The Phillies are working on a trend. The guys that want to stay in Philadelphia the most, they let go. It’s not comprehensive, but you look at guys like Jayson Werth, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Cliff Lee (part I)–just because you want to stick around doesn’t mean you get your deal. Compare that to guys like Rollins who you could have easily seen leaving for greener pastures, or perhaps Ryan Howard who seems fine in Philadelphia but never waxes poetic. Those guys are here for the long-haul. Shane Victorino has spent the early portion of Spring Training detailing exactly how much he wants to stay in Philadelphia. Unfortunately for him, I don’t see Shane spending his twilight years in South Philly.
Victorino has talked his way to the forefront this Spring, and it’s created a little buzz of media. Hey, Cole Hamels isn’t the only one in a contract year! Coming off his best season, it’s a great time for Victorino to be reminding everyone of his value, especially when there are so few quality (offensive) center fielders in MLB. There have been articles about Victorino being more important than Hamels and today there was news that Victorino was looking for 5-years with a modest hometown discount. But, the Phillies already have a lot of money committed, and they’ve sided with pitching in recent years when making financial decisions. I’d be shocked if Victorino gets his deal (of course, if the Cards are handing out 5/75 to Molina anything is possible), but it might not be the worst thing for the Phillies.
The Phillies are spending about 15 million on center field and third base this season. Both those positions will need to be replaced or re-upped for next year. Considering raises due Cole Hamels(if he comes back) and Hunter Pence and with their backs already against the luxury tax wall, it’s hard to imagine them spending much more on those two spots next season. In fact, I think they’d like to spend less. Assuming Victorino has another typical year, it’s hard to imagine the Phillies getting him for any less than 12 million. That’s got to be the absolute bottom. That figure leaves the Phillies with a milk crate playing third base.
Other things to consider:
1. Victorino’s chance of re-signing with the Phillies becomes even slimmer if John Mayberry Jr. proves he can become an everyday player. Assuming Mayberry doesn’t continue his late-blooming and turn into a superstar, rather he just becomes a solid everyday player, the Phillies will have a few more years of reasonable salaries out of Mayberry. They wouldn’t hesitate to play him everyday in center field. It’s another reason why Mayberry is so crucial to this team. They need him to replace some of Howard’s production early this season but I guarantee you the front office if hoping for some younger, cheaper, under control talent (in the bullpen and the outfield) to ease the burden of their long-term financial commitments. That’s where Mayberry and Dom Brown come into play.
2. We might be headed toward an era of plateauing team payrolls. Sure, Anaheim and Texas are coming out firing with huge TV deals on the way, but they were well behind NY, Boston and Philly to begin with. The Yankees with their unmatched pool of revenue have made a commitment to cut their payroll to 189 million within a few seasons. The Phillies will get to renegotiate their TV money in the coming years, but do you really see a scenario where the Yankees are spending 189 million and the Phillies are spending 215 million? I don’t. The huge contracts are eventually going to stop getting handed out. They’ve chosen Rollins, Howard, Lee, Papelbon for the long-term. Pence, Hamels, Victorino and the next Halladay contract all can’t happen. Choices. Where is the real value?
3. It’s important to gauge Victorino’s value properly. He might be one of the better centerfielders (OPS-wise) in the league, but there’s a real lack of offensive firepower in center these days. Just because there is a scarcity of something, doesn’t mean you should overpay. You could argue that his production could be pretty easily made up with an upgrade at 3rd base. Also, it’s important not to overvalue Shane’s skills as a center fielder and base runner. He’s fast, but doesn’t steal a ton of bases and doesn’t have great instincts on the bases (something he’ll never learn). He plays a good center field, but he’s certainly not in the top-tier of center fielders. There might be a shortage of offensive center fielders, but there are plenty of guys out there that make Shane look like he should head back to his more natural spot–right field.
4. In terms of Shane’s offense, how he fares this season will go a long way to determining his value. His value to the team, though, is unlikely to eclipse what it was last year for the rest of his career. If that’s not the case, is a team where Shane Victorino is your offensive MVP really the type of team you want to build? Last season was the perfect storm. Victorino had a career year. Ryan Howard continued to come under fire from the SABR guys. Utley was at an all-time low, and Hunter Pence didn’t arrive until later in the year.
5. On a good team, Shane is probably your 3rd, or 4th best offensive weapon. For the Phillies this season, he’s surely behind Pence and then the rest we’ll have to wait for. Ideally Howard will return at some point and be more productive. You’d like to say the same for Utley. If they go ahead and pay Victorino, will they be able to sign Pence? As popular as Shane is, I don’t think anyone wants to sacrifice Pence to keep Shane in town. Same goes for Hamels. Eventually, some guys have to leave town, like Werth, and Victorino might be the next guy to head for less crowded pastures.
I’m sure it’s obvious at this point that I’m not the biggest Shane supporter. That is true to a certain extent. I appreciate what he brings, but it always bothers me when players don’t get the most out of their best skill. Shane should be a great base runner. He should be a great outfielder, but he’s not. Throw in his two mind-boggling errors or gaffes a month and I see a very good everyday player that can be replaced.
The only way I see Victorino getting his wish is if Mayberry and Brown both prove to be ineffective and the Phillies feel they have no choice but to keep Victorino to sustain some level of production in the outfield. Of course, that wouldn’t bode well for keeping Hamels.