Tag: Robinson Cano

A.J. Burnett, Ruben Amaro Jr., Ryne Sandberg

Winners and losers at the trade deadline


It doesn’t take a whole heck of a lot of baseball sense to name the Tigers, A’s and Red Sox trade deadline winners this year, so let’s see if we can’t be a little less obvious than that. Here are some other people, as well as teams, that had good and not so good days Thursday.

In case you missed it, here’s our Trade Deadline Tracker.


Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski: I’m not so convinced the Tigers made the right move parting with Austin Jackson and Drew Smyly for David Price for three reasons. First, Rick Porcello and his 3.24 ERA were likely to be more than fine in the postseason rotation. Second, the downgrade from Jackson to Rajai Davis in center field is big offensively and defensively (Davis’s OBPs against right-handed pitching the last three years: .290, .273 and .299). Third, Smyly seemed poised to be a very important piece of the Detroit pen in October.  Of course, all of that said, Price was the most valuable pitcher on the market. Dombrowski got his man yet again. He always seems to.

Jon Lester (LHP Athletics): Not only does Lester get to fatten up his numbers in Oakland for a couple of months and potentially improve those Hall of Fame credentials during another playoff run, but thanks to today’s trade, he’s no longer tied to draft-pick compensation as a free agent this winter. That could increase his haul by a few million bucks.

Oscar Taveras (OF Cardinals): It’s your turn to shine, Oscar. After getting mentioned in the Price and Lester talk, Taveras not only stayed put in St. Louis, but he now has himself a clear starting gig with Allen Craig gone to Boston. It hardly seemed like a coincidence that he responded by homering today against the Padres. The Cards could call up Randal Grichuk to platoon with Taveras against left-handers, but even if that happens, Taveras will no longer have to wait until the lineups are posted each day to figure out whether he’s playing.

St. Louis Cardinals: They got John Lackey and Justin Masterson without parting with Taveras or dipping into their stable of arms beyond Joe Kelly. Lackey has been a bulldog in the playoffs, and while I’m not sold on Masterson turning it around as a starter this year, I don’t deny it’s a possibility, and even if he doesn’t, he could be a force in relief in October. Also good: the Pirates did nothing Thursday and the Brewers failed to add to their staff (though they did get a nice piece in Gerardo Parra for the outfield). The Cardinals still have to get to the playoffs, but if they do, they have at least as good of a chance as any NL team of reaching the World Series.

Houston Astros: I’ve never been a big Jarred Cosart fan. I’m also not a big Jake Marisnick fan, so today’s trade with the Marlins wasn’t necessarily a slam dunk. It is worth a try, though. 2013 first-round pick Colin Moran should make it as at least an average regular at third base and might be something more. Marisnick has the tools to be an above average regular, too; I’m just skeptical he’ll put them together. To get the pair (along with a wild card arm in Francis Marte and a draft pick) for Cosart, and a couple of likely role players in Kike Hernandez and Austin Wates was a smart move.


Every AL contender besides the A’s and Tigers: Pick your poison… Lester, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija or Max Scherzer, Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. The Angels have been the AL’s second best team this year — probably MLB’s second best team — but it’s going to be awfully difficult to get past those pitching staffs and into the World Series.

Philadelphia Phillies: OK, so this one is terribly obvious. It could be seen coming, too. It at least seemed that Ruben Amaro Jr. would move Marlon Byrd and/or Antonio Bastardo, two guys who had some legitimate trade value without the Phillies having to eat any money. Nope. Nothing. Nada. It’s disappointing that Amaro couldn’t pull off some sort of a deal with so little to lose. On the plus side, most of the rest of the Phillies will clear waivers, making them available in August deals.

Kansas City Royals: GM Dayton Moore couldn’t sell. To do so would have been to admit defeat and most likely would have cost him his job. Unfortunately, Moore also failed to add anything after flirting with several starters. All signs point to the Royals finishing in the neighborhood of .500 as a result.

Daniel Nava (OF Red Sox): The Yoenis Cespedes acquisition left room for Nava, but that changed a couple of hours later when Craig joined him on Boston’s roster. That’s a shame. Nava is hitting .330 over the last couple of months, has a better career OPS against righties than Craig and is a better defender in the outfield than Craig. He deserves to start against righties, but he’s probably going to take a backseat because of Craig’s contract.

