Phillies Face Financial Balancing Act

The big question mark for the Phillies this off-season is how they can come up with the money needed to fill some holes without letting others open.

If you do some quick math, you realize that the Phillies will have dumped $19.92 million from their payroll. That includes things like ditching Freddy Garcia's $10 million contract and giving players like Adam Eaton, Brett Myers and Chase Utley the raises that their contracts call for.

What the numbers don't show are the raises that players like Ryan Howard are going to get this off-season. Right now, there's no telling just how much Howard will get either in a deal with the Phillies or through arbitration, but the figure could be around the $8 million mark, which would eat about $7.1 million out of their savings. Howard's raise is part of the problem that the Phillies face in figuring out their payroll for 2008, since there is no definite amount for them to plan on having to pay Howard for 2008. With that in mind, they may move to get a deal done with him as soon as possible to get a better handle on their financial standing.

There are other - lesser - players who will also be getting raises and other players like Cole Hamels, who will have to take whatever the Phillies give them since they're not eligible for free agency. Those numbers are easier to figure and easier for the Phillies to figure than Howard's bank-busting salary.

That makes it tough for the Phillies to afford a pitcher like Curt Schilling, who could command something north of $10 million for the 2008 season. It also makes it tough for the Phillies to afford re-signing Aaron Rowand, who is thought to want a six-year, $84 million deal through free agency.

Dave Montgomery has already said that the Phillies Opening Day payroll will be higher in 2008 than it was in 2007, possibly as high as $105 million or more. That would add another $10 million or so in spending money, which might make a Schilling or Rowand a possibility.

The Phillies are likely to put a higher premium on pitching than they will on retaining Rowand, but that may be a mistake. Free agent pitchers don't generally bring to their new team all that they had hoped they would be able to get from them. Just ask the Giants about Barry Zito or the Blue Jays about A.J. Burnett. Of course, you could always just ask the Phillies about Adam Eaton. Plus, even though Schilling had a strong season for the Red Sox, with only a slight interruption by an injury, he's at an age where pitchers generally break down. Schilling has reinvented himself as more of a location pitcher, which will likely delay his break down for a year or more.

Pat Gillick loves financial flexibility and could continue working on a deal to send Pat Burrell elsewhere. There is no doubt that Gillick could find such a deal, especially with Burrell's second-half offensive resurgence, but will he be able to find one that would be to Burrell's liking so he'll waive his no-trade clause, which isn't likely. After the season that the Phillies had, Burrell will likely want to run out his contract in Philadelphia and not look to go elsewhere before he does so in free agency following the 2008 season. The Phillies may be smart not to look to move Burrell though since some of the most dangerous players are the ones in the final year of a contract and headed toward free agency.

Financial maneuvering is nothing new for the Phillies or any other Major League team. Gillick will look for creative ways to make the numbers work and odds are will find a move or two to surprise the faithful and put together a team that can not just make the playoffs, but work much deeper into the Fall foray than three quick losses.

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