DALLAS - The future is never as far away as it feels in baseball, so even as the Phillies finish their heavy lifting for the 2012 season, they also must continue to evaluate ways to keep the club competitive in 2013 and beyond.
Third baseman Placido Polanco, the subject of trade rumors this week, has a $5.5 million club option for 2013 that could see him become a free agent after next season. Same goes for catcher Carlos Ruiz, who has a $5 million option for 2013.
Second baseman Chase Utley, who has battled injuries the last 3 years, will be entering the final year of his contract in 2013. Centerfielder Shane Victorino and lefthander Cole Hamels can become free agents after this season.
Asked how much thought the team pays to 2013 and beyond, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. responded, "A lot. We have to think about Domonic Brown being a guy who is going to help us in 2013 and beyond. We have to think about holding on to Cole Hamels, trying to stretch out this kind of cycle that we are in right now and make sure that we continue to be a contending club every year, because that is the goal. We have to think about it a lot. We've moved a lot of players out of our system, and we have to figure out a way to sustain it with players that might have to replace older players, or at the very least hope that they maintain their effectiveness as they get older."
While a rumor circulated yesterday that the Phillies had discussed a trade for A's lefty Gio Gonzalez that would include Brown, Amaro said he continues to view the outfield prospect as part of the club's long-term plan. He said he has not had discussions with Hamels' agent on an extension, although those talks could happen later in the offseason.
Much of the future will hinge on whether first baseman Ryan Howard validates the 5-year, $125 million extension that kicks in next season. Amaro said he is happy the club struck when it did on Howard, agreeing to the deal in the spring of 2010 rather than waiting until he was closer to free agency. Without the extension, Howard would be in the market with stars Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, both of whom could land 10-year deals.
"There'd be three of those guys out there looking for 10 years," Amaro said. "We got him for 7. If this ends up being a 10-year deal [for Pujols], it will be interesting to see what happens with Prince. I don't think that either one of those three guys would be wanting to do less than the other."
Today is the Rule 5 draft, where teams can select eligible players who are not protected on other clubs' 40-man rosters. Players selected in the draft must remain on their new team's active roster for the entire season or be offered back to their original club. The Phillies have held on to their picks in the last two drafts, righthander David Herndon in 2009 and utility man Michael Martinez in 2010.
Scott Boras, the agent for Ryan Madson, said last night that his client had rejected arbitration, as expected. The reliever did so despite an uncertain closer market that has seen most teams looking for options that did not involve the type of big-money, multiyear commitment Madson and Boras are seeking.
The deadline to accept was last night at midnight. Now that Madson has rejected the offer, the Phillies will be in position to recoup two draft picks if he signs elsewhere.
Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez also declined arbitration.