Mookie Betts (2BOF, ?? Red Sox): Hard to tell what’s in store for one of baseball’s best prospects now. Already having moved off his natural home of second base, Betts finds himself behind Cespedes, Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Nava and Shane Victorino in the Red Sox outfield. Perhaps Betts will overtake Bradley at some point, but that’s going to be a tough assignment, what with Bradley looking like the AL’s premier defensive center fielder at the moment.

Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon, yet your GM and ownership won’t step up to bring in any kind of bat with Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips hurt. This has been bothering me for weeks.

Joc Pederson (OF Dodgers): Pederson’s minor league numbers sat he’s ready — the 22-year-old is hitting .319/.448/.587 for Triple-A Albuquerque — but he stayed buried in Los Angeles after both being involved in Price and Lester rumors and also potentially being a candidate for promotion in the event of a Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier deal (of course, one of those could still come in August).

Colorado Rockies: Kevin Gausman for Jorge De La Rosa? Telling teams you’re not interesting in moving the NL’s oldest player (LaTroy Hawkins)? Sometimes it seems like the Rockies are perfectly content to be bad.

Not Losers

New York Yankees/Seattle Mariners: I can’t put them in the winners category since they’re AL contenders not located in Oakland and Detroit, but I still like the moves. The Yankees added Martin Prado and Stephen Drew to the haul that already included Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy without significantly dimming their future prospects. That’s just good dealing. And while the Mariners did give up a pretty nice piece in Nick Franklin, he stopped fitting into the club’s future the day Robinson Cano was signed. With Jackson and Chris Denorfia in the fold, the Mariners upped their chances to reach the playoffs and gave their fans a product worth investing in for the first time in a long time.

2014 Trade Deadline Tracker

David Price

We’ll be covering all of the action here up through Thursday’s 4 p.m. EDT deadline.


Tigers acquired LHP David Price from the Rays, sending LHP Drew Smyly and SS Willy Adames to the Rays and OF Austin Jackson to the Mariners. Mariners send INF Nick Franklin to the Rays.

With names like Oscar Taveras and Joc Pederson getting tossed around — plus Addison Russell earlier — this looks like a light return for Price on the surface. Smyly, though, is an established lefty with a very good arm, still four years away from free agency. He’s striking out 7.8 batters per nine innings this year, and he makes next to nothing. That’s a really valuable piece for Tampa Bay. Also, Franklin-to-the-Rays long seemed destined and finally happened, though since it didn’t come in conjunction with a Ben Zobrist deal, there’s not an obvious role for Franklin right now. He’s the Rays’ new long-term second baseman, though. Adames is notable, too, as one of the top two position player talents left in the Detroit system. He was hitting .269/.346/.428 as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League.

The Mariners look like a clear winner here, getting the legitimate starting center fielder they’ve needed since Franklin Gutierrez’s body fell apart. Franklin will be a solid long-term regular, but he simply didn’t fit on a team with Robinson Cano. The Mariners offense looks much more legitimate with Jackson in center and leading off and Michael Saunders (once healthy) and Chris Denorfia platooning in right. Plus, they’ll get to keep Jackson next year.

Then there are the Tigers, who held serve with the A’s following the Jon Lester acquisition. A rotation of Max Scherzer, Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez has to terrify potential postseason foes. They also get Price for 2015, giving them an ace in case Scherzer departs in free agency, which seems increasingly likely now. However, losing Jackson is a big blow. Rajai Davis, who doesn’t hit righties and who isn’t as good defensively as his speed suggests, simply isn’t an adequate replacement as a primary center fielder. Maybe the Tigers will be able to find an alternative next month.


Athletics acquired LHP Jon Lester, OF Jonny Gomes and cash from Red Sox for OF Yoenis Cespedes and competitive balance draft pick.

Feeling they were unlikely to re-sign Cespedes beyond 2015 anyway, the A’s decided to take their chances on a beast of a playoff rotation featuring Lester, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija. They’ll hope to cover Cespedes’s production by asking even more of their three-headed catching monster of Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso, with Vogt often starting in the outfield against righties and Jaso being used as a DH.

