Offseason comes with choices for Phils
Keeping defending champs together has escalating price tag
PHILADELPHIA -- The season ended exactly as it was supposed to, with a wild celebration and a parade down Broad Street.Pat Gillick stuck to his promise to step aside as full-time general manager, leaving the reins to Ruben Amaro Jr., who was promoted from assistant GM. Gillick will remain in an advisory role. With the Phillies looking to become the first team since the 1999-2000 Yankees to repeat as World Series champions, the club's challenges appear mostly financial in nature, due to escalating salaries of their star players and 10 potential arbitration cases. Team president David Montgomery is on record as saying he expects the payroll to increase from 2008's $104 million, and it will have to. The Phillies already have $63.25 million committed to nine players: Brett Myers ($12 million), Brad Lidge ($11.5 million), Adam Eaton ($8.5 million), Chase Utley ($7.5 million), Jimmy Rollins ($7 million), Geoff Jenkins ($6.75 million), Pedro Feliz ($5 million), J.C. Romero ($4 million), and Matt Stairs ($1 million). They are also responsible for Jim Thome's $3 million buyout if the White Sox don't pick up a $13 million option. The 10 arbitration-eligible players earned a combined $20.14 million in 2008 and will see that total increase. They are: Ryan Howard ($10 million), Joe Blanton ($3.7 million), Jayson Werth ($1.7 million), Ryan Madson ($1.4 million), Chad Durbin ($900,000), Eric Bruntlett ($600,000), Cole Hamels ($500,000), Shane Victorino ($480,000), Greg Dobbs ($440,000) and Clay Condrey ($420,000). Assuming the arbitration guys net $30 million total, the team's payroll would already be at $93 million. Adding in Jamie Moyer and Scott Eyre may get that total to $100 million and not leave enough to resign Pat Burrell, depending on his demands. With that in mind, the Phillies are prepared to go forward with Werth and Shane Victorino as starters, and some combination of Dobbs, Matt Stairs and Jenkins in left field. A right-handed complement would then be sought to be this year's version of Werth, and Rocco Baldelli, Kevin Mench and Jerry Hairston Jr. have already emerged as candidates. Amaro already knows that repeating won't be easy. CONTRACT ISSUES
Free agents: OF Pat Burrell; LHP Jamie Moyer; LHP Scott Eyre; RHP Tom Gordon; INF Tadahito Iguchi; RHP Rudy Seanez; OF So Taguchi.
Eligible for arbitration: 1B Ryan Howard; LHP Cole Hamels; OF Shane Victorino; OF Jayson Werth; RHP Joe Blanton; RHP Ryan Madson; INF/OF Greg Dobbs; RHP Chad Durbin; RHP Clay Condrey; INF Eric Bruntlett.
Club options: Tom Gordon, RHP, $4 million (declined); So Taguchi, OF, $1.25 million (declined).
Non-tender possibilities: None.
C: Carlos Ruiz, .219 BA, 4 HR, 31 RBIs
C: Chris Coste, .263 BA, 9 HR, 36 RBIs
Ruiz started off poorly and lost playing time to the 35-year-old Coste in midseason, to the point where they were sharing the position. An improved second half, coupled with Coste's struggles, vaulted the Panamanian back into favor. Manager Charlie Manuel prefers Ruiz because of his defensive abilities, and a hot World Series earned him a place in history. Fast-rising prospect Lou Marson made an impression at Double-A Reading and for the U.S. Bronze medal-winning Olympic team, and force his way onto the team in Spring Training, either as the starter or backup to Ruiz.FIRST BASE
1B: Ryan Howard, .251 BA, 48 HR, 146 RBIs, 199 K
Despite a sub-.200 batting average as late as May 21, Howard led the Major Leagues in home runs and runs batted in. A monster September -- .352, 10 HRs and 32 RBIs -- raised his batting average and thrust him into Most Valuable Player consideration. His defense is still suspect, evidenced by 19 errors.SECOND BASE
2B: Chase Utley, .292 BA, 33 HR, 104 RBIs
A sore right hip curtailed Utley's production, though the second baseman would never admit he was hurting. So he played through it and slipped from a June 3 average of .325 with 21 homers and 53 RBIs, numbers that were good enough to merit MVP consideration. A healthy return could signal a full season of productivity.
