Will the real Phillies please stand up. I’m not talking about any of the guys in the dugout, I’m talking about the owners. OK, after doing a little digging I’m now specifically talking about one owner – a minority owner at that, David Montgomery. Claire Betz, the Buck brothers (Alaexander, Mahlon and William) and John Middleton are all limited partners. Without getting lawyers involved to help me write this article, let’s just say the limited partners in this group are limited to their cash investment only. They have no power…all the power to spend on free agents, approve trades, sign contracts and make all baseball related decisions lies within Montgomery’s purview.
That’s the way the Phillies purchase in 1981 from Ruly Carpenter, led by Bill Giles, was structured from Day One. Giles ran the team after the purchase but has since made himself Chairman in 1997. At that time he named David Montgomery President and CEO of the Phillies. Montgomery owns a very small portion of the team, but the secrecy which surrounds this ownership group makes it difficult to ascertain what that percentage is.
Ruben Amaro Jr. is taking a lot of heat right now as the man who assembled this roster, and deservedly so. However it’s Monty’s show. Will Montgomery allow Amaro to bid on Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka to help improve the Phils chances of contending next year? The posting fee is expected to be in the $50,000,000 – $60,000,000 price range with a contract in the same neighborhood. Many scouts who’ve seen Tanaka pitch say he’s the top free agent pitcher this offseason. The posting fee doesn’t go against the luxury tax, which experience tells us the Phils will not exceed, but they need to get creative and think outside the box if they’re going to be contenders in 2014. To get a # 2 pitcher that turns 25 years old today would go a long way in showing the fans the team is serious about contending, while getting younger and better at the same time.
The Phils are expected to sign a new monstrous cable deal before the end of the year that could see local television revenues rise from their current below market $30,000,000 annual figure to $150,000,000 annually – and that number is at the low end of the spectrum. The deal will certainly raise the value of the Phillies, which was most recently reported by Forbes magazine as 5th among MLB teams at $893,000,000.
If the Phillies aren’t going to use some of that TV money to become competitive again this year it may be a long time before we see a contending team hosting games at Citizens Bank Park. Declining attendance and TV ratings will affect the value of the team more than wins and losses, though it amazes me that Monty doesn’t see the correlation between wins and ticket sales. The real money being made on the Phils is through it’s appreciation over the years, not through balance sheets that depict operating costs and revenues.
Why Tanaka? For starters he was 24-0 last year with a 1.27 ERA. For a look at his career stats click http://www.baseball-reference.com/japan/player.cgi?id=tanaka003mas. The comparisons to Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers are very similar. For a look at Darvish’s Japanese numbers before being acquired by the Texas Rangers click http://www.baseball-reference.com/japan/player.cgi?id=darvis001yu-. Including the posting fee and the six-year contract the Rangers gave Darvish it works out to just under $18,000,000 per season. Is there anyone who believes if Darvish was a free agent today he couldn’t command that type of money?
Tanaka would solidify the Phils rotation and allow Amaro to work on fixing the bullpen and getting the RH power bat he covets and the team so desperately needs. He won’t cost draft picks or minor league talent. The Yankees and Dodgers are openly targeting Tanaka as one of their offseason priorities and the Phillies will have the money to compete with them. Though the Phils haven’t scouted Tanaka they recently hired Pete Mackanin as their 3rd base coach. Mackanin scouted Tanaka heavily last year for the Yankees.
One thing about Amaro is he goes about his business quietly. If Tanaka is on his radar we probably wouldn’t know. Who saw the Cliff Lee deal coming after the 2010 season? Who saw the Jonathan Papelbon deal coming together after negotiations with Ryan Madson seemed all but finalized? Getting Tanaka would be a real feather in Amaro’s hat and we know how much he loves starting pitching. I have no doubts Amaro would like him in a Phils uniform, but will Monty agree? He should. If the sagging attendance numbers of 2013 didn’t prove to Monty the Phils need to field a contender to keep raking in the dough nothing will. If that’s the case the Phils won’t contend again until a new, young, inexpensive core comes along and can win a title without spending big dollars. That’s happened twice in the Phillies 130 year history so I wouldn’t hold my breath.
So what says you Big Dave? Are you all in or are you going to send the Phils out there again next year without a genuine chance to compete? It is after all, your show.