What Are Phillies Getting From The Four Players in SI’s Fortunate 50?


Apr 9, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee (33) delivers to the plate during the seventh inning against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Mets 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s something that would have seemed inconceivable 10 years ago.

In Sports Illustrated’s annual list of the 50 highest-earning American athletes, called The Fortunate 50, four Philllies players made the list. And they are exactly who you think they are.

Cliff Lee (#17), Ryan Howard (#25), Roy Halladay (#39) and Cole Hamels (#44) all cracked the Top 50. The Yankees had five players on the list, while the Dodgers also had four.

Lee will earn a total of $25.28 million in 2013, including $25 million in annual salary and an additional $280,000 in endorsements. Howard will earn $23.2 million, with $20 million in annual salary and $3.2 million in endorsements (Eat Fresh!). Roy Halladay will earn a combined $20.21 million this year, with $20 million in salary and $210,000 in endorsements, and Hamels will earn $19.9 million in 2013, with $19.5 million in salary and $400,000 in endorsement deals.

That is a lot of American money. But just what are the Phillies getting for the $84.5 million they’re spending for their four “Fortunate 50” members?

So glad you asked.

Cliff Lee is earning his cash. He’s 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA in eight starts this year, with peripherals that show he is right in line with a typical outstanding Cliff Lee-type season. He’s struck out 43 and walked just 9 in 56.2 innings so far this year, and has brought his home runs allowed total down, having given up just four. Last year, Lee coughed up 26 home runs in his 30 starts. He appears healthy, happy, and worth every penny.

Ryan Howard is another matter. No matter what he does, Howard will almost certainly never live up to the weighty dollars he is being paid. Still, if he were providing power and a little bit of consistency, his salary would be a little easier to take. Unfortunately, that’s not happening.

Howard’s batting average – which many were pointing to as a sign he was doing really well this year – is now down to .252. He’s walked only nine times in 151 plate appearances so far this year, giving him a walk rate of 6.0% and an on-base percentage of .291. He’s also struck out a staggering 44 times already, or in 29.1% of all his plate appearances. We might be able to swallow that if he was providing Mark Reynolds-like power, but he’s not. He’s slugging just .446, which is 76th in all of baseball, tied with Alejandro De Aza and just below Brandon Moss. He also has just 6 HRs so far in 2013, which equates to 24 HRs over 162 games.

That would be a little less than a million dollars per homer.

Roy Halladay’s season has hit the skids, and really, last year was far below what one would expect for $20 million. That being said, Halladay’s true value came in the 2010 and 2011 season, when he outrageously performed above the below-market contract he signed to come to Philadelphia in the first place. So, Halladay’s struggles are a little easier to swallow.

That being said, Halladay is now on the shelf for 6-8 weeks recovering from shoulder surgery, and it could be longer than that. Halladay may never pitch for the Phils again. And when he did pitch this year, he was among the worst pitchers in baseball, going 2-4 with a 8.65 ERA in seven starts. That would be about $2.8 million per start and $10 million per win this year.

And then there’s Cole Hamels, who has been mostly good, but has also had some rough starts as well. He’s 1-5 with a 4.18 ERA, with a K-rate down from 24.9% last year to 19.8% this year, and a walk rate up from 6.0% last year to 10.1% this year. However, he’s pitched better lately, having given up no more than three earned runs in his last six starts. His first two outings, in which he gave up 13 earned runs total, have inflated his ERA. Still, his walk rate has to come down, and a few more strikeouts would be nice. One could argue the Phils will end up not regretting the money they’re paying Cole Hamels.

In the end, the Phillies are probably getting at least close to their money’s worth with Hamels and Lee. They’re also getting nowhere near their money’s worth from Howard and Halladay. That’s about $45 million being flushed down the toilet, more than the total payrolls of Miami and Houston, and just $12 million less than Tampa Bay’s.

Happily, Halladay’s contract comes off the books after this year.

Howard’s does not.