The Phillies go big with Hamels. Is it too big?

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The Phillies deal with Cole Hamels is big. Really big. Like, the second largest contract to a pitcher in baseball history big. $144 million guaranteed, $161 million with a vesting option, the details of which are not known.

But here’s the question: can the Phillies really pull this off?

And by “this,” I mean the vast payroll outlays they have on the books.  As of now, the Phillies owe $133 million in 2013 to only nine players. Add to that a $5 million option owned to Carlos Ruiz that they’ll certainly pick up.  I would assume at this point that Hunter Pence will be dealt for payroll reasons, but if he isn’t and they want him around, he’s going to cost eight figures next year too.  That’s a lot of money for less than half of an aging roster.

But is it too much?  Maybe based on what we’re used to with baseball economics it is.  But as we’ve noted several times recently, we’re in a new era now thanks to the skyrocketing value of local TV deals.  The sort of which allowed the Angels to pay Albert Pujols what they paid him, with the difference being totally made up by the increase in their annual take from Fox.  An increase, thanks in part, to the star power that they can put on TV each night.

So, you’re the Phillies: you’re filling the house every night and, in three years, you can expect to get a windfall in local TV bucks.  If you don’t pay Cole Hamels that money and keep the team on perpetual win-now footing, are you able to reap that money?  If you do reap it, is Cole Hamels’ deal all that bad?

As is always the case, it depends on the cast surrounding him.  Is Roy Halladay beginning a decline? Is Chase Utley on his last leg? Is Ryan Howard going to level off and come close to justifying that deal?  Where is the rest of the offense going to come from?

Those are the big questions about the Phillies’ prospects going forward. The same questions they’ve always had.  The money owed to Cole Hamels, in some sense then, is not the biggest concern. Assuming he doesn’t go full-blown Zito on them, the investment in Hamels seems like the smallest risk they have.

If the Tigers are sub-.500 at the end of June it’ll be fire sale time

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Jon Morosi reports that that the Detroit Tigers will make all veterans available via trade if they’re still under .500 by the end of June.

This was the position they entered the offseason with — everyone is available! — but they ended up gearing up for one more push with the core of veterans they currently employ. It was not a bad move, I don’t think. With the exception of the Indians, the AL Central is mostly down, or at least appeared to be over the winter, with the Royals in decline and the Twins and White Sox seemingly a few years away from contention. The Twins, however, have been fantastic and the Tigers have mostly underachieved.

So we’re back to this. Which veterans the Tigers can reasonably unload, however, is an open question. J.D. Martinez is in his walk year, so while tradable, he may not bring back a big return. Guys like Justin Upton, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera either have very large contracts or no-trade protection.

The end of June is still a while from now, of course, and while the Tigers are under .500, they’re only 4.5 games behind the Twins. But they had better turn it around or else it sounds like the front office is going to turn the page.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.