November 15, 2004

A change of strategy

If some of the top-tier free agents start dropping off the board without the Phillies landing a No. 1 starter, they should move aggressively toward trading at least one of their veterans for prospects.

Nearly every team has an identical shopping list this winter. Starting pitching tops most lists, with many others are in search of an additional outfielder, the Phillies among them.

Adding to the congestion are a handful of clubs who believe they are two or three players away from competing for a championship. Sound familiar? Among them, the Orioles have finally shed themselves of lame-duck contracts and have money to spend, and Seattle has recently stepped into the picture by courting RHP Carl Pavano.

Nothing of major significance has happened yet. The Phillies were one of the first teams to make waves last winter by dealing for the best closer on the market, Billy Wagner. I'm waiting for a sleeper team to make the first move, like Baltimore spending a ton for Pedro Martinez. Don’t forget that the Red Sox and Yankees will get at least one pitcher, and by that subtraction, the true No. 1’s are all but exhausted from the free agent pool.

The overwhelming demand for free agent pitching overshadows an incredible sellers’ market for players under contract, as long as teams are willing to eat a portion of it.

Not to throw in the towel, but if the Phillies were interested this is the right time to rebuild. Already, a few things scare me about their offseason approach. The players that have been targeted aren't good enough to take this team into September and October. And as always, a player or two could swing the balance in the NL East toward the Braves, Mets, Marlins or Phillies. I also believe the best teams in the NL are in the Central, and fully expect the Cardinals, Astros and Cubs to compete again next year. And in the West, the Dodgers are in position to control their own destiny through free agency. Simply put, too many teams are in better shape than Philadelphia.

Another scary situation is the negligence of the farm system could manifest this season. Top prospects Gavin Floyd and Ryan Howard have now broken into the majors, and Cole Hamels will likely face a serious test at AA Reading in 2005. This will be the season the Phillies find out what they're made of, and if they fail, there’s literally nothing to fall back on. Just one look at Scranton says everything.

The trick may be to zero in on the 2004 Phillies of this year. Baltimore, with attendance down, needs a winner to compete with Boston and New York, and to fill emptying seats. They need an outfielder, and they also have pitching prospects and a supply of backup catchers. I'd be comfortable dealing Pat Burrell, eating contract and playing Michaels more, as long as they get young pitching and a major-league-ready catcher in return.


At 2:56 PM, Blogger Tom Goodman said...

I, too, have been in favor of trading Burrell or at the least testing his market value. And I've said so numerous times. The problem, as other bloggers have pointed out, is how do you replace his 20 - 30 home runs and 75 - 90 rbi's? And by trading him the Phils will be forced to find not only a left fielder but a centerfielder as well?

At 3:02 PM, Blogger el123chico said...

i agree that you may be raising the white flag a little too soon by calling for a burrell trade. sadly, i think that we're going to have to live with the same basic phils team as last year and hope that they can deliver a little better on their promise of a postseason. i actually would be happy with them adding a pitcher (ahem, derek lowe) and an outfielder (steve finley) and then just playