Word on the street is that rubber-armed ex-Phillie Kyle Lohse has backed off his contract demands for the 2008 season. Actually, Lohse probably didn't do anything at all. My guess is that his uber-agent Scott Boras saw that there were no teams out there willing to offer the right-hander $10-12 million per season for the next half decade and decided to hold the human yard sale of sorts.
So if you own a Major League Baseball team and have an extra $4-to-10 million sitting around and need a right-handed starter, give Boras a call. It sounds like he will be able to help you out.
Boras shouldn't sit around to wait for a call from one of the Phillies' GMs, however. At least, it seems, he shouldn't wait for the phone to ring if his price for his client Lohse remains in the $4-to-10 million range for a season of pitching. After all, we're three weeks into spring training already and teams are starting to get things set up for when they head north at the end of the month. Yep, if Lohse wants to pitch this season he should call Crazy Eddie to represent him instead of Boras.
Everything must go!
At least that's the way it looks from assistant GM Mike Arbuckle's POV.
"I will say at those numbers we're probably not interested," Arbuckletold The Courier Post. "Let me change that. At those numbers, I know we're not interested."
Last season Lohse made $4.2 million, which isn't too bad for a remarkably average pitcher - statistically speaking. That's not to say the guy isn't without his intangibles, namely, his ability to start and relieve and not complain. Guys like that are hard not to like. But Lohse went 9-12 last season with a 4.62 ERA that was ever-so slightly below the league average. Plus, he's never had a season where he didn't allow more than a hit per inning.
So, should the Phillies shell out $4-to-10 million for one season of average pitching from a right-hander?
Who knows, maybe Kris Benson will come around.
If Lohse isn't your team's cup of tea, there are a handful of free agent pitchers out there that still haven't landed with a team. Maybe they're just waiting for spring training to end? Whatever the reason, Jeff Weaver, the post-season hero for the Cardinals during their World Series run in 2006 is available. He is, of course, a nine-year veteran, former first-round pick and has been to the playoffs with three different teams... that's not so bad is it?
Well, there is the matter of Weaver's 6.20 ERA for Seattle last season. That's a 6.20 ERA in Seattle's pitcher-friendly ballpark, no less. Make that a 6.20 ERA AND 11.66 hits per nine innings.
Speaking of yikes, portly old port-sider David Wells is available, too. Though Wells wasn't that bad for the Padres and Dodgers last season, or the Padres and Red Sox the season before that, Wells turns 45 in May. As it stands now, the Phillies have already cornered the market on 45-year-old lefties.
Clearly the Phillies don't need any help with their high-powered offense, but if they did there are some names out there that are just as intriguing as the pitchers. For instance, one hitter out there has 762 career homers and nearly 2,000 RBIs in 22 seasons, but then he also has been indicted by a grand jury for perjury and might have to spend the pennant race in the slammer.
A guy like that might not be worth the risk.
Another guy who might not be worth the risk either is local boy done good, Mike Piazza. Though he has slugged more homers than any catcher in the history of the game and owns a .308 lifetime batting average in 16 seasons, Piazza, at 39, is probably finished.
Is Ryan Klesko finished? Not yet 37 and with just 122 games played over the past two seasons, Klesko is coming off shoulder surgery. However, the 16-year vet has always been a decent hitter and seems as if he could do pretty well for himself and a ballclub as a part-time first baseman and left-handed bat off the bench. At this stage of his career, Klesko doesn't have any power, but it's hard not to like guys that can hit and get on base.
But if only he had some power and played third base...
Mike Lieberthal has definitely received more than his fair share of gifts from the Phillies during his 13 seasons in the big leagues. There’s the estimated $53 million is salary, as well as all of the other perks that baseball players have come to expect.
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.
Pat Gillick has not been very shy about expressing his disdain for the current crop of free agents on the market. Actually, Gillick was a bit underwhelmed by his choices last year, too, when he said his priority was to find a top-of-the-rotation starter for the Phillies.
“Sometimes we can get everything we want, but sometimes nothing materializes,” the Phils’ GM said.
Nonetheless, another year has passed and Gillick and the Phillies still have not made any changes at the top of the rotation. Jon Lieber, Brett Myers, Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer hold down the same spots as they did at the end of the 2006 season. The only difference is that Adam Eaton, the club’s first-round draft pick in 1996, will finally start a season in the Phillies’ rotation.