SS: Jimmy Rollins, .277 BA, 11 HR, 59 RBIs
Rollins couldn't help but have a letdown off his MVP season of 2008, but even he didn't expect this much falloff. His missed five weeks with a sprained left ankle, and was slow to return to form. A few hot streaks masked overall inconsistency. Rollins also had two embarrassing moments not befitting team leader, as he was benched once for not hustling and another time for arriving late to the park, breaking each of Manuel's two rules. That said, a World Series championship made the fans forget Rollins' remarks, when he questioned their lack of unconditional support.
3B: Pedro Feliz, .249 BA, 14 HR, 58 RBIs
3B: Gregg Dobbs, .301 BA, 9 HR, 40 RBIs
Feliz, a last-minute free-agent signing, played exceptional defense, and solidified a Gold Glove-caliber left side of the infield. He was sporadic offensively, but seemed to have a knack for hitting in big spots. Dobbs earned his keep mostly as a pinch-hitter, but also produced at the hot corner when Feliz hurt his back or was resting.
OF: Pat Burrell, .250 BA, 33 HR, 86 RBIs, 102 BB
OF: Shane Victorino, .293 BA, 14 HR, 58 RBIs, 36 SB
OF: Jayson Werth, .273 BA, 24 HR, 67 RBIs, 20 SB
OF: Geoff Jenkins, .246 BA, 9 HR, 29 RBIs
OF: Greg Golson, .282 BA, 13 HR, 23 SBs at Double-A Reading.
SP: Cole Hamels, 14-10, 3.09 ERA
SP: Brett Myers, 10-13, 4.55 ERA
SP: Jamie Moyer, 16-7, 3.71 ERA
SP: Joe Blanton, 4-0, 4.20 ERA
SP: Kyle Kendrick, 11-9, 5.49 ERA
SP: J.A. Happ, 1-0, 3.69 ERA
SP: Adam Eaton, 4-8, 5.80 ERA
Philadelphia's rotation seems to have ample personnel ready for '09, but there are question marks after ace Hamels. Myers had two very different seasons in 2008, an awful 17-game, 5.84 ERA start to his season, and a 3.63 ERA in his remaining 13 starts, that included a dominating 11-start stretch in which he posted a 1.80 ERA. Moyer thrived at age 45, and should return, but his age will always make him a question mark. Having Blanton for a full season should help the rotation stay consistent, and the bullpen stay fresh. With those four in tow, the fifth-starter slot will be sorted out from among Kendrick, Happ and Carlos Carrasco, with Happ having a slight edge, though Kendrick won 11 games in 2008. Eaton has one year remaining on his three-year, $24.5 million deal, and could be released before he sets foot in Clearwater.BULLPEN
RP: Brad Lidge, 2-0, 1.95 ERA, 41 SV, 92 K
RP: Ryan Madson, 4-2, 3.05 ERA
RP: J.C. Romero, 4-4, 2.75 ERA
RP: Chad Durbin, 5-4, 2.87 ERA, 71 G
RP: Scott Eyre, 5-0, 4.21 ERA
RP: Clay Condrey, 3-4, 3.26 ERA
RP: Rudy Seanez, 5-4, 3.53 ERA
Exiled from Houston, Lidge thrived in his new city. The righty converted all 41 of his save chances, then seven more in the postseason, anchoring one of baseball's best bullpens. The sight of him sinking to his knees after striking out Tampa Bay's Eric Hinkse will endure for years. The Phillies kept Lidge from testing free agency by signing him to a three-year extension. If Eyre returns, the organization will retain the depth that was its strength.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.