The Red Sox couldn’t seem to pry away an elite prospect like Oscar Taveras or Kevin Gausman for Lester, so they settled for one year of a middle-of-the-order bat. Cespedes can pull off the spectacular, but has regressed as a player since his excellent rookie season in 2012. The Red Sox will hope the change of scenery helps; plus, Cespedes could certainly learn something by watching David Ortiz’s at-bats. That Cespedes is a free agent after 2015 probably led to the draft pick being included; that pick will come between the second and third rounds of next year’s draft.


Cardinals acquired RHP John Lackey and LHP Corey Littrell from the Red Sox for 1B/OF Allen Craig and RHP Joe Kelly.

The Red Sox again set their eyes on 2015 even as they sell. Craig should bounce back offensively, but he’s basically been a right-handed doppelganger for Daniel Nava the last two years and the Red Sox still have Shane Victorino, plus Mookie Betts threatening to break through to go along with Cespedes and likely Gold Glove center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. Also, Craig is owed $27.5 million through 2017 (with an option for 2018), though that’s not a bad thing if he does resume hitting. In Kelly, the Red Sox are getting a guy who has been a success despite mediocre peripherals, including a career strikeout rate of 5.5 batters per nine innings as a starter (the MLB average is now over 7.0 for starters). Kelly will join the rotation, but he’s probably going to be a reliever in the long haul.

Lackey gets plugged into a Cardinals rotation that also includes Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, the newly acquired Justin Masterson and Shelby Miller, with Michael Wacha hopefully back for the final month. A big key to his trade value was his odd $500,000 option for next year, the result of a clause in his contract with Boston that was invoked after he missed a season due to Tommy John surgery. Even though Lackey isn’t going to want to pitch for half a million dollars next year, that’s huge leverage in terms of getting a modest extension done with him. Littrell, a 2013 fifth-round pick, wasn’t viewed as one of Boston’s top 15 or 20 prospects.


Marlins acquire RHP Jarred Cosart, INF-OF Kike Hernandez and OF Austin Wates from Astros for OF Jake Marisnick, 3B Colin Moran, RHP Francis Martes and a competitive balance draft pick.

A fascinating deal, given all of the young talent involved. Cosart was going to be expensive to acquire, as he’s 24 with a huge arm, no current durability concerns and a decent major league record. It seems like the Astros looked at his peripherals and figured he wouldn’t break through, while the Marlins looked at his stuff and thought it could still happen. Though this isn’t just Cosart for the Marlins; Hernandez’s breakthrough year makes him look like a quality role player at least (he’s just turning 23 this month and he’s hitting .284/.348/.420 in the majors). Wates, 25, is an advanced outfield prospect and a potentially useful bench piece. He was hitting .299/.396/.381 with 31 steals in 74 games in Triple-A.

The Astros get back Marisnick, a key piece in the Jose Reyes-Josh Johnson-Mark Buehrle deal a year and a half ago, and Moran, the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft. Marisnick has power, speed and a history of putting up good, but not great, minor league numbers. He’s certainly skilled enough to make it as a major league regular, though I’ve long been rather skeptical of his chances. Moran was considered the most advanced position prospect in last year’s draft, but he’s drawn largely poor reviews from scouts since debuting. I still think he’s going to be a major league third baseman, but he’s not going to move nearly as quickly as it looked like he would initially. Martes, 18, has a 5.18 ERA in 33 innings in the Rookie Gulf Coast League.


Yankees acquire INF-OF Martin Prado from Diamondbacks for 1B/OF Peter O’Brien.

Reports had the Diamondbacks preferring to move Aaron Hill’s slightly more expensive deal, but in the end, they were just happy to shed Prado’s contract. That four-year, $40 million contract was signed a year and a half ago, one week after Prado was acquired in the Justin Upton trade. Prado had held up his end of the bargain so far, but he wasn’t going to get any more valuable in the back half of the deal. O’Brien offers them power, but no position. He’s a poor man’s Mark Trumbo, and he doesn’t currently project as a major league regular.

The Yankees will make Prado their primary right fielder, and he should be an upgrade over Ichiro Suzuki there. Next year, he gives them an Alex Rodriguez alternative at third base, depending on what happens there. He’s still an option at second base, too, but probably not on a full-time basis. He lengthens the Yankees lineup, and it’s another case of the Yankees getting an incremental improvement without really sacrificing anything.


