Keeping Cliff Lee is the wrong choice for Phillies

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Trends don’t get much more clear than this:

2008: Won World Series
2009: Lost World Series
2010: Lost NLCS
2011: Lost NLDS
2012: Missed playoffs

Now, that’s not entirely fair: the Phillies had their best records in that span in 2011 and 2010. But Charlie Manuel’s team has dropped off severely since then. In 2012, the Phillies finished at .500. They’ll be lucky to get back there this year; not only are they 50-56 at the moment, but their run differential (-74) is better than only Miami’s in the NL.

A rebuild seems necessary, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is resisting. His idea of going young was acquiring Michael and Delmon over the winter. The Phillies were reportedly open to trading Cliff Lee, but they priced him so high as to make that impossible. If they keep Lee and re-sign Chase Utley, here’s what they currently look for 2014:

SP: Lee – 35 – $25 million
SP: Cole Hamels – 30 – $22.5 million
SP: Kyle Kendrick – 29 – $4.5 million

??: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez – 27 – $8 million (approx.)

RP: Jonathan Papelbon – 33 – $13 million
RP: Mike Adams – 35 – $7 million
RP: Antonio Bastardo – 28 – $2.5 million (approx.)

1B: Ryan Howard – 34 – $25 million
2B: Utley – 35 – $13 million (approx.)
SS: Jimmy Rollins – 35 – $11 million
OF: Domonic Brown – 26 – $600,000 (approx.)
OF: Ben Revere – 26 – $1.8 million (approx.)

That’s a $134 million foundation, and not a particularly good one. Unless the newly signed Gonzalez shows something in this next couple of months and proves he’s ready to occupy a rotation spot, the Phillies will still be in need of a one starting pitcher, a catcher and an outfielder. They do have the option of bringing back John Lannan for $4 million or so. They could also try sticking with Jonathan Pettibone as their fifth starter and filling third base from within.

But Amaro is going to have to pull off far better signings than he has of late if he hopes to turn the Phillies back into contenders in 2014. He will have financial flexibility even with all of those commitments. Perhaps the best defense for going that route is that Amaro doesn’t seem like a very good candidate to pull off a successful rebuild, either.

I’ve heard one explanation for the high price for Lee is that the Phillies know they can just as easily trade him a year from now. But that just delays the inevitable and probably leaves them wallowing in mediocrity for another year. Why wait?

Oakland Athletics reverse course: will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.