Of course there was a decade of climbing through the minors, a trade to San Diego and then another to Texas before finally getting his chance to pitch for the Phillies, yet Eaton is finally here after the official announcement of his new deal with the team that drafted him.
Eaton, still just 29 years old, is guaranteed $24.5 million over the next three seasons, the team announced on Thursday afternoon. The oft-injured right-hander joins the Phillies after starting just 13 games for the Rangers in 2006 after undergoing surgery on the middle finger of his pitching hand last April. In that Baker’s dozen of starts, Eaton went 7-4 with a 5.12 ERA, but has gone 18-9 over the past two years and 37 starts.
Eaton also had elbow surgery in July of 2001 that kept him off the field until September of 2002. Meanwhile, Eaton missed a few starts in 2005 with a strained middle finger on is right hand before having surgery on it in April of 2006. In all, Eaton has been on the disabled list six times during his career.
Regardless, the Phillies just committed three seasons and $24.5 million to a pitcher who has never had an ERA lower than 4.08 or thrown 200 innings in any of his seven Major League seasons. In fact, Eaton has made more than 30 starts just twice.
“We’re very happy to have Adam in the fold,” Gillick said in a statement. “He stabilizes our rotation and will complement the rest of our staff nicely.”
So unless there is an unforeseen trade or signing, the Phillies rotation for 2007 is set. That, however, doesn’t mean Gillick doesn’t have some work to do before the team heads to Clearwater in mid February. Or even the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla. next week.
“We’ll have to wait and see. We have a few lines out there trying to acquire what we need,” Gillick offered during a conference call on Thursday evening. We want to go out fishing and we have a few proposals out there. We’re looking for some bullpen help and a hitter.”
The Phillies’ needs certainly do not need to be decoded. With five starters with Major League experience, four outfielders and five infielders, the Phillies are set in those aspects. The bullpen, on the other hand, is incomplete and Gillick says he wouldn’t mind bolstering the team’s catching (Mike Piazza?) in addition to acquiring that much-talked about hitter (Mike Piazza?).
Let's make a deal? But outside of landing Eaton and part-time third baseman Wes Helms, Gillick has whiffed as if he were Pat Burrell with two on and two outs. The team was interested in 40-40 man Alfonso Soriano until the Cubs came in and offered him an eight-year deal that made him the second-richest Chicagoan behind Oprah.
With Soriano gone, the team was rumored to be one of a handful of teams in the mix for Carlos Lee until he decided to go to Houston for six years and $100 million. After that news dropped, Gillick claimed the Phils weren’t so involved in bidding for Lee despite the fact that the slugger was as steady performer during his career. Sure, there are/were fair concerns over Lee’s fitness and attitude, but if Gillick and the gang are looking for protection for MVP Ryan Howard as they say they are, the new Astro would have fit in nicely in Philadelphia.
But for six years and $100 million?
Secretly, or maybe not so secretly, Gillick and the Phillies brass must have breathed a sigh of relief that Lee signed such an obnoxious deal with the Astros. While publicly downplaying the market, Gillick has a few built-in excuses and the luxury of being sane (and right) for not shelling out the mega years and bucks for Soriano and Lee. After all, Burrell already has one of those crazy deals.
And as far as trading that crazy deal to another team… well, good luck.
“We don’t have a lot to trade,” Gillick said. “We have the four outfielders (Burrell, Aaron Rowand, Shane Victorino and Jeff Conine), and the five infielders (Howard, Helms, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Abraham Nunez). We need to add. We don’t have the surplus to trade.”
Besides, published reports indicate that Burrell will only waive his no-trade clause to go to the Yankees, Red Sox or a west-coast club.
So there’s another strike. Mix in the rescinded multi-year offer to reliever Joe Borowski over reported arm trouble revealed in a team physical and Gillick is fouling off some tough ones.
“I’m not really sure with what’s going on out there is everyone is looking for the same commodity,” Gillick said. “Everyone is looking for a starter. Unless someone can trade for a reliever for a starter or a starter for a reliever I can’t see a lot of action going on. If you have some pitching you don’t want to give it up.”
That goes for the reserves in the minor leagues, too. Gillick said the team would be reluctant to deal away a prospect like Gio Gonzalez for a short-term fix.
At the same time, Gillick says one of those proposals the team has dangled out there has not been offered to former Reds closer David Weathers.
Needless to say, there’s work to do.