Nationals acquired SS Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians for SS Zach Walters.

With Ryan Zimmerman sidelined into September, if he returns at all this year, the Nationals wanted a legitimate starting option in the infield and got one. Cabrera is a well below average shortstop, but he has experience at second and he should be just fine there once he gets used to it again. To get him without giving up a likely regular is a smart pickup, even if he is just a two-month rental.

Walters has long been a solid prospect with good pop for a middle infielder, but he’s not great defensively at shortstop and he’s always struck out a whole lot, limiting his ability to hit for average. He projects as a role player, rather than a starting shortstop, though as a stopgap, he wouldn’t be bad. Fortunately, the Indians can turn right to Francisco Lindor to replace Cabrera and likely be better off because of it. The top prospect will be a big improvement defensively on Cabrera, and while he’s not ready to excel offensively in the majors, he should hold his own.


Orioles acquired LHP Andrew Miller from the Red Sox for LHP Eduardo Rodriguez.

The Orioles paid quite a price for the best left-handed reliever available. Miller has been awfully good, and those his command still wavers at time, he can be a force against righties as well as lefties. He has an awesome 69/13 K/BB ratio in 42 1/3 innings this year. Miller is a free agent at season’s end.

The 21-year-old Rodriguez hasn’t gotten as much hype as Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman or Hunter Harvey yet, but he’s probably one of the 25 or so best pitching prospects in the minors, even with his 4.79 ERA in Double-A this year. Since the Red Sox have plenty of polished arms ahead of him, he shouldn’t be a factor in the majors until late 2015 at the easliest.


Brewers acquired OF Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks for OF Mitch Hanigar and LHP Anthony Banda.

Speculation had the Brewers in on starters and relievers, maybe even a first baseman. Instead, they went and got an outfielder to complement Khris Davis in left field. Davis has been a solid regular, but much of his damage comes against left-handed pitching: he’s at .232/.288/.435 against righties, plus he’s not nearly the defender that Parra is. Also, this gives the Brewers much better protection in case a starting outfielder goes down; they were really hurting when they lost Ryan Braun for a spell earlier this season. Parra is also under control for next, though he’ll make $6 million-$7 million in arbitration.

In Hanigar, the Diamondbacks get one of the best prospects in a weak farm system. The 23-year-old was hitting .255/.316/.416 with 10 homers in 243 at-bats in Double-A this year. He has the power potential to make it as a starting right-fielder if his contact skills improve. Banda, 20, was 6-6 with a 3.66 ERA and an 83/38 K/BB ratio in 83 2/3 innings in low-A ball. With Parra gone, the Diamondbacks will have room to play David Peralta regularly in right field for the rest of the year.


Braves acquire INF-OF Emilio Bonifacio, LHP James Russell and cash from the Cubs for C Victor Caratini.

On the surface, this may not seem like much. Bonifacio, though, gives the Braves a legitimate alternative in center field and at second base, both areas of need. No longer do the Braves have to force B.J. Upton into the leadoff spot (though that they had to in the first place was just another Fredi Gonzalez quirk). And Russell, while a frequent punching bag in the Cubs pen over the years, has dominated lefties this year when used correctly, limiting them to a .103/.243/.121 line in 58 at-bats. The Braves needed someone like him.

The price was significant. Caratini was a second-round pick last year, and he’s hit .283/.377/.415 in 523 at-bats since being drafted. He’s still raw behind the plate — he was mostly a third baseman in junior college — and how he develops there will have a drastic effect on his stock as a prospect. There’s a lot to like about his bat, though.


Yankees acquire SS Stephen Drew from the Red Sox for INF Kelly Johnson.

It’s the first deal between the two rivals since the Red Sox traded Mike Stanley to the Yankees for Tony Armas Jr. and Jim Mecir way back in 1997. The Red Sox needed to dump Drew to put Xander Bogaerts back at shortstop, especially now that there’s no longer any outfield room for Brock Holt. Johnson will be a bit player for the Red Sox. They’ll save a little money now and a little more if they can move Johnson in a waiver deal.

The Yankees figure to give Drew a crash course at second base in the hopes that he’ll be an upgrade over Brian Roberts, who has already been designated for assignment to open up a spot Both Drew and Johnson are free agents at season’s end, so there’s no risk for either team here.


