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Are the Phillies building a dynasty?

In the print edition story Tuesday morning, I asked the rhetorical question: Why would the Philadelphia Phillies essentially swap an ace (Cliff Lee) who accomplished so much for them in 2009 for one (Roy Halladay) who, despite his towering record, is something of an unknown in the National League (as Lee was before he arrived in July)?

The answers: Ability and cost certainty. Despite Lee's impressive October, Halladay is the better pitcher. Even if we limit ourselves to 2008-09, which happen to be Lee's best two seasons, Halladay was better overall in terms of ERA+ (adjusted for park and league effects, with 100 being league-average), posting figures of 152 and 155, compared to 168 and 131 for Lee.

Even more important, however, was Halladay's apparent willingness to sign a below-market contract extension, which (at least as the Phillies interpreted things) Lee was not willing to do. (Both Lee and Halladay were due to become free agents after 2010.) If the true numbers of the Halladay extension turn out to be $60 million over three years (2011-13), that's about 15 percent less in average annual value (AAV) than the current market rate for super-elite pitchers (CC Sabathia and Johan Santana each make about $23 million per season). Halladay apparently was willing to do that in order to pitch for a team that trains near his Tampa-area home.

In the bigger picture, the Phillies clearly are trying to maximize the impact of their current window of opportunity -- which, looking at the ages and contract statuses of their superstar core, lasts until, oh, right around 2013. Jimmy Rollins's contract runs through 2010 (with a club option for 2011). Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and Raul Ibanez are signed through 2011. Chase Utley is signed through 2013. Presumably, Halladay will be signed through 2013 as well.

It's hard to build a dynasty in the free agent era. In fact, no NL team has made it to the World Series in three straight seasons -- as the Phillies will be attempting to do in 2010 -- since the St. Louis Cardinals in 1942-44. But (assuming the Halladay deal goes through) no team in baseball, including the Yankees, are in better position to construct one, in terms of their own strength relative to the rest of their league, than the Phillies.

By Dave Sheinin  |  December 15, 2009; 10:13 AM ET
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The answer seems to be yes. However, Roy Halladay can't get them back to the promise land by himself. We saw it in the WS this year, it takes another guy on the staff to rise to the occasion. The Phils will need Hamels to regain his form and depending on who they give up to land Halladay, might have some holes in the rotation. Can they really count on Jamey Moyer as a 4th starter? Then need to retain Happ at the very least and acquire another mid-tier starter. A Ben Sheets or Erik Badard type. Someone with a potentially high ceiling and a bargain price.
And let's not talk about the "rich getting richer". The Phils have gotten themselves to this position the right way. By making great choices in the draft, retaining young talent, and making smart trades. It didn't happen over night.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | December 15, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Hey PhilliesPhan... I knew I could count on you for a well-reasoned, impassioned response!

Posted by: DaveSheinin | December 15, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Dave - I'm curious if you've done or can find a back-of-the-envelope calculation of Philadelphia's payroll growth since the end of the '07 season. I believe they have increased their payroll by about 50%, from around $90m to closer to $135m right now. A lot of that is natural growth, as Rollins, Howard, and Utley move into their higher salary years, and some of that is for bargain players like Werth beginning to get more expensive. I don't begrudge a team for growing that way and maxing out its fanbase and market potential. What is interesting is that they are breaking the apparent gentlemen's agreement in the NL that we don't try to assert our market power and we content ourselves with less competitive clubs. The NL has been operating with restrictor plates for most of this decade, as even potentially powerful teams with enormous fanbases (St. L), populous cities (Houston), and histories of success (Atlanta) prefer to say they are "small market" rather than use their resources to build clubs as storng as the AL. The Phillies can be a dynasty by default if the rest of the league lets them.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | December 15, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Have we watered down the term Dynasty to where you only need to be considered the best in your particular league, but not actually win multiple championships??
Considering the long list of non-repeat World Series winners, this question is not only premature, but laughable!!

Posted by: dkidwell61 | December 15, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

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