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Phillies Literally Can’t Afford a Domonic Brown Failure


If you are a Phillies fan, you had to love the mindset of former can’t-miss prospect Domonic Brown as he arrived at Spring Training last week.

In response to a line of questions about his confidence following an agonizing 2011 season, the 24 year-old boldly proclaimedI'm not at peace if I start at Triple-A. I'm coming to win a job. I'm fighting to win a job here.”

It was the type of response that could renew some optimism in the player who entered last season as the number four prospect in all of baseball.  If nothing else, it certainly beat the heck out of the “I will just play hard and see what happens” alternative.Domonic Brown photo: Getty Images

Does Brown’s competitiveness mean that the gaping hole in his swing will suddenly disappear?  Does it mean that his outfield play will immediately look less like a panicked squirrel dodging a car?  The answer to both of those questions is surely “no” and “no.”  

But, how can you not take some positives away from the fact that the kid who has dominated every level of minor league baseball is determined to live up to his All-Star pedigree?

The most likely scenario is that, despite his doggedness, Brown will end up putting on a Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs uniform this spring and summer. And if that is what it takes for him to regain his smooth swing and confident psyche, then we should all be okay with it.  The same goes for the Phillies’ front office, who quite frankly, can ill afford Brown becoming an afterthought.

You see, the Phillies may be in the process of spending themselves into a corner when it comes to high-priced veteran players. There has been a great deal of recent analysis of the Phillies’ financial situation for this year and beyond. They are likely to open the season with a payroll that is practically right at the MLB luxury tax threshold of $178 million.   

For a team that seems to be printing its own money, this may seem like the new normal, but even teams like the Phillies have payroll limits, and the luxury tax threshold seems to be theirs.  

Even scarier for the Phils is that they already have $108 million committed to eight players for the 2013 season, not including a starting third baseman, centerfielder, or Cole Hamels.

Which brings us back to Domonic Brown.

Whether or not Brown begins the 2012 season with the big club, it is crucial that he eventually shows the team’s management that he can be counted on for the 2013.  If he can refine those once-renowned five tools and convince the Phillies’ front office that he can be counted on to start in 2013, it just might save the team’s payroll and provide some flexibility in personnel decisions.

Plugging Brown into future starting lineups at $500K per season sure would provide some relief within a roster bulging with eight-figure salaries.   

Brown’s affordability, along with a talented corps of young relief pitchers might go a long way in freeing up money for a $20 million-per-season deal for Hamels.   It could also be a major factor in the team’s decision on a long-term deal for Shane Victorino, who may be looking for $12 million or more per season once he hits free agency.  

There are a couple of factors that limit (if you can call the team’s current payroll ‘limited’) the Phillies ever-expanding spending habits. They can’t sell any more tickets to home games (there are none remaining) and they won’t score their rich new local TV contract until after the 2015 season.   

That means that there may just have to be a few players on their roster that provide terrific play at an affordable price and a young age.  Here’s also hoping that those massive contracts for Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley don’t end up being the financial drain that every one of us has had some anxiety about.

So, as Spring Training games begin this week, it may be worth keeping an eye on the Phillies’ backup left fielder.  Here’s hoping that Domonic Brown’s frequent hitting sessions with Gary Sheffield and offseason outfield tutorials help the talented young prospect to make some noise against major league competition.  

Things could be much easier for the Phillies if he does.

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net  

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Swing: Getty Images
Thumbnail: Len Redkoles; Getty Images