A great run was based in the late-1990s and early 2000s farm system developments. By the middle of the last decade, a championship pace had begun. Now, after a painstaking fall from grace, the Philadelphia Phillies are set to make historic baseball trades that will officially end one of two great eras in franchise history.
The Phillies 2014 payroll stands at $177 million, which is the highest ever. There's no way that Ruben Amaro, Jr., or the management team which directly involved in the retention of numerous multi-million dollar men, will allow a non-playoff team to maintain that massive financial obligation.
Four names and their dollar amounts are known: Jimmy Rollins ($11 million this season, with an $11 million vesting option in 2015), Chase Utley ($15 million this season, $10-$15 conditional million in 2015, with 2016-18 vesting options at $15 million), Ryan Howard ($75 million through 2016, $10 million buyout in 2017, or a $23 million team option) and Carlos Ruiz ($26 million from 2014-16, $4.5 million team option, with a $500,000 buyout). That quartet was in place when a five-year playoff run began in 2007. Full, or partial, no-trade clauses be damned, any of those players could be dealt by the non-waiver trade deadline this summer.
Whoever isn't gone by the fall, could be dealt before next spring. Let's not forget that the Phillies, like many other teams, can eat portions of player contracts to facility a rebuild if they want to. So, guaranteed high-value contracts won't necessarily prevent any player from being moved over time.
Expensive pieces, such as Cliff Lee ($25 million, $25 million next season, $27.5 million vesting option in 2016) and Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million this season and next, $13 million vesting option in 2016) aren't needed on a last-place team that may not contend again for awhile. The same is true for decently paid men like Marlon Byrd ($8 million this season and next), Mike Adams ($7 million this season, $6 million team option next season), Kyle Kendrick ($7.6 million this season) and Roberto Hernandez ($4.5 million this season). Of course, Lee and Adams need to prove that they're healthy within the next month to maintain trade-chip status.
It seems plausible to believe that the Phillies' brain trust calculated that the best way to begin a rebuilding process was to enter this season on a set course. Yes, A.J. Burnett was signed late and his one-year salary is significant. Byrd's free agent addition last fall also showed a desire to fill a key outfield hole. However, any early-season flop was sure to forcefully introduce the opportunity for all non-trade clause players to waive their rights to wear red pinstripes.
Agree, disagree or simply remain silent, but there's no denying that former general manager Ed Wade deserves deep credit for hiring great farm system personnel before he was terminated (and then returned). Pat Gillick unequivocally became the perfect choice as Wade's successor. Gillick's Hall of Fame savvy and established business connections helped massage a roster into just the right space in time and 2008 remains sublime.
The second great Phillies' era actually ended when the St. Louis Cardinals unexpectedly won the 2011 National League Division Series. The first great era in team history ended when the Baltimore Orioles won the 1983 World Series. Now, another rebuild will certainly begin in earnest this summer, amidst few cheers. This process will surely continue for an undetermined number of years.