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It’s not your money

If John Middleton is okay with the Phillies’ payroll, you should be too

Philadelphia Phillies Introduce Trea Turner
Trea Turner got paid, and Phillies fans should be happy
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Phillies signed shortstop Trea Turner to a contract that is both big and long. They’re also going to be paying Taijuan Walker a lot of money over the next four years. This doesn’t make them uncommon on the Phillies’ roster. Looking at the Phillies’ page on Cot’s Contracts, you’ll see that they have a lot of money designated for 2023 and beyond.

I know that this bothers some of you. There is a certain subset of fans who for one reason or another, do not like it when athletes are paid hefty amounts of money. If this describes you, then Major League Baseball may not be the sport to follow. Or perhaps you’d feel more comfortable rooting for a low-payroll team like the Pirates or A’s?

There are others who worry that the Phillies’ payroll is a zero-sum affair, and every dollar spent on a player like Turner means that’s one less dollar that can be spent on other players. You’re concerned that the team won’t have much money left to make other improvements to the team, especially in the future when Bryce Harper and Turner may no longer be playing at an All-Star level.

That is true to some extent. The Phillies’ ability to spend is not limitless. But here’s the good news: The Phillies’ spending limit is entirely self-determined. Unlike the other major sports, there is no salary cap setting a ceiling of how much the team can spend on player payroll. For years, the Phillies treated the luxury tax threshold as a salary cap, but last year, Dave Dombrowski finally convinced ownership to exceed that limit.

The Phillies’ ownership group hasn’t always been willing to spend as much as it might take to build a winner. But I do believe that John Middleton wants the team to win. And Middleton is a smart man who can associate two things. Last year, the Phillies exceeded the luxury tax, and the team not only returned to the playoffs, but came within two games of a championship.

Besides, it’s not your money. If the billionaire owner wants to spend a fortune on making your favorite baseball team better, why does this bother you? Yes, the fans help pay for the team via ticket sales, but tickets prices keep rising every year regardless of how much the team is spending on players. Plenty of teams will cut down on player salaries, but when was the last time you saw a team reduce ticket prices from year to year?

I understand the concerns that years from now, we might not be feeling as good about the situation. In eight years, the Phillies are still going to be paying Turner and Bryce Harper a lot of money, and chances are, they are no longer going to be producing at an All-Star level. This might cause flashbacks to 2012 when the Phillies’ once-dominant core had become old, ineffectual, and expensive, and the team began its descent to the bottom of the standings.

But it wasn’t really the Phillies’ high payroll that caused the team’s demise, it was the fact that the farm system wasn’t able to produce young, cheap replacements. If the Phillies minor leagues are turning out young studs to supplement the aging stars, they should be able to avoid another fallow period. But if the replacements are of the caliber of Dom Brown, Cody Asche, and Freddy Galvis, we might indeed have some down years in our future.

Then again, we could all be dead in eight years. I’m more concerned with the 2023 edition of the team, and it certainly looks like Middleton’s millions have helped build a team that can once again contend for a World Series.