The Phillies insist that they like the players that they got in exchange and truth be told, there are one or two who would seem to be decent prospects. What they love is the money they saved.
Just in the deal that sent Cory Lidle and Bobby Abreu to the Yankees, the Phillies saved about $3.9 million in salaries for this season after you figure in the $1.5 million they gave Abreu to accept the deal to New York. Plus, they've saved Abreu's $15.5 million deal for next year and his $2.0 million buyout in 2008, bringing the total for that deal to about $21.4 million. By dealing Fasano, Franklin, Rheal Cormier and David Bell, they saved approximately $1.0 million this season. The only one of those players signed for next season was Cormier, who had a $500,000 buyout or $3.0 million deal in hand from the Phillies. If you assume that the Phillies would have bought out Cormier, their savings would have reached $22.9 million over this season and next.
Speaking of next season, there is some room to manuever. The Phillies have the following players signed for next season:
Plus, Aaron Rowand has a team option for $5.0 million and are on the hook for $3.25 million if Rowand exercises his player option. The Phillies also have to cut a check for $5.5 million to the Chicago White Sox to pay Jim Thome in each of the next three seasons.
That brings the total payroll for 2007 to between... $46.35 million and $48 million, depending on Aaron Rowand. The Phillies have said that their payroll will likely stay where it is - $94.0 million - meaning that they have roughly twice as much money to spend as they've already commited for next season. Nice.
So, how do we spend the money?
First, you have to figure on the arbitration cases. Chase Utley, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson and Geoff Geary are all eligible for arbitration. Myers is already at $3.3 million and will get a raise and you have to figure that Utley is going to get a nice bump from his $500,000 salary for this season. Madson and Geary will likely get raises, but not huge boosts.
David Dellucci is a free agent and the Phillies will at least make an attempt to re-sign him. It could well come down to the Phillies simply offering arbitration and either getting Dellucci to accept a one-year deal or getting some draft picks in return when he signs elsewhere. Regardless, the Phillies will likely need a right fielder unless they decide to go with Shane Victorino. It's more likely that they would push to keep Dellucci and either cut Rowand loose or deal him elsewhere. That would open up center field for either Victorino or Michael Bourn.
They'll need help behind the plate as well. Mike Lieberthal's contract is up and the Phillies haven't given much indication that they'll hand the job to Carlos Ruiz, so expect some money to go there.
The biggest expenditures will come on the pitching staff. While Myers, Lieber, Scott Mathieson and Cole Hamels seem set to fill spots in the rotation, the Phillies will do well to find another big arm from somewhere. Ideally, Randy Wolf will return to form and perhaps the Phillies will be able to deal Lieber to one of the clubs who have seen a pitcher go down with an injury since the trade deadline, helping out a contender over the final month of the season. Then, they could simply insert Wolf - who is also a free agent - for Lieber and go out and get that big arm.
The bullpen will likely be much different. Madson is wearing out his welcome pretty quickly. Arthur Rhodes is gone via free agency, as is Rick White. Geary and Aaron Fultz could both be back, but aren't guaranteed. Brian Sanches is a decent prospect and Fabio Castro is untested (why is that, by the way?). Figure some money will be spent there, too. Certainly, a big name setup guy will be targeted to get the team to Gordon next year.
While the Phillies could still make some noise in the wild card race between now and October, the majority of their noise will come during the off-season. GM Pat Gillick will scour a weak free agent market and perhaps use some prospects as trade bait to rebuild this team. That's not only going to cost prospects, but it will cost money, which Gillick has plenty to burn come this winter.
Financial flexibility. Don't you just love it?