“We’re optimistic, but I can’t make any assurances or commitments that [anything is] going to happen,” Gillick said.
But at least for now, Gillick and the Phillies can be satisfied that some of holiday shopping is taken care of with Eaton’s arrival. Plus, with the re-acquisition of the team’s 1999 Paul Owens Award winner, the Phillies staff might not have changed at the top but it’s better than it was when 2006 began.
“I don’t look at the other teams in the division or the league, but from where we were from the beginning of the ’06 season we have five starters who have [Major League] experience. We have starters with experience,” Gillick said. “We didn’t have that last year.
“From the quality standpoint we have a better rotation that we had at the beginning of last year. What we have to do is work on the bullpen.”
Note: This post was written before reports indicated that the Phillies signed Wes Helms to a two-year deal.
First off, I took a few days off to run another marathon, rest and eat some food that normal people like – pizza and ice cream instead of tofu, salmon and rice – and now I’m more worn out than I was before.
Nonetheless, my goal remains to squeeze through that ever-tightening window to run a respectable marathon just as the Phillies hope to make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. In that regard, I’ll go out on a limb here and say the Phillies will play baseball in October of 2007.
Wait… shouldn’t we wait for all of the hot-stove stuff to heat up? Don’t the Phillies have a few holes they need to fill?
No and yes.
I’ll explain why I believe the Phillies will make the playoffs in detail between now and next October – kind of like a serialization – so just keep checking back and delving through these ramblings. As for the needy stuff, let’s rate them in order of necessity:
Get another starter (or two)
Address Pat Burrell situation
Soriano, of course, is the biggest name on the market so it’s only natural that most of the media attention is focused on him. Yet whether or not the Phillies get Soriano won’t make or break the off-season. Why? Well, for starters the Phillies already score more runs than any other team. What, is it that important that the Phils really, really out-score every other team?
Secondly, Soriano’s so-called task would be to “protect” Ryan Howard. As I’ve written here so many times in the past, Howard hit 58 home runs and struck out 181 times – it sounds like he’s doing a pretty good job protecting himself.
Perhaps if he just struck out 150 times instead of 181, maybe he would have hit a few more homers and raised his average a few points. Would that have made a difference in the end? Who knows… there are too many other variables that transcend mere statistics.
This ain’t Strat-O-Matic, folks. Besides, I was always an APBA guy.
Besides, the Phillies traded away Bobby Abreu apparently in order to create some financial flexibility, yet they are willing to give more money and years to Soriano? Why does that make sense?
Well, Soriano is right-handed, hits for more power and hasn’t raised the hackles of certain segments of the fandom because they haven’t ever seen him play and only know him as a 40-40 guy who just so happens to be the biggest name on the market.
What better reason is there to sign a guy than that?
Plus, if the Phillies are unable to sign Soriano they still have Pat Burrell. Yes, Burrell has fallen out of favor in Philadelphia and had a disappointing season despite some statistics that don’t look all that bad. Like Howard and all of those strikeouts, just think if Burrell can hit .225 with runners in scoring position and two outs instead of .167.
Pat Gillick and the Phillies are like an airplane loaded with passengers but still sitting at the gate. Everything has been checked and double-checked, everyone’s seatbelt is fastened and luggage is safely stowed in the overhead compartment.
All Gillick needs to is the OK from the control tower and he’s set for take off.
When the free-agency period begins on Nov. 12, Gillick and the Phillies are expected to woo Washington Nationals’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano, likely the biggest name on the winter market. On the strength of his 40-40 season in 2006 (46 homers and 41 stolen bases), the Phillies are said to be prepared to offer Soriano $80 million over five seasons, and then plunk him down in the middle of the batting order between lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. The thought is that Soriano can both provide protection for the sluggers as well as fortify a lineup that has scored more runs than any National League team over the past two seasons.
“We could use some depth in the middle of the order,” Gillick said.
Even without Soriano the Phillies are formidable offensively. Howard, one of the top two MVP candidates on the strength of his 58-homer season in 2006, is the anchor of the murderer’s row that featured four players that swatted at least 25 homers and drove in 83 runs. Besides that, Gillick and manager Charlie Manuel are both very high on Shane Victorino, a young outfielder who appeared in 153 games in many roles last season.
Offense? Yeah, the Phillies have that.
