If what we've read recently is to be believed, former Orioles/Twins/Cubs front office lifer Andy MacPhail is set to walk into what is probably going to be the most challenging job he has had in Major League Baseball.
And while we don't know what his title may be, who he might be bringing with him, and what exactly the timeline is on his hiring and expected takeover, it's a good chance to look at what MacPhail may be walking into when it comes to the Phillies' current contract situation.
Tonight will be the Phillies' 75th game of the season, so we have just about hit the halfway mark in a year that for many probably cannot end soon enough. MacPhail will be coming into an organization that has many existing contracts that he will have to deal with, and what he does with these first decisions will go a long way to deciding his legacy here in Philadelphia.
So, at this near-halfway mark of 2015, where do we currently stand with some of the Phillies' most closely-watched contracts, and how might they affect MacPhail's initial dealings?
This has been without a doubt the worst year of Utley's career, for his own personal on-field performance and for the team's performance, too.
His two-year deal signed prior to the 2014 season gave him the two guaranteed years of '14 and '15, but also set up three years of options from 2016-2018. The options become guaranteed with 500 plate appearances in the previous season.
Utley currently has 249 plate appearances in 65 games, and his recent trip to the disabled list will keep him out for at least the next week and change. This is setting up to be one of the biggest storylines for the Phillies in the final months of the season.
There is now a real possibility that Utley might not hit 500 plate appearances. Even prior to this injury, Ryne Sandberg had been using Cesar Hernandez at second base a bit more, and that is something that could continue even when Utley returns.
We all know the numbers at this point, so there's not a whole lot of reason to discuss OBP, SLG, BABIP or wRC+ here. The new important number for Utley is 500, and there will be a close eye kept on said number.
Would the Phillies hold Utley out of the lineup to avoid hitting plate appearance 500? Certainly this wouldn't be the same discussion if he had been performing well, but with the numbers Utley has posted so far, there certainly wouldn't be any sort of MLBPA grievance our loud outcry from fans if he's held out of the lineup more often.
Utley would make $15 million in each of 2016, 2017 and 2018 if he hits that plate appearance number.
The Phillies do hold a $2 million buyout on Utley's contract, another discussion that could come up at season's end.
On the complete other side of the spectrum is the Phillies' current closer. Papelbon's four-year contract ends this season, but there is of course the vesting option that was attached for 2016 by Ruben Amaro, Jr.
The 2016 vesting option is guaranteed with 55 games finished this season or 100 games finished in 2014-2015. Naturally, much like Utley, Papelbon is also riding a slippery slope, because of course it just has to be difficult, doesn't it?
Papelbon has finished 26 games entering play tonight, and since we aren't exactly at that halfway marker just yet, he's not really behind schedule at the moment. Papelbon did finish 52 games last year, so he'd only have to hit 48 this year to get that $13 million.
Papelbon's story is different, though, because he's performing well. He has 13 saves, a 1.88 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate, and 2.3 BB/9 rate. Yes, he's been the normally consistent Papelbon we've grown accustomed to in his time here, and he's been as advertised since the Phillies signed him.
Of course, with the way things have gone here over the last four seasons, as is known, the Phillies don't really have a use for him.
Sure, a trade could get done before the deadline, and there's a pretty good chance of that happening, but if he does hit that vesting option and is still here in the off-season, he's Phillies property regardless. That wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, and the Phillies really cannot afford to lose Papelbon on some contractual technicality and get nothing for him. (The chances of that happening as of now are small.)
What we're saying is... Andy, Pat, Ruben, whoever the heck is in charge over these next 4 weeks, please trade Jonathan Papelbon. We're all getting antsy.
In terms of plate appearance thresholds or games completed numbers, there is not a lot else to look out for in 2015.
For MacPhail, there will be other contracts to deal with that are basically already set in stone. Ryan Howard is due $25 million next year, with the $10 million buyout lurking for the 2017 season.
Cliff Lee will be bought out for $12.5 million this off-season barring some sort of extraterrestrial being wreaking havoc on the Phillies' decision making.
Carlos Ruiz will make $8.5 million in 2016, with a club option of $4.5 million for 2017, and a $500,000 buyout attached to that.
And, in case you were wondering, Ryne Sandberg's deal expires after 2016, with a 2017 club option.
We don't think Ryno will be around to see that.