Mariners acquired OF Chris Denorfia from the Padres for OF Abraham Almonte and RHP Stephen Kohlscheen.

The Mariners needed a righty outfield bat to go along with lefties Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley, James Jones and Endy Chavez, and they got a nice one in Denorfia, even if he hasn’t done much so far this year (.242/.293/.319 in 248 at-bats). He’ll certainly start against southpaws, and if he gets hot, he can break into the lineup against righties as well. He is a free agent at season’s end.

Almonte was the Mariners’ Opening Day center fielder and leadoff hitter, though he wasn’t very well suited for the latter role. After hitting .198/.248/.292 in 106 major league at-bats, he’s come in at .267/.333/.390 in Triple-A, a far cry from last year’s .314/.403/.491 line for the same team. He’s still tallented enough to become at least a quality part-timer; he’s a switch-hitter and an excellent defensive corner outfielder, so he won’t need to hit all that well to be useful. Kohlscheen is a minor league reliever with limited upside.


Athletics acquired OF Sam Fuld from the Twins for LHP Tommy Milone.

The Twins got Fuld by claiming him off waivers from the A’s earlier this year, so they definitely turned a profit here. Still, Milone is an outlier pitcher with his lack of velocity and his big flyball rate. He goes to another good ballpark for his style of pitching, but he loses the excellent outfield defense that drove down his ERAs in Oakland. He’s probably a fifth starter for Minnesota.

In Fuld, the A’s reacquire a 32-year-old bench player having a fluke offensive year; he’s at .263/.356/.366 in 164 AB right now after entering 2014 with a career .234/.314/.330 line. He’ll see significant time for now with Coco Crisp hurting and Craig Gentry on the DL, but he should end the year as more of a bit player.

Hey, Rube: Phillies pay dearly for Amaro’s misguided loyalty

Ruben Amaro Jr.,

Some years ago, I named particularly terrible baseball contracts “Ricciardis” after former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, who seemed particularly skilled at giving them out. However, in retrospect, I may have been unduly harsh toward Ricciardi. What Ruben Amaro has done in Philadelphia deserves its own place in the Bad Contract Hall of Fame.

Now, let’s make one thing clear: EVERY long, break-the-bank contract is terrible. Every single one.  Well, the 10-year Derek Jeter contract signed back in 2001 worked out well. So every generation or so there will be an exception.

But of the 10 richest contract going in baseball today, the only ones that don’t already look like a complete disasters are the ones that have not had the TIME to become complete disasters. They have either just started or, improbably, will not start for a couple more years.

Don’t believe me: Look.

1. Alex Rodriguez — $275 million from 2008-17

— Disaster doesn’t begin to cover it.

2. Miguel Cabrera — $248 million from 2016-23

— This time bomb is the one that doesn’t start for two years.

3. Albert Pujols — $240 million from 2012-21

— Ugh, there are still SEVEN YEARS on this after this season?

4. Robinson Cano — $240 million from 2014-23

— Fine player. Power already down. Nine more years to go.

[MORE: Phillies set high trade price for Hamels  |  Byrd nurses foot injury]

5. Joey Votto — $225 million from 2014-23

— There are not many bigger Votto fans out there than me but, um, yeah 44 homers the last three years, fall-off-the-cliff decline this year, injuries, and nine more years. The panic button isn’t far away.

6. Clayton Kershaw, $215 million, 2014-20

— Just beginning. He’s the modern day Koufax, and he’s much younger (26) than most beginning these huge contracts. Then, it might be worth remembering that Koufax retired at 30. Always scary with pitchers (see Verlander, Justin).

7. Prince Fielder, $214 million, 2012-20

— Um … help?

8. Joe Mauer, $184 million, 2011-18

— Began the contract as a Gold Glove catcher who won three batting titles and began showing signs of power. Now, he’s an oft-injured first baseman with two home runs. This game does not respect its elders.

9. Mark Teixeira, $180 million (2009-16)

— Well, there are only two years left.

10. Justin Verlander, $180 million (2013-19)

— This one looked like one of the safer bets; Verlander was widely viewed as the best right-handed pitcher in baseball. But then, almost overnight, he lost a bunch off his fastball and lost the feel for his change-up and suddenly this looks like a very, very long deal.

