The Philadelphia Phillies are showing you how a smart, big market team is supposed to act.
On Tuesday, the team released left-hander Matt Harrison, freeing up a valuable spot on their 40-man roster. Harrison was acquired from the Texas Rangers as part of the Cole Hamels trade in July of 2015, with the understanding he would never pitch a single inning for them.
Harrison has suffered from back problems that caused him to miss all of last year and make just nine starts total since 2013. The Phils are now on the hook for around $15.2 million, his $13.2 million salary for 2016 and a $2 million buyout for 2017, although as CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports, they will receive some insurance relief. Had they kept Harrison on the roster, insurance would have covered his entire contract.
Folks, that is pure, unadulterated “dead money.” That money smells funny and has flies flying around it. But this proves the value of those 40-man roster spots for a team that has few of them to spare and a number of prospects they want to protect.
In other words, a 40-man roster spot on the Phils is worth approximately $15. 2 million right now.
Even though he never threw a single pitch for the organization, his inclusion in the Hamels deal, and his release today, is a template for exactly how the Phillies should be doing business as a big-market team.
Harrison was initially included in the Hamels deal to offer salary relief to the Texas Rangers, which allowed the Phils to ask for better prospects in return. If the Phils hadn’t taken on Harrison and his dead money for the last two and a half years, they would not have gotten Jake Thompson AND Jorge Alfaro AND Nick Williams AND Jerad Eickhoff AND Alec Asher.
It is a template the team must continue to follow. If the Phils want to trade for an improvement in the outfield, like Detroit’s J.D. Martinez for example, they need to be willing to accept the big contract of a declining or fading player in return, such as Anibal Sanchez. The Phillies could then do what they did today and release Sanchez, eating even more “dead money” while freeing up a roster space.
The Phils have almost no payroll to spend in 2017. Roster flexibility is far more important than payroll flexibility, especially for a team raking in billions of dollars in Comcast money.
Poor market teams can only offer prospects for talent. The Phils can offer to soak up “dead money” instead. In this case, they spent millions of dollars for the flexibility to keep one extra prospect.
Money has its advantages.