To the casual observer, particularly one unfamiliar with the ramifications of doling out guaranteed contracts, the opportunity to strike a long-term deal with a rising star might seem like a no-brainer.
When the Phillies renewed Cole Hamels' contract this spring and the lefthander expressed some frustration with his $500,000 salary, that line of thinking dictated the reaction from many fans.
He's young, he's talented: Why not just sign him to a multiyear contract now?
Yesterday, the Milwaukee Brewers did that with young star Ryan Braun, inking the NL Rookie of the Year to an 8-year, $45 million contract that buys out his arbitration-eligible years and 2 years of free agency.
On the surface, this deal has the potential to be extremely club-friendly, provided the slugging leftfielder continues to perform at the level he did last season, when he hit .324 with 34 home runs and 97 RBI.
But there's another side to it, and Pat Gillick explained that side yesterday.
First thing's first: The Phillies might talk long-term deal with Hamels down the road. But, the Phillies general manager said, "right now, it isn't going to happen."
Gillick said he is wary of giving out long-term deals, particularly one like the Brewers gave Braun.
"If at some point, if [Hamels is] performing to the level, you're going to have to talk multiyear at some point," Gillick said. "These guys, maybe they are smarter giving guys 8-year deals. I don't know."
When a club gives a player a long-term deal like the ones the Phillies have given Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley in the past, they need that player to stay healthy and remain productive for the duration of the contract.
Obviously, injuries are more of a concern for pitchers than for position players.
Teams also need a player willing to accept the dollar figure that the club believes makes long-term investment sense.
"I mean, what is a great deal?" Gillick said. "At the time, it might be a great deal. Especially if a pitcher comes up with a bad arm, they aren't in a great deal. If a guy doesn't perform, it isn't a great deal."
The flip side, of course, is that a great deal at the time could become an even better deal in the future. That appears to be the case with Rollins and Utley, who look destined to outperform the worth of their respective deals.
If Hamels wins a couple of Cy Young awards between now and when he is eligible for free agency after the 2012 season, he likely will command much more than the Phillies can sign him for now.
But right now, Gillick doesn't think the rewards outweigh the risks. "I think at some point, we'll entertain a multiyear contract [for Hamels]," Gillick said. "I mean, we're not afraid to pay."
Last night's game was played in perfect conditions. That's important to note, because rain is forecast for today and could carry over into tomorrow. The Phillies are one of only nine non-dome teams who have not had a game postponed because of weather this season. This is the fourth time in the last seven seasons that the Phillies have reached May 16 without a rainout. In 2006 and 2007, they had two rainouts by this time. Their first rainout in 2005 was June 3; in 2004, it was April 14; in 2003, it was May 31; in 2002, it was June 6.