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The Price of Prosperity

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With just a week left until camp opens in Florida, the Phillies' payroll is almost fully in focus, depending on the outcome of Ryan Howard's arbitration case. Scott Lauber today presents the full list of player salaries, from most to least

*1B Ryan Howard: $14 million or $18 million ($10 million)
RHP Brett Myers: $12 million ($8.5 million)
RHP Brad Lidge: $11.5 million ($6.35 million)
2B Chase Utley: $11 million ($7.5 million)
RHP Adam Eaton: $8.5 million ($7.635 million)
SS Jimmy Rollins: $8.5 million ($8 million)
LF Raul Ibanez: $8.5 million (N/A)
OF Geoff Jenkins: $6.75 million ($5 million)
LHP Jamie Moyer: $6.5 million ($7 million)
RHP Joe Blanton: $5.475 million ($3.7 million)
3B Pedro Feliz: $5 million ($3 million)
LHP Cole Hamels: $4.35 million ($500,000)
CF Shane Victorino: $3.125 million ($480,000)
RHP Ryan Madson: $3 million ($1.9 million)
RF Jayson Werth: $3 million ($1.7 million)
**LHP J.C. Romero: $2.75 million ($3 million)
RHP Chan Ho Park: $2.5 million (N/A)
LHP Scott Eyre: $2 million ($3.8 million)
RHP Chad Durbin: $1.635 million ($900,000)
INF Greg Dobbs: $1.15 million ($440,000)
OF Matt Stairs: $1 million ($2.25 million)
INF Eric Bruntlett: $800,000 ($600,000)
RHP Clay Condrey: $650,000 ($420,000)
***C Carlos Ruiz: $500,000 ($425,000)
***C Chris Coste: $500,000 ($415,000)
***C Ronny Paulino: $500,000 ($423,500)
***RHP Kyle Kendrick: $500,000 ($445,000)
***LHP J.A. Happ: $400,000 ($380,000)
(*Howard's salary will be determined through arbitration)
(**Romero's salary includes projected loss from 50-game suspension)
(***Projected salaries after contracts are renewed)

Total: $129.685 million or $133.685 million

If you're comparing to last year, Ibanez replaces Pat Burrell, who made $14 million last season, while Park (ugh) could be said to replace either Tom Gordon ($5.5 million) or Rudy Seanez ($400,000). Otherwise, the team awards built-in raises from multi-year deals to seven players (Myers, Lidge, Utley, Eaton, Rollins, Jenkins, Feliz); is paying three players (Moyer, Madson, Werth) through new multi-year deals that extend beyond what would have been their arbitration eligibiity; and has increased compensation, through one-year or multi-year deals, to eight players who were arbitration-eligible this past winter (Howard, Blanton, Hamels, Victorino, Durbin, Dobbs, Bruntlett, Condrey). Scott Eyre signed a new deal for less money, and Matt Stairs and, thanks to his suspension, J.C. Romero wind up with pay cuts from last season in the course of their previously signed contracts. The last five names on Lauber's list are players not yet arbitration-eligible, for whom he's guessing the numbers at which their contracts will be renewed. 

Jayson Stark wrote for ESPN that the Phillies actually will have the largest payroll increase of any team in MLB from last season to this one: 

So which team has added the most money to its payroll in this strange, penny-pinched winter? No, not the Yankees. Their payroll will actually be $5 to $10 million lower this year, despite that $400-million shopping spree. And it's not the Cubs, Braves or Red Sox, either.

The correct answer: It's the Phillies -- whose payroll has exploded from $98 million to something in the neighborhood of $130 million. And that $30-million hike could close in on $35 million ifRyan Howard wins his arbitration case.

"We're very, very fortunate we won the World Series," said GM Ruben Amaro Jr., "because we got to stay afloat. We got a reprieve -- for one year, at least."

Amazingly, that entire increase was spent on keeping the Phillies' World Series cast in place -- not on adding to it. Their two free-agent signees -- Raul Ibanez and Chan Ho Park -- will actually make significantly less money this year ($11 million combined) than their outgoing free agents --Pat BurrellTom Gordon and Rudy Seanez -- made last year ($19.9 million).

 

Now, the team of course reaped a windfall of profit from winning the World Series, including what I think was a 20 percent rise in season ticket sales--a fairly staggering achievement, given the economy. But we've nonetheless come a long way from the days when the whole discourse about the Phillies was dominated by the idea that they're "cheap"; our big criticism this winter was that Amaro overpaid for players of questionable value like Ibanez and Park. 

The larger point might be that the team's payroll trajectory is now pretty well set for awhile: Lidge, Utley, Rollins, Ibanez, Moyer, Madson, Werth, Romero and Dobbs all have firm numbers attached to the 2010 compensation (amounting to a combined $18.5 million in raises from 2009). And with the admittedly significant exception of Ryan Howard, nobody else who will be arbitration-eligible (Blanton, Victorino, Durbin, and I think Carlos Ruiz) is likely to command all that much more money a year from now. Myers, Eaton, Jenkins, and Feliz will come off the books, freeing up around $30 million; the final end to the Jim Thome payout to the White Sox adds another $3 million or so.

Assuming the 14 or so core guys hold their ground, and If the team can come up with plausible internal replacements for those who will be leaving--perhaps Jason Donald for Feliz, John Mayberry Jr. for Jenkins, Carlos Carrasco for Myers and a dying fern plant for Eaton--the Phillies should be on a path to remain in contention for years to come.