That isn’t to say Lieberthal is greedy or selfish – at least no more or no less than any other person. He’s just a guy who is blessed with the rare talent of being able to hit a baseball reasonably well, and squat for a few hours a night while taking the routine punishment that goes with being a Major League catcher.
Through all of it – the fickle, one-sided treatment from the fans and media – Lieberthal was able to turn in two All-Star appearances, a gold glove award, and a handful of surgeries all while catching more games than any other player in the team’s 123 season history.
To be fair, all sides involved have received fair compensation. The Phillies got all those games and service, the fans got an above-average catcher for a few seasons, and the press got one of the better quotes and more interesting baseball minds to come through town in a long, long time.
But just to show Lieberthal how much they really like him, the Phillies gave one last final gift to their all-time squattiest catcher.
How about no offer of arbitration?
By not offering Lieberthal – a free agent who made $7.5 million in 2006 – salary arbitration, the 34-year old can sign to play anywhere without that team being saddled with offering a compensatory draft pick back to the Phillies. That opens the door for the Southern California native to ink the reported one-year, $1 million deal to play for his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers as the club’s backup catcher in 2007.
Had the Phillies offered Lieberthal arbitration, the reported deal from the Dodgers likely would have vanished.
How’s that for a parting gift?
The Phillies also bestowed the same kindness on free agent relief pitchers Aaron Fultz, Arthur Rhodes and Rick White; as well as infielder Jose Hernandez. Because all of those players were Type A free agents – meaning teams must give up a first- or second-round pick to sign them had the Phils offered arbitration – they become much more attractive to potential suitors.
Instead they are free and unfettered.
That’s not the case for outfielder David Dellucci, who was offered arbitration by the Phillies before Friday’s midnight deadline.
This is significant because Dellucci had reached a three-year, $11.5 million agreement with the Cleveland Indians earlier in the week. Now, the Phillies will receive the Indians’ second-round pick and a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds if the Tribe and Dellucci finalize the pact.
If the deal falls through, the Phillies will be able to negotiate with Fultz, Rhodes, White, Hernandez and Lieberthal unlike in years past. Under the new collective bargaining agreement ratified last month players can continue to negotiate with their former clubs instead of waiting until May 1.
That doesn’t appear likely, though.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds declined to offer arbitration to Type-A free agent David Weathers, a player whom the Phillies are reported to be interested in adding to their bullpen. Regardless, it appears as if the Phillies were taking a wait-and-see tact with Weathers with general manager Pat Gillick admitting on Thursday that the team had not offered a proposal to the pitcher.
Elsewhere, the San Francisco Giants did not offer arbitration to Barry Bonds, which lead to the controversial slugger to sign with the A’s or Padres.