Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Good, the Bad, and the Crazy

Sources tell me that Phillies GM Pat Gillick appeared along with Jody Mac today on Philly sports talk radio station WPEN. He addressed many interesting (surprising really) points that throw a bit of a wrench in my previous prognostication of what the 2006 roster would be. Don't worry, my feelings aren't hurt by the GM waiting until after I publish my thoughts on the roster to make some comments on players on the bubble that seem to go against much of the prevailing logic on how this team would look. I knew as soon as I put that up, something "big" would happen to screw it all up. Gillick said some things I liked and, as usual, said some things I don't like quite so much.

The Good

Whether this is actually good news or not really depends on how it is interpreted. I'm still on the fence about it personally. Pat Gillick today admitted that "we haven't done much" thus far this offseason. No way can that tidbit alone can be considered good news, but it is refreshing to hear a GM try a little honesty in this time. It's about time. Even still, admitting failures just isn't enough. That's why it was nice to hear Gillick say the team is still exploring various big moves that could greatly improve the team. I realize it is the job of a GM to go on the radio and tell the people things like this, but this new regime seems intent on dealing RF Bobby Abreu for top of the rotation pitching. In other words, I believe Gillick when he says something big is in the works. Things could fall apart, of course, but I think it might be wise to take another look at the possibility that Abreu could be playing in a city other than Philly in '06.

That previous paragraph you just read was all a tease. Some may even call it "filler." It wasn't particularly well-written nor was it very well-thought out as I typed it. It is all true, I wouldn't give you bad information, but I had a tough time trying to make some useful conclusions based off of a couple of Gillick sound bites. On any other day, I'm sure I could have done it. Not today. Why you ask? There is bigger, better news. News that personally shocked me. News that I'm still not convinced is true - I can't tell if I think it isn't true because the news isn't logical or because I'm a cynical Philly sports fan. So much babbling, so little content. Let's do this.

Pat Gillick said in his interview today that newly acquired SP Ryan Franklin was not guaranteed anything (except for his $2.6 million salary which he'll get no matter what, but that is besides the point). Gillick was actually referring to Franklin's place in the Phils starting rotation. He said that the only known starters are Jon Lieber, Brett Myers, and Cory Lidle - 2 rotation spots remain up for grabs. The players Gillick specifically mentioned as contenders for the last two spots were Franklin, Gavin Floyd, Ricardo Rodriguez, Ryan Madson (!), and the biggest surprise of them all...the third player shipped to the Phils in the Jim Thome trade, Daniel Haigwood. In my perfect world, Madson is the fourth starter and Gavin Floyd does enough this spring to win the fifth starter job outright. That would make me happy. It is very interesting that Robinson Tejeda was not mentioned (no Eude Brito for that matter), but Tejeda could very well have slipped the 96 year old Gillick's mind.

The Bad

First off, I don't like the idea of Haigwood in the rotation. Haigwood has excellent minor league numbers and had his best stretch of baseball as a pro while facing down his biggest challenge to date (AA at 21 years old). That says something. I still don't think he should be rushed. I'd start him at AA and then move him along to AAA as the season wears on. Come early 2007, he should be a prime contender for a rotation spot. Then again, much like any of the back of the rotation candidates, if he is ready to pitch in the big leagues now then the Phils should not hesitate to give him a shot. 2006 is about winning now after all. I guess my point is that I don't think he is ready quite yet. The Phillies seem to be a tad obsessed with cramming a lefty into the rotation (how else can you explain Brito being discussed?) and it would be a shame to see them do it at the expense of a nice young pitcher's long-term development.

Second off, I don't like what Gillick had to say about free agent IF Russell Branyan. Gillick said, "We're not looking at Russ at this point. We're looking at someone with a little more versatility than Branyan." I understand the need for versatility, but how many versatile guys that can't play (Abraham Nunez, Tomas Perez) can one team possibly want? Branyan isn't versatile - he can play 3B, 1B, LF, and RF. He doesn't play any of those positions well either. But Russell Branyan does one thing quite well - he hits righthanded pitching. I like him. I'll continue to campaign for him. Unfortunately, I think it may all be for nothing. Can't win 'em all. But, hey, at least we got Ryan Franklin, right?

This isn't so much bad as it is wildly informative. Gillick mentioned two guys who could fill the Urbina (8th inning)/Madson (7th) roles of last year (presumably Madson takes the 8th if he is still in the pen, but late inning relief is an important thing to work out for this team right now either way). Gillick said that LHP Aaron Fultz and RHP Julio Santana were likely candidates to pitch in the back of the bullpen as closer Tom Gordon's primary setup guys. Fultz isn't too big a surprise (even though the thought of a 32 year old guy with but one above average year under his belt pitching in the late innings is troubling to me), but Santana is. Not so much the fact that he is potentially being counted on to pitch in meaningful spots, but the fact that he will pitch in Philadelphia at all. He does have a partially guaranteed contract ($325,000 of his $800,000 is assured), so maybe this shouldn't come as much as a shock. I'd pencil Santana in as a member of the Phillies bullpen in '06 after hearing this. Guess a revised look at the roster is in the works.

One other name was later mentioned as a potential late inning reliever - old friend LHP Rheal Cormier. Cormier is owed $2.5 million in '06, so it is no surprise that he'll be a Phillie this season. It is a surprise to hear him being talked about as a setup man after the way Charlie Manuel refused to pitch him in any meaningful situation late in the season. A potential clash between manager and general manager? I doubt it, but it still should be a situation to keep an eye on.

The Crazy

This is a good one. Definitely crazy. New trade rumor has surfaced in the past few hours and I have to say that I think it has very little validity. I'll post it because it is fun, but I see no way that this happens. No way. Rumor has it that Jason Michaels could be heading to the Red Sox. In return, the Phillies add SP David Wells. There is a problem. David Wells does not want to play for an east coast team - last time I checked the great city of Philadelphia doesn't meet his geographical wants. Don't worry, the rumor goes on to solve this problem. The Phillies would package the newly added Wells with C Mike Lieberthal to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Phillies would receive a starting pitcher from LA to make this deal work - Derek Lowe? Brett Tomko? Jae Seo? The Phillies would then be without a starting catcher...or so it seems. According to the source, the Phils believe enough in Carlos Ruiz that they would be comfortable going into 2006 with a Ruiz/Fasano duo at catcher. So...what is more appealing? A Ruiz/Fasano catching duo along with one of the aforementioned Dodger starting pitchers OR Lieberthal and Michaels staying put as Phillies? Crazy.


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