Has money been well spent for the Phillies?

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Has money been well spent for the Phillies?

Sports Illustrated recently released its “Fortunate 50." Four Phillies are very fortunate indeed -- which, as it turns out, isn’t quite the same thing as the Phillies being fortunate.

The rankings factor in salary as well as endorsements. There weren’t any Eagles on the list. Or Sixers. Or Flyers. Cliff Lee came in 17th. He’ll make $25.28 million this year. Ryan Howard was 25th. He’ll earn $23.2 million. Roy Halladay was 39th. He’ll collect $20.21 million. And Cole Hamels was 44th. He’ll pocket $19.9 million.

Again, those totals include income from outside concerns, but not as much as you might think. According to baseballreference.com, $25 million of Lee’s money comes courtesy of the Phillies. Howard gets $20 million from the club. Halladay gets another $20 million from the Phillies. And Hamels gets $19.5 million.

The math experts among you no doubt added up the total and concluded that those four players will cost the Phillies $84.5 million this season. That’s more than the Mariners, Twins, Brewers, Royals, Rockies, Indians, Pirates, Padres, Rays, A’s, Marlins and Astros budgeted as of Opening Day, according to Yahoo! Sports.

The Phils had a total opening day payroll of $158 million. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers ($214 million) and New York Yankees ($211 million) had bigger budgets.

The Phillies, as we know, are spenders. But are they getting a solid return on their investment?

The Indians beat the Phillies, 10-4, at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday (see story). The Fightins are 19-22. Not terrible. Not great. After Wednesday's loss, they were four games behind first-place Atlanta (which also had a day game). Again, not terrible. But not great, either.

No. 44 on the Fortunate 50 list took the mound for the Phillies on Wednesday. Hamels threw five innings, allowing six hits, five earned runs, two walks and two homers. He also struck out four. He got the loss again, dropping his record to 1-6 this season. There have been quite a few games this season in which Hamels didn’t get adequate run support and the loss really wasn’t his fault. Wednesday wasn’t one of those days. He simply didn’t pitch that well.

“You wake up and get ready for the game and you know you’re facing a tough team and you have to go out there and execute pitches, and I wasn’t able to do that early on,” Hamels said. “Anytime you go 3-2 [pitch count] to pretty much the whole lineup, over and over, you’re not putting yourself in a good spot.

"Pitching myself into situations where, most likely, they’re going to get hits, they’re going to get walks, they’re going to score the runs. That doesn’t keep my team, obviously, on their toes and ready for the ball if it is hit to them. It just makes for a really boring game. And, obviously, a losing game because that was the effort it entailed. That’s the really unfortunate part of how it went [Wednesday]. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Despite the unsightly record (again, not his fault for the most part), Hamels has been OK this year (though his 4.61 ERA puts him just 79th among starting MLB pitchers). Lee (4-2, 2.86) has been very good. And Halladay -- well, you know how things have gone for Halladay.

Together, the top three pitchers on the team have combined for a 4.83 ERA and 7-12 record. Those numbers are obviously skewed by Halladay’s less-than-stellar/pre-surgery output. Even so, the numbers are the numbers. And when you measure those numbers against some other numbers (mainly the pitchers’ combined $64.5 million price tag), none of the numbers look great.

Then there’s Howard. He went 0 for 4 against the Indians on Wednesday. He entered the day hitting .252/.291/.446 with six home runs and 22 RBIs. That’s not exactly $20 million man production. (Somewhere, Lee Majors is shaking his rebuilt robot head at the price of inflation.)

In fairness, they’re only four guys. Four out of 25 on the roster. But they’re also four of the highest paid professional athletes in the country -- as well as four of the most important Phillies. Sports Illustrated is right. They’re fortunate men. Wonder if the Phils feel the same way.

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

According to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Saunders will make $9 million this season with the Phillies and the club option for 2018 will be worth $11 million with escalators potentially pushing it up to $14 million.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with 8 homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253 with 24 HR, 57 RBIs and an .815 OPS.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.