caught looking

a blog about the philadelphia phillies. not to be confused, exactly, with "caught looking" the debut album by independent/unsigned/unheard of singer/songwriter greg roth, who is, coincidently, yours truly.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Always be closing

Nowhere is the Phils current malaise in finding and integrated a new GM more frustrating than in the area of their contract talks. And so, in reading today's report on how the Phils front office is upping their offer to retain the services of one Billy Wagner, esq., closer extrordinaire and media-savvy loose cannon, one can only hope Wagner's inflated sense of self gets the best of him and he walks. Why? Certainly not because Wags isn't one of the elite closers in the baseball -- he is. However, as it was stated very eloquently on another blog, he has become a luxury item the Phils can't really afford (given their current payroll and declining attendence) at a position where they can make a better decision (assuming they CAN make better decisions) about how to fill that need.

To put the Phils' blogoshere's discontent with succumbing to Wags's contract demands in perspective, let's a take a very rudimentary look at the market. Here, listed in order of saves, are the top 20 closers in baseball last year, with their squad, saves, WHIP, and '05 salary next to their names.

Chad Cordero Was 47 // .97 // $346,500
Bob Wickman Cle 45 //1.26 //$2.75 mil
Francisco Rodriguez LAA 45 //1.14 //$440,000
Trevor Hoffman SD 43 //1.11 //$5 mil
Mariano Rivera NYY 43 //.87 //$10.5 mil
Joe Nathan Min 43 //.97 //$2.1 mil
Brad Lidge Hou 42 //1.15 //$500,000
Danys Baez TB 41 //1.33 //$3.75 mil
Todd Jones Fla 40 //1.03 //$1.1 mil
Jason Isringhausen StL 39 //1.19 //$8.25 mil
Derrick Turnbow Mil 39 //1.08 //$322,000
Billy Wagner Phi 38 //.84 //$9 mil
Francisco Cordero Tex 37 //1.32 //$3.875 mil
Eddie Guardado Sea 36 //1.19 //$4 mil
B.J. Ryan Bal 36 //1.14 //$2.6 mil
Dustin Hermanson CWS 34 //1.10 //$2 mil
Ryan Dempster ChC 33 //1.43 //$2 mil
Miguel Batista Tor 31 //1.43 // $4.75 mil
Brian Fuentes Col 31 //1.25 // $328,000
Braden Looper NYM 28 //1.47 //$5.3 mil

As you can see, Wags is already the second highest paid closer in baseball, behind Mariano Rivera and let the record show that for as long as this blog exists, the Yankees shall heretofor never be used as a benchmark for what to pay a player. An argument can made that Rivera has earned his dough through saving the backend of a handful of World Series rings; Wags has done no such thing, whether his fault or not. On the bottom end, the incredibly mediocre Braden Looper further proves the Big Apple's penchent for price inflation. Wags's .87 WHIP was the best of any closer's last year, so in his eyes, as he looks at what Rivera is paid, he has something of a case. If he can get that kind of money out of, say, Boston, more power to him.

However, there are other ways to fill this need. Of the Top 20, there are only 5 closers who made less than $1 mil last year. The Phils certainly don't need to be one of those clubs. On the other hand, there were only 5 closers who made $5 mil or more last year, including the two NY closers previously mentioned. The Phils can't afford to be one of those clubs.

Granted, the thought of having a nearly automatic 9th inning guy seems to negate Wags's price tag in many fans' eyes -- visions of MesaMeltdown, v. 2003, still dance in our heads, as do the '05 squad's combined 17 blown saves. But, who the Phils get to fill this role is the second part of an equation which should start with the determination that this $10 million could be spent more wisely elsewhere and is by most other teams in the majors.

But breaking up is hard to do, I guess.


At 2:41 PM, Blogger Tom Goodman said...

gr: I do notice the veteran top line closers with the exception of Brad Lidge are making big money. I speak of M Rivera and Trvor Hoffman and Jason Isringhausen (not in the same league with Rivera or Wagner). Wagner wants to be paid at the top of the scale. Fine, for one or two years, but not for 3 years. But the Phillies have convinced themselves they cannot win without him.

At 2:57 PM, Blogger gr said...

yeah, that's kind of the quandry. its not that wagner's not worth the money, you can make a perfectly reasonable argument that he is. its that i personally don't think he's worth it to the phils right now and in the future. the white sox are in the world series and until i did this list, i couldn't even name their closer. also, thanks for being my first comment ever. you win a beer on me next year at the park.

At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Tom Durso said...

Well, looky here.

Nicely done, gr -- good couple of entries to start off. Keep up the good work.

At 3:53 PM, Anonymous Tom G said...

gr! Stepping up to the plate and taking a few hacks. Good for you, have fun with it.

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Tom Goodman said...

gr: I've alerted the other bloggers to your new blog. Wear it in good health.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Tom Goodman said...

A link to your blog is now on Swing and A Miss . Looking forward to reading more.

At 4:33 PM, Blogger gr said...

thanks guys. its good to be loved. would you all like an autographed picture of me wearing a construction hard hat?

At 5:45 PM, Blogger Brian said...

You're on my list. Nice!

At 6:03 PM, Anonymous AJ said...

Nice work! It's about time.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Tom Goodman said...

gr: if the autographed picture is of you just wearing the hard hat I pass.

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post GR. I did somewhat of similar comparison on a phillies message board a few weeks ago. My point was that you didn't have to spend $10 million on a closer. That if you don't have the luxury to afford a Wagner type when you have other holes, you can win games with a closer who makes under 3 million. I specifically brought up Wickman, Nathan, Jones and then younger guys drafted Lidge, Street, Rodriguez, Cordero. If you have a smart organization, you can have a succussful closer making a fraction of what Wagner makes. In a perfect world without salaries, guaranteed contracts and risk involved, keeping Wagner would be a no brainer. Unfortunately most fans think signing Wagner is a must.

I was/am as frustrated with how the Phillies have gone about this than you or anyone. This is one of the reasons why I want Antonetti in here because a guy like him is going to see the risk involved when he does his analysis. We don't have a $200 million dollar payroll and can't act like the Yankees.


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