So why do they feel the need to make it better with Soriano instead of pursuing a starter to fill out the rotation or a set-up man for closer Tom Gordon? After all, Manuel told said that he would prefer to have a backend reliever who has experience as a closer to fill out the bullpen. That’s where free agents Joe Borowski and David Weathers enter the picture. According to published reports and sources, the Phillies have eyed the relievers as possible set-up men for 2007.
On top of that, Gillick said that he wants to re-sign free agent starter Randy Wolf to round out the rotation that features lefties Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer, as well as Jon Lieber and Brett Myers. Gillick says he’s hopeful that the Phillies can work out a deal with Wolf.
“Hopeful, but not optimistic,” the GM said.
“This is the first opportunity he’s ever had for free agency so I think he wants to kick the tires and see if the grass is greener.”
The grass may be greener, but for how long? The mood around the media luncheon in Citizen Bank Park’s Hall of Fame Club overlooking the pastoral and eerily quiet ball diamond was that the Phillies weren’t simply going to make bids for players, cross their fingers and hope they get their man. Nope, Gillick and the gang emitted an aura that they were in control of the situation and were confident that they will add the bat into the middle of the lineup, get that fifth starter, and find a suitable set-up man or two to anchor the bullpen.
Really? The Phillies? Didn’t they once describe themselves as a small-market team not so long ago?
“I think our ownership and CEO are pretty practical. Anything we bring to them that makes sense, not only for the short term, but the long term, I don't think they'll be reluctant to make the move,” Gillick said. “But it has to make sense. If you have to make a commitment you have to figure that player is going to figure for you for whatever time you're obligated. If you have to give somebody four years and you only get three years, that's one thing. But if you give somebody four years and you only get one, that's a different story.”
So the hot-stove is heating up for the Phillies. Signing Soriano should be a piece of cake, right? Five years without a no-trade clause should do it?
“You can't ever be sure,” Gillick said. “But when you make these decisions, are you going to be in love with this guy a year from now as much as you're in love with him right now? That's a decision you're going to have to make. I don't know a lot of people that I want to be in love with for five years.”
Like Pat Burrell for instance. Gillick didn’t come right out and say that he was trying to find a suitable deal for the maligned left fielder and the Phillies this winter, but he didn’t deny it either. The same goes for Manuel who when asked about Burrell had a resigned tenor of someone who knew something was coming, but didn’t want to come right out and say it.
“What hurt Pat the most was that when we got to the seventh or eighth inning we had to get him out of the game,” Manuel said without the best poker face. “If he didn’t have the foot issues he might have had a season like he did two years ago.
“I haven't ruled out the fact that he's still on our club. I've always stood with Pat. He lost some at-bats [because of his foot].”
But Burrell holds all of the cards – at least all of the good ones. He also might hold the Phillies winter progress – or lack therof – in his hands. Sure, the Phillies seem to forging ahead as if they can sign all of the players they want and keep Burrell if he doesn’t agree to be moved, but the reality is the left fielder needs to go if the team is going to fulfill their off-season objectives.
Where or when that occurs is anyone’s guess.
More pitching If the Phillies are not able to re-sign Wolf, Gillick says the fifth starter will likely come from outside the organization.
“We've got to get another starter, and I don't see that starter coming out of our organization. It'll have to come from outside,” Gillick said. “We've got some things to attend to from the starting standpoint and from the bullpen standpoint.”
Nonetheless, Gillick says he is much happier with the state of the rotation now than he was last year.
“This year we’ll open with Hamels and Moyer instead of (Gavin) Floyd and (Ryan Madson),” he said.
Manuel agrees with the GM noting that the rotation at the end of the season was the “best we’ve had in two years.”
Other luncheon notes If the season were to end today, Ken Mandel's fantasy football team would be in the playoffs. This is despite the fact that Phillies.com writer's club has the least amount of points in the scribes football league.
On the outside and looking in is yours truly, who is running away with the points title but is just 4-4-1.
"We have to do better and I'll take full responsibility," I said in a release issued by the team.
A few writers were steamed that the availability with Charlie Manuel was held up by a TV reporter who wanted to talk to the manager about professional wrestling. Never mind the fact that the channel usually devotes a little less than 180 seconds to sports coverage every night.
Or that no one watches that channel.
Nevertheless, I'd like to know the skipper's thoughts on the Junkyard Dog or Jimmy "Super Fly" Snuka. If the segment gets on YouTube, please send me the link.