The rise to super-stardom by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard has helped bring the Phillies a championship and a whole lot of spectacular moments. It has also brought a payroll challenge. Utley and Howard have been fantastic offensive players over the last four seasons. They were great four years ago, great last year and the Phillies are counting on them to keep on being great in 2010. But while the amount of offense they are producing hasn’t improved over the past four years, the amount of money that the Phillies have to pay them to produce it has.
The chart below shows the number of runs they each created in 2009 (as calculated by Baseball-Reference), their ’09 salary and the salary over runs created. It also shows the same information for the 2006 season.
The point here is not that Utley and Howard are overpaid. It’s also not that they’re anything but great offensive players. They are — in 2006, Howard led the NL in runs created and Utley was fifth. In 2009 they tied for fifth in the league with 130 runs created.
The point is that in 2009 they created about the same or less offense and it cost the Phillies about 55 times as much for Howard to produce a run as it did in 2006 and about 23 1/2 times as much for Utley.
Last year the Phillies spent about $57.1 million to pay their offensive players and scored 820 runs. Let’s pretend that for each of the past four years the Phillies had spent $57.1 million on offensive players and also tried to score the 820 runs they did in 2009. Using runs created as the measurement, the amount of offense produced by Utley and Howard is not improving. It’s high, but has stayed very much the same for Utley since ’06 and gone down a little for Howard. So to get to 820 every year they get similar offense from Howard and Utley, but need to get the same contribution from the players who aren’t Utley and Howard and have a lot less money to pay them.
The Phillies didn’t pay their offensive players $57.1 million in 2006. If they had, though, the $855,000 they paid Utley and Howard would have accounted for about 1.5% of the offensive payroll. In 2009, the $26,285,714 was about 46% of $57.1 million. With Utley and Howard producing at about the same rates in both years it would leave the Phils about $56.2 million to pay non-Utley or Howard players in 2006 and about $30.8 million to pay them in 2009.
If Utley and Howard do the same thing every year, that’s about half the money to acquire players from whom you need the same result.
Of course, the Phillies payroll isn’t staying the same year after year. It’s rising. With help from USA Today’s Baseball Salary Database we see that in 2006 the Phillies payroll was about $88.3 million and in 2009 it was about $113 million.
The problem is, though, that it wasn’t rising as fast as the salaries for Utley and Howard. The table below shows the payroll for each of those years, how much Utley and Howard combined to make and how much all of the players on payroll other than Utley and Howard combined to make:
players other than Utley and Howard
So despite the fact that the Phillies spent almost $25 million more on payroll in 2009 than in 2006, they spent less to pay players that were not Utley and Howard.
Again, Utley and Howard are great but they’re not getting better. If the goal is to get the same or better results from the rest of the team it leaves the Phillies with less money to do so.
Good news, though. Just about everyone seems to think that the Phillies payroll for 2010 will be about $140 million. Let’s pretend it is exactly that. Knowing that Howard will make $19 million in 2010 and Utley will make $15 million, we can add 2010 to the list:
players other than Utley and Howard
Nifty. So compared to 2006, the Phillies didn’t spend more money on players other than Utley and Howard than they did in 2009, but they sure will in 2010 (if their payroll really is $140 million).
Finally, a payroll jump from $113 to $140 million would be a huge one for the Phillies. By total dollars the jump of about $27 million from the 2009 payroll would be the biggest for the team in more than 20 years. By percentage things get weirder — remember that the Phillies went to the World Series in 1993 with a payroll under $27 million. So things have changed. Still, $140 million is about 123.9% of $113 million, which would be the biggest percentage jump for the Phils since 2004. In 2003 the payroll was about $70.8 million. In 2004 it rose to about $93.2 million — the ’04 payroll was about 131.7% of the ’03 payroll after a jump of about $22.4 million.
This suggests that the Phillies might be offering JA Happ and one of Domonic Brown or Michael Taylor in a deal for Halladay. Really? I would be surprised if that happened.
Pedro Feliz and Brandon Lyon will both be Astros.