The only deals on that list you would even CONSIDER taking on now are the Kershaw deal, which just started, maybe the Cano deal, which just started, and the Miggy deal, which doesn’t begin for two years. Those haven’t gone kaboom yet. I’m pretty sure in two years or three years, all of these deals (with the possible exception of Kershaw) will already have revealed themselves are fiascos.

You will note that none of these deals are Phillies deals … Amaro’s fiascos are more subtle.

In 2007 and ’08, the Phillies reached the playoffs in large part because the New York Mets collapsed down the stretch. The ’07 collapse is more famous — the Mets blew a seven game lead with 17 games to play — but 2008 wasn’t far off. The Mets had a 3 1/2-game lead with 17 games to play, won just seven of those last 17, and a hot Phillies team breezed by. That Phillies team was so hot, it went on to win the World Series.

The 2009 Phillies led the league in runs and went back to the World Series, where they lost to the Yankees. The 2010 Phillies added Roy Halladay and won 97 games. The 2011 Phillies were the probably the best of the bunch, a 102-game winner with an awe-inspiring rotation of Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. They got knocked out in the playoffs, largely because their once-potent lineup couldn’t score in the end.

Still, that’s a five-year span of goodness — a little luck, some big hitting, some great pitching. That was a superb baseball team. And it was a fun baseball renaissance in Philadelphia. A huge amount of credit for this must to go Amaro. He was involved as an assistant GM to Ed Wade and Pat Gillick when the team was being built. Then he became GM and he wheeled, he dealed, he signed, he gambled, he borrowed from the future to live in the moment. And, as happens so often, he was utterly unprepared for when the check came due.

The best comparison for this I can give involves the Kansas City Chiefs of the late 1960s and early 1970s. That really was a great team. Between 1966 and ’71, the Chiefs played in two Super Bowls and won one of them. They were probably the best team in 1971, too, but they were knocked out of the playoffs on Christmas Day by Don Shula’s Dolphins in one of the greatest games ever played. That was a team loaded with Hall of Famers and various other greats — Len Dawson, Buck Buchanan, Wilie Lanier, Bobby Bell, Emmitt Thomas, Otis Taylor, Jan Stenerud and so on — and coached by a Hall of Famer, Hank Stram.

And Stram wanted to, in those defining words of John Keats or John Cougar Mellencamp (can’t remember which): Hold on to 16 as long as he could. He was deeply loyal to that core group of players. Loyalty can be a wonderful trait. Unfortunately, in sports and in “Game of Thrones,” loyalty can be crushing. In the end, the Chiefs seemed to instantly age like the guy who drank from the wrong goblet in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” Hank Stram got booted, the Chiefs went into a death spin that was so bad there was even some talk of moving the Chiefs out of Kansas City.

Nobody’s moving the Phillies — they have to be the most depressing team in baseball right now, but they’re still on pace to draw 2 or 2.5 million people. Philadelphia is a good baseball town. Still, this isn’t good. The Phillies are awful. And the Phillies are so overloaded with bad contracts that it’s hard to see how exactly they will stop being awful anytime soon.

[CSN Philly: Hamels thrives despite rampant trade rumors  |  Sandberg praises lefty ace]

Here, according to the invaluable Cot’s Baseball Contracts page, are the players ALREADY on the Phillies 2015 payroll. We’ll deal with them individually in a moment.

  • Ryan Howard: $25 million (again in 2016, $10 million buyout in 2017)
  • Cliff Lee: $25 million (and 27.5 million or $12.5 million buyout in 2016)
  • Cole Hamels: $22.5 million (and three more years, plus $20 million club option or $6 million buyout in 2019)
  • Jonathan Papelbon: $13 million (and $13 million vesting option)
  • A.J. Burnett: $15 million mutual option or $7.5 million player option
  • Chase Utley: $10 million (plus $15 million vesting options in 2016-18)
  • Carlos Ruiz: $8.5 million (again in 2016, plus club option in 2017)
  • Marlon Byrd: $8 million
  • Miguel Gonzalez: $3.7 million
  • That is about $128 million, if you are scoring at home, and it is for nine players. Six of the nine will be older than 35. Two are in their early 30s. The only one younger than 30 is Gonzalez, and he’s a reliever in Class AA.

