A smiling Cole Hamels talked about the excitement of being able to play the majority of his career in Philadelphia after signing an extension. Ruben Amaro Jr. made a huge exception.
For a team that rarely signs players for more than three years, especially pitchers, the Phillies have made three major deals of similar fashion. Hamels’ contract, worth $144 million over six years, is the largest in team history.
But for the Phillies, there was never a reason to worry about the money. This was the top priority.
The Phillies may have to just face that they may need to have a payroll higher than the luxury tax until some of these other big contracts come off the books. But that wasn’t an excuse to avoid giving Hamels his due.
In a contract year, Hamels has been the ace. While Cliff Lee was struggling to get wins and Roy Halladay was trying to recover from injury, Hamels was leading the Phillies every five days. Most of the time, the result was the same.
One of the key things that was said yesterday came from team president David Montgomery. The Phillies aren’t sellers just yet. They aren’t exactly buying either. Montgomery put it this way.
“We’re trying to be improvers,” Montgomery said.
In that case, there was no reason to sell the current roster in an implosion. The Phillies may have taken a step back this season, but that would be taking multiple steps back right to the starting line. For some of these players – see Lee, Cliff – it may just be one of those years. Next year could be completely different.
The Phillies have plenty of flaws that will likely try to be corrected at some point.
The outfield is weak. The Phillies failed to fill the left-field void this offseason and have been platooning Juan Pierre and John Mayberry Jr. Pierre’s bat has been solid this season. Mayberry’s defense has been good. Put together, they would be a pretty good outfielder. But they aren’t, forcing the Phillies to constantly make defensive changes.
Meanwhile, the other two outfielders are both in active trade talks. Shane Victorino will be gone after the season via free agency most likely. Hunter Pence is drawing some attention, and some think it’s a guarantee that he will be traded.
The Phillies have a problem at third base. Placido Polanco has been out for the last three games with a sore back and could be headed to the DL. The Phillies best bat off the bench for an infielder is Ty Wigginton. Wigginton has probably cost the Phillies at least a game or two with his shaky defense at the hot corner. The position is more fit for Mike Fontenot. But the Phillies do need a real third baseman. They probably won’t find it for the rest of the season.
One trade chip the Phillies may have to offer is Joe Blanton. Perhaps by trading Blanton, the Phillies could get some relief help for the bullpen. Perhaps they can get a better third baseman or outfielder than what they currently have.
Either way, the Phillies weren’t going to solve all of their problems by signing one player. But, now that Hamels is locked up for six years, the Phillies have one piece to the future. That’s pretty good for starters.