Phillies spent less in free agency than 19 teams

Phillies spent less in free agency than 19 teams
February 1, 2013, 12:15 pm
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Offseason spending on MLB free agents

1. Dodgers -- $172.35 million
2. Angels -- $164.5
3. Red Sox -- $126.45
4. Tigers -- $115.5
5. Braves -- $107.5
6. Yankees -- $95.7
7. Cubs -- $95.05
8. Diamondbacks -- $86.375
9. Giants -- $80
10. Indians -- $69
11. Nationals -- $65
12. Blue Jays -- $54
13. White Sox -- $54
14. Reds -- $40
15. Pirates -- $39
16. Rangers -- $30.75
17. Rays -- $25.8
18. Royals -- $25
19. Mets -- $25
20. Phillies -- $21.35
21. Mariners -- $19.25
22. Twins -- $14
23. Cardinals -- $12.5
24. Rockies -- $12.5
25. Athletics -- $9.5
26. Brewers -- $9.45
27. Astros -- $4.9
28. Orioles -- $4.5
29. Marlins -- $4,35
30. Padres -- $3

When the Phillies unloaded Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton last summer, the thought was that it freed up enough money in the upcoming offseason to make at least one major free-agent signing.

B.J. Upton was a top target. Fans clamored for Josh Hamilton or Nick Swisher. The Phils were in on Angel Pagan, Torii Hunter and Cody Ross.

Ruben Amaro Jr. didn’t like the price on any of those six players and let each sign elsewhere. Upton found $15 million per year from the Braves. Hamilton got a $25 million AAV from the Angels. Swisher will earn $14 million each season through 2016. Pagan, Hunter and Ross cashed in for a combined nine years and $92 million.

The Phillies’ offseason was quieter than expected. That’s not to say they erred by refraining from paying a player more than his worth, or that they didn’t spend their dollars efficiently. But Amaro doled out just $21.35 million on his major-league free agents, less than half of his previous offseason low as Phillies general manager. That figure doesn’t include the salaries the Phillies took on via trade, which is $6 million for Michael Young and approximately $500,000 for Ben Revere.  

Last offseason, Amaro spent $94.5 million on 13 major-league free agents, including $50 million on Jonathan Papelbon. The winter before, he spent $126.85 million, with $120 million going to Cliff Lee. In the 2009-10 offseason, his first as Phillies GM, Amaro spent $47.5 million on Raul Ibanez, Jamie Moyer, Chan Ho Park and Miguel Cairo.

The Phillies actually rank toward the bottom of baseball in money spent this offseason. Their $21.35 million in free-agent commitments ranks 20th in total dollars, and 23rd in the annual average value of their deals. Amaro gave out six contract years with those signings for an AAV of $3.56 million.

The Braves spent more than five times as much as the Phillies in free agency, and that excludes the $38 million they added by trading for Justin Upton.

The Nationals spent more than three times as much as the Phils, not even counting the money of outfield acquisition Denard Span.

The Giants, Diamondbacks and Cubs all committed four times more to free agents.

Now, the caveat is that the Phillies made their huge “free-agent splash” six months ago when they prevented Cole Hamels from reaching the open market by signing him to a six-year, $144 million extension. Had the sides reached that agreement in the winter as opposed to the summer, the Phillies would have been second only to the Dodgers in offseason spending.

All calculations of the Phillies’ current payroll are estimates, as salaries aren't yet available for team-controlled players like Revere, John Mayberry Jr., Domonic Brown, the young relievers, etc. For luxury tax purposes, player bonuses and benefits are also taken into account. A rough number of where the Phillies are now is somewhere between $172-175 million. The threshold a team must stay under without paying a tax is $178 million. Next season that number increased to $189 million.

The only move left at this point would be for a backup catcher, if the Phillies even consider Miguel Olivo or Rod Barajas an upgrade over the season-opening duo of Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero.
Aside from that, it looks as though Amaro’s thriftiness this offseason will leave the Phillies with a bit of flexibility under the luxury tax to make a deadline deal if the corner outfield situation doesn’t work or a starting pitcher goes down with an injury.