Phillies Payroll Likely to Stagnate This Winter

Show me the money! For the Phillies, the battle cry from the higher ups may be "Save me the money" as the team looks at their 2005 payroll. With long term contracts, young players eligible for arbitration and free agents that the team may want to keep in town, the Phillies may be looking under the couch cushions for long lost pennies. Oddly enough, the new revenue stream from Citizens Bank Park may be a factor.

It's kind of odd the way revenue sharing in major league baseball works, but it's that oddness that lends itself to parity. The Phillies were one of the teams getting revenue sharing checks from other clubs for the last four seasons because their revenue was among the lower echelon of baseball. Those payments were in the range of about $13 million per year. Now, the Phillies can seemingly stand on their own revenue wise and will in fact have to pay into the pool to give revenue to other clubs not lucky enough to have gotten their own new ballpark. Look at it this way. That's like you having to pay your boss on payday rather than having them pay you. Start looking for those pennies. Of course, the Phillies revenue is much higher because of the increased attendance, so the hit isn't $13 million, but it's still a hit.

Another factor to keep in mind is that the team went over their payroll budget when Kevin Millwood accepted arbitration. Somewhere along the line, they need to bring that back into their long-range forecasts to make the numbers work.

The most likely plan is that the payroll will stay at about the same level that it was at for the 2004 season - $93 million. Unfortunately, the Phillies will have some payroll inflation because of long-term contracts and arbitration, not to mention those pesky free agents.

There are seven players – Bobby Abreu, David Bell, Pat Burrell, Mike Lieberthal, Jim Thome, Randy Wolf and Tim Worrell – who are locked in next season for a total of $52.25 million. Abreu stands to be the highest paid Phillie at $12.5 million, while Tim Worrell's $2.75 million is the lowest of the guaranteed numbers. If the Phillies are to stay where they're at payroll wise, they can only spend another $40 million or so. Add to that Billy Wagner's option with would pay him $9 million and Felix Rodriguez' option worth $5 million. The addition of those two would push the payroll to $66.25, about $27 million away from the limit.

Keep in mind too, that Vicente Padilla and Jimmy Rollins are eligible for arbitration. The two combined to make just over $5 million in 2004 and that number will expand over the winter.

As for free agents, Rheal Cormier, Roberto Hernandez, Doug Glanville, Todd Jones, Cory Lidle, Kevin Millwood, Eric Milton, Tomas Perez, Placido Polanco, Todd Pratt and Shawn Wooten are all eligible for free agency. It's likely that Hernandez, Glanville, Jones and Wooten won't even be given much thought to coming back next season. Cormier has considered retirement, but if he does want to play, the Phillies would be interested in having him back. The Phillies will probably let Polanco go, although offering him a job as a utility player wouldn't be out of the question if he's interested in signing at the right price. Odds are though that he'll exit. Tomas Perez and Todd Pratt are both good bench players that the Phillies would like to keep. The toughest decisions may be Lidle, Millwood and Milton. It's likely that the Phillies will try to keep two out of the three for their rotation next season, but signing just one of them is probably more realistic.

Even after all of that manuevering is done, the Phillies have a glaring hole in center field. With Ryan Howard set to work on his outfield skills in the Arizona Fall League, shifting Abreu to center and putting Howard in right might be an option. The Phillies might pursue free agents Carlos Beltran and Steve Finley, but their price may be too high for the Phils. The Phillies could also pursue filling the center field hole via a trade for someone like Kenny Lofton or Bernie Williams of the Yankees. Problem is that they would likely need to save money elsewhere in order to afford either of those players or another established, veteran center fielder.

The bottom line is that the off-season likely won't be as much of a spending spree as it will be an exercise in shifting payroll from one player to another.

For more on Phillies' player contracts, visit the contracts section of PhillyBaseballNews.com.

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