How the Phillies Used ‘Stupid Money’ to Rebuild Their Roster
In the winter of 2011, the Phillies made two moves that would define the franchise’s baseball future. The first was trading for Cole Hamels, a young left-hander with tremendous potential and $50 million in potential salary. The other was signing Chase Utley to a four-year, $52 million contract. Utley’s performance and presence was sorely missed in Philadelphia. In Hamels and Utley, Phillies fans felt like they were getting two of the game’s top talents.
When the Phillies traded Hamels, however, they did not receive relief from the burdens placed on Hamels as a result of his contract. This, of course, raised the obvious question of who would replace Hamels as the team’s left-handed relief pitcher. The Phillies then turned to free-agent signee Ryan Madson, a veteran journeyman who had pitched for three major-league organizations before his arrival in Philadelphia. After signing with the Phillies, Madson took a step back and watched from the outside as Utley was a key piece of a team that was just beginning to take its game to the next level.
When the Phillies traded Madson to the Cubs and signed Hamels to a four-year, $52 million contract, the team knew it was a gamble. As Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. explained to reporters, the move was made for “one great deal at one time.” The move certainly looked good on paper. Hamels was a free agent with a history of producing solid pitching. Hamels and Madson were both 23 years old, making them the youngest members of the Phillies’ rotation. Utley was a 25-year-old with an established track record of success as a leadoff man for the Dodgers and Phillies in the ’90s. By trading Madson and signing Hamels, the Phillies believed they had locked down one of the game’s best left-handed relievers for the next few years.
The Phillies had no shortage of young and unproven starting pitchers at the time, though. The Phillies signed minor league free-agent prospects Cole Hamels and Freddy Galvis to deals that