On Saturday night, Hunter Pence is expected to take his place in right field at Citizens Bank Park, a spot he will man for the next three seasons. He is a Phillie through 2013 because of his two remaining arbitration years. That's why Ruben Amaro Jr. said he was willing to surrender his top two prospects to attain him.
"It's a huge element in it," Amaro said. "He's under 30. He has a lot of energy. He's a guy our fans will take to very well. Control is a big part. I don't like rentals. I don't believe in those."
That doesn't mean Pence will come cheap. He is making $6.9 million in 2011. He made $3.5 million in 2010, his first year of arbitration. Because of his early call-up in 2007, Pence achieved Super Two status, granting him one early year of arbitration. Basically, he's in the same category as Cole Hamels, although the Phllies bought out three of Hamels' arbitration years with a long-term extension before the 2009 season.
Houston has gone year-to-year with Pence and it remains to be seen whether the Phillies will do the same. If they do, he'll be due a significant raise through the arbitration process in 2012. Let's say, for the sake of accounting, that it is a similar raise to the one he made from 2010 to 2011. That puts Pence at $10 million for 2012.
He would be the fifth $10 million man already on the 2012 Phillies payroll.
To review, the Phillies have already committed $106.95 million to nine players for 2012.
Lee's salary increases by $10 million from 2011 to 2012. Victorino has a $2 million raise from 2011 to 2012. Ruiz's and Polanco's is $1 million each.
So yeah, while the Phillies have $23 million coming off the books in Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge, it is offset by $14 million in raises, plus the $1.5 million for Lidge's buyout.
That doesn't include arbitration for Hamels, who is making $9.5 million in 2011 and could earn a killing. (Even if it's through a long-term extension.) He'll be the sixth $10 million man.
Then there's Roy Oswalt, who has a $16 million mutual option with a $2 million buyout. And the Phillies have four other arbitration-eligible piayers, all of whom could be non-tendered: Kyle Kendrick, Ben Francisco, Wilson Valdez and Scott Mathieson.
So for our purposes, we'll assume a $14 million salary for Hamels in 2012 and $10 million for Pence. We will decline Oswalt's option, along with Lidge's.
Now we're up to $134.45 million invested in only 11 active players. (The payments to Oswalt and Lidge are buyouts.) That still leaves:
-- A shortstop: Jimmy Rollins could be the seventh $10 million player. We'd project something like a three-year, $33 million deal to sign him. It could take even more.
-- A closer: Ryan Madson is a free agent and will seek top dollar on the market. Will a budget crunch force the Phillies to think about using Antonio Bastardo as closer?
-- A fifth starter: Blanton is on there, but we're unsure what his condition will be come spring. Vance Worley will make less than $500,000. He'll be in the rotation.
-- A left fielder: This should be Domonic Brown. He'll also make less than $500,000.
-- Another bullpen arm: There's Bastardo, Michael Stutes and... ? Contreras is under contract, but what is his health situation? Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont and Michael Schwimer could represent the next wave of young arms. But the Phillies probably want a veteran or two for depth.
-- An entire bench: Brian Schneider and Ross Gload are free agents. They're likely gone. They made a combined $3.1 million in 2011 and we've seen what that money can buy. So for an upgrade, it costs. Ben Francisco made $1.18 million in his first year of arbitration. He'd get a raise if they tender a contract.
The good news (sort of) for the Phillies: The luxury tax threshold rises every season. In 2009, it was $162 million. In 2010 it was $170 million. This season, it's $178 million. A comparable increase puts it around $186 million in 2012. (Again, that's an assumption especially because a new collective bargaining agreement this winter could contain different proposals.)
Pence's addition provides Amaro and his people with "cost certainty" -- the buzz phrase used two winters ago when they inked Blanton, Victorino and Ruiz to long-term deals covering arbitration years. It takes away their need to scour the free-agent market for a corner outfielder. They know Pence is probably due around $10 million in 2012 and approximately $13 million in 2013.
But it doesn't make balancing the budget any easier.
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