is whay it could look like
      C- Ruiz, Rupp
      1B- Howard
      2nd Utley
      SS- Rollins
      3rd- Franco
      CF- Revere
      LF- Brown



      Stutes..if healthy
      Adams..if healthy
      Maybe FA pickup someone earns out of Spring

      Couple of our high tier prospects in A

      I know its crazy but hey its offseason we can dream

    • George

      November 1, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      The Rays wouldn’t want Asche; they already have Longoria locked up. And they wouldn’t trade Price for Biddle and Asche even if they didn’t have Longoria. Some other team would give them a lot more.

  17. Josh Stein

    November 1, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Don’t forget about Tanaka and don’t underestimate Ruben this year he will be looking to pull off a major rebuild he will surprise a lot of people or he’ll be gone simple as that

    • George

      November 1, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      From what I’ve been reading, just the expected posting fee on Tanaka will be so high that they could use the same money to pay off nearly all of Ryan Howard’s remaining contract. Then they’d have to pay Tanaka, too. I don’t see it happening, myself.

      • Jared B

        November 1, 2013 at 8:39 pm

        The posting fee doesn’t count towards the luxury tax, only the contract you sign him to. On the other hand, Howards contract does count towards the tax.

    • wbramh

      November 2, 2013 at 1:04 am

      I would be difficult to underestimate Ruben.
      Sorry. Cheap shot but it was just sitting there.

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