Mailbag: Free agents, payroll, radio situation

dep_1045321-Mail-envelope-icon-buttonLast week I asked for your mailbag questions. Thanks to those who sent them in; let’s answer them.

Chris: I was wondering when and how you think the Phillies will eventually jump into the big-time free agent market? Not just the roster filling moves but the big splash to announce they’re ready to compete. It’s been interesting to see names like Heyward and Upton get bounced around in local blogs, but realistically the Phillies weren’t players.

Right. While I was behind signing Heyward because he’s young enough, and more of his value is tied to his fielding (which typically doesn’t decline as steeply as hitting or speed), there is no short-term rush for the Phillies to sign a major free agent.

This season is all about building a foundation. The Phillies now have an outstanding farm system – likely a top-10 system and arguably a top-5 system – but, of course, not everyone pans out. As the season progresses, the Phillies should call up highly rated prospects, give them opportunities to succeed, and start to understand exactly what talent exists in the system. The same goes for the youth already in the majors – Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Jerad Eickhoff. Pete Mackanin yesterday said 2016 was about seeing who really can play everyday baseball. That will be evident.

So it’s possible that the Phillies make a splash in the 2016-17 offseason. Top free agents, as of today, include Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez (club options), plus Carlos Gomez, Josh Reddick, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Not necessarily a heavy class, but the Phils could be players for Strasburg.

That said, General Manager Matt Klentak has downplayed the importance of the free agent market. I would bet more on a substantial trade – whether in the offseason or during the 2017 season – as the first big (or semi-big) splash that lands an established name.

But if you really want to look into the future, the 2018-19 offseason could be the big free agent moment. Possible free agents that offseason include Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Dallas Kuechel, David Price, Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez and Heyward. By then, we’d hope the Phillies are just about a playoff contender.

Jim: I would like to know what the current payroll is. I’m sure it’s a great deal less than 2 or 3 years ago.

Yes, it’s definitely a great deal less.

Though the offseason hasn’t yet ended, and there could be some fuzzy discrepancy regarding dollars and cents, the Phillies payroll is right now around $94 million, according to Spotrac. To give you a sense of how far it’s fallen, last year’s opening day payroll sat at $141 million. The 2014 opening day payroll was $165 million. The 2012 Phillies’ payroll of $181 million was second in baseball, just under the Yankees.

So the Phillies have nearly shaved their payroll in half in four years.

Of course, considering how much money the Phillies have, the willingness of ownership to spend and win, and what will be coming their way thanks to the new 25-year, $2.5 billion television deal beginning this year with Comcast, the payroll can easily increase to $200 million, or even more. Give them a few years to do that.

Julius: Are you hearing anything about the Phillies signing a new radio deal with CBS Radio to remain on the current two stations (WIP/WPHT) or perhaps move the games to one station, WIP or WPHT, or on one of their other sister stations, like KYW, WXTU WOGL or 96.5, or perhaps the Phillies sign a new radio deal with iHeartMedia, Salem Media Group, Beasley Broadcast Group or Greater Media to air their games on one of their stations?

Very few people are talking about this story right now. As of today, as far as we know, the Phillies don’t have a radio partner in place for 2016. The Phillies signed an extension last year with CBS Radio (WPHT 1210 AM, WIP 94.1 FM), but there has been no news of a 2016 contract.

Back in the summer CBS reorganized its Philadelphia television newsroom, and days later, CBS Radio made numerous cuts across the country, including in Philly. Whether any of this has to do with the lack of a 2016 contract is purely speculation.

That said, it’s pretty incredible that the Phils haven’t announced a radio deal for 2016, as we’re a little more than a month from spring baseball games. Other possibilities include those addressed by Julius, but I’d be hard pressed to believe Salem (WFIL 560 AM, WNTP 990 AM) or Beasley (WTEL 610 AM, WWDB 860 AM) have the money and reach the Phillies need.

And when I say “reach,” I mean an FM station. Sound quality is stronger with FM (though AM reception [like, say, on 1210] can actually far outpace FM) and audiences are getting to a point where they don’t even know AM exists anymore.

So the players are really iHeartMedia and Greater Media. iHeartMedia has Q102, Radio 104.5, Mix 106.1, Power99, WDAS-FM, and AM stations like WFIL 560 and News Talk 990. So there’s room to work here – imagine a simulcast of News Talk 990 and Radio 104.5 for Phillies games.

Greater Media, meanwhile, has 102.9 WMGK, 93.3 WMMR, 95.7 BEN-FM, and last but not least, 97.5 The Fanatic. So obviously the Phils would become a Fanatic team. The problem here is that Greater Media doesn’t own an AM station in the market. Not a big problem, but one nonetheless.

Something will happen, though there have been no rumblings recently. My money’s on the Phils staying with CBS Radio for another year. If not, I could easily see them moving over to Greater Media.


Thanks again for your questions! Email me with more at

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