Tying them up in Philly

First Chase Utley and now Brett Myers. The Phillies are tying up their young stars with multi-year contracts and buying them out of their arbitration years. It’s definitely a good move (when not applied to Pat Burrell, at least not with a no-trade clause), but it only makes you wonder …

If Utley can get $85 million for seven years and Myers nets almost $26 million for three, what is Ryan Howard going to get? The slugging first baseman has played roughly 1 3/4 seasons and won the National League Rookie of the Year and MVP after them. Howard, who still has a couple of years before he’s eligible for arbitration, let alone free agency, is at least worth $100 million over seven years, and how he performs this season and next — depending on when he gets a deal — will determine whether he loses or adds years and/or money.

The Phillies are doing what the Indians have been known to do over the years: Locking up their young stars early, before they come close to sniffing their value on the open market. It’s a good move for both team and players. The team gets them without having to get into any bidding wars, and the players get their money guaranteed while they’re at the height of their youth and energy. Sure, they may be leaving some dollars on the table in the event they surpass what they’ve done to this point, but that’s what the incentive clauses are for — All-Star appearances and postseason awards often bring in bonus money, with additional bonuses for multiple honors, such as what Barry Zito got should he win — try to contain your laughter — several Cy Young Awards for the Giants. (He’ll get $500,000 for the first, $750,000 for the second and $1 million for a third. He even gets solid bonuses for finshing anywhere in the top five.)

As the Phillies stand now, three-fourths of their infield and two-thirds of their outfield are homegrown. With Chris Roberson and Michael Bourn on the way up, should Aaron Rowand get traded, the entire outfield could be covered by players who passed through Reading and Scranton on their way to Philadelphia. The infield has only third baseman Wes Helms as the hired “gun,” while catcher could be manned by the developed Carlos Ruiz or the free-agent signee Rod Barajas.

On the mound, only two of the six starters came up through the system, though Adam Eaton was initially drafted by the Phillies before being dealt away. The bullpen includes a balance of farmhands — Ryan Madson, Geoff Geary, Eude Brito — and others brought in via free agency. As of this writing, the 40-man roster contains at least 21 homegrown players (based on a quick count, without much in-depth fact-checking), though at least 11-13 of the 25-man roster should be players the Phillies developed themselves (with five or six of eight position players among those).

That’s some good drafting, international scouting and player development.

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