The Howard contract was the one that should have snapped Amaro out of whatever loyalty spell he was under. The second he offered that catastrophe of a deal, baseball writers all over the country wrote in all capital letters: “ARE THE PHILLIES OUT OF THEIR MINDS?” There was no other question.

This was way back in 2010, and it was utterly inexplicable — a $125 million deal that would not even begin for two years for a declining slugger? I believe it is the most inexplicable bad contract ever handed out. Sure, you could argue for other terrible that were more expensive and harmful — this Pujols deal could end up setting the standard — and there have been many smaller deals that are hard to explain, like the Twins giving Ricky Nolasco a four-year, $50 million deal.

But combine the situation (Howard still had TWO YEARS left on his deal), the age (he turned 32 before the contract even began) and an honest assessment of the player (a power hitter who couldn’t run, was a liability at first base, couldn’t hit lefties and was unlikely to age well) and I think you are talking about the most inexcusably bad contract in baseball history.

Then again … it was a loyalty contract. Howard was such an integral part of the Phillies rise, such an unexpected joy when, in his first full year, he hit 58 homers and led the league with 383 total bases. The Phillies wanted to keep him as a Philadelphia sports hero. Noble cause. It blinded them to the obvious: Howard’s best days were behind him.

Lee and Hamels are the leftovers from Amaro’s chase for a legendary pitching staff … that dream lasted just one year. That really was magical in 2011 when Halladay (2nd), Lee (3rd) and Hamels (5th) all finished Top 5 in the Cy Young voting.

In 2012, Halladay got hurt and lost his groove. Lee and Hamels pitched well enough to make the Phillies a .500 team but that was all they could really do. Last year, Lee again pitched well, Hamels struggled early and then pitched very well his last 16 starts of the season. Anyway, the remnants of that dream pitching staff finished 14th in the National League in runs allowed and the team was lousy.

This year, the Phillies are desperately trying to dump Lee, who is 35 and has made only 12 starts. And they even talk about trading Hamels, though, according to Jon Heyman’s sources, they “want the world.” I’m not sure who is giving “the world” for a soon-to-be 31-year-old pitcher with $100 million left on his contract even if he is pitching very well this year.

Papelbon? That never made sense. He has pitched well as far as that goes, but there’s little more depressing or superfluous than an expensive closer on a bad team. The Burnett signing was pure desperation and it was destined for regret as soon as the ink dried.

And so on. Ruiz is a solid catcher who has had trouble staying healthy, Utley is a once-great player who is still at it after horrible injuries, Byrd is a traveling bat who can fill a spot in the lineup. All three have some value. To have $27 million invested in them is a lesson in money mismanagement. Then again, take all nine of these player together and they make almost $50 million more dollars than the entire Oakland Athletics roster — this without a shortstop, center fielder, third baseman, lead-off hitter or much of anything else.

Amaro wanted to hold on. It’s a natural instinct. And it’s a destructive one. It never fails to amaze how obtuse Major League general managers can be about things seemingly as obvious as aging.  Now, the Phillies are terrible, they are old, they have not developed a useful young player for themselves in about a decade, and Baseball America has ranked their minor league system 22nd, 23rd and 27th the last three years.

Rumors linger that they are prepared to do drastic things, like release Ryan Howard with $60 million left on the bill if they can’t trade him (which, I suspect, they can’t). Well, desperate measures might be the only hope. I could be wrong, but I can’t see anyone giving up real prospects for Hamels unless the Phillies eat a huge part of that salary. Beyond that, there really aren’t many moves left on the board. This is one of the harsh truth of baseball. It’s very hard to build a winner. It’s even harder to build a second winner after your first one grows old.



Video: Derek Jeter surpasses Lou Gehrig for first place on Yankees’ all-time doubles list

derek jeter getty

Derek Jeter made a little more history on Tuesday night against the Rangers …

That was only the 10th double of the season for Jeter, but it was the 535th of his career. The all-time doubles list in Yankees history now reads: Jeter (535), Lou Gehrig (534), Bernie Williams (449), Don Mattingly (442), Babe Ruth (424), Joe DiMaggio (389), Jorge Posada (379), Robinson Cano (375), Mickey Mantle (344).