Captain Obvious here with an insightful observation: the Phillies are an old team. If Family Feud asked 100 people to describe the Phillies in one word, old has to be the #1 answer. Number two on that list should be expensive. Put those two together and what do you get? The Phillies are an old, expensive team.
Ruben Amaro is counting on another term for the 2014 season: talented. While it is easy to point out the high salaries, increasing age, and declining skills, let's not forget that this still is a talented team. If Amaro cashes his lottery ticket this season and somehow his core can remain on the field, the 2014 Phillies should be competitive. The problem with the Phillies situation is that they have no choice but to count on older, injury prone players who hopefully can hang onto their skills just a little longer.
Despite their huge payroll, the Phillies had very little to spend this offseason, which explains why the Phillies were never serious contenders in the Brian McCann/Jacoby Ellsbury/Shin-Soo Choo sweepstakes. Amaro pointed indicated in an interview last week with Mike Missanelli that he expected their payroll to be similar in 2014 to what it has been in the last few seasons, which is around $170 million. After signing relatively cheap deals for Byrd and Ruiz, the Phils have roughly five to ten million left to spend with glaring needs in the starting rotation and the bullpen.
The reality of the situation is that while the core names from the talented and inexpensive 2007 team are mostly the same, their value nearly seven seasons later is quite the opposite. Let's look at the transition in graph form.
Here is a look at the age of the starting lineup since 2007. I included in this list just the expected starters at the beginning of the season and/or the players paid to be the starters. So, Hunter Pence did not meet the criteria in 2011 because he was acquired mid-season but he does appear on the 2012 list. Similarly, Ryan Howard made the list in 2012 even though he did not play until late in the season.
Here is a look at the average age of the Phillies starting lineup from 2007 to 2014.
Now, here is the average salary of the Phillies lineup during the same period.
No big surprises here. Both charts follow a similar pattern with a steep incline through 2012 with a drop the last two seasons with younger players like Brown, Revere, and Asche joining the mix.
Of course, the center of the age discussion lies with the core of Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Ruiz, who happen to all play in the infield, so here is a look at the age and salary since 2007 of the starting infield.
First, the average age.
Pretty much the same as the starting lineup with the age rising until this season with Asche replacing Young.
Now, here is the total salary of the infield from 2007-2014.
Despite replacing Michael Young with a player 13 years his junior, the Phillies infield salary is still the highest ever. That is problematic because Cody Asche offers a similar yet very different risk than his veteran teammates. The risk of injury is infinitely less, but his potential productivity is more uncertain. Asche is not a top tier Bryce Harper-esque prospect and has not yet consistently proven his abilities at the Major League level. His low salary is necessary, but his value is only as good as what he produces. The bright side to their third base situation is that Maikel Franco can potentially fill Asche's shoes if he does not perform.
So, the 2014 Phillies are a dangerous mix of four expensive geezers and a young, unproven player. But you didn't need Captain Obvious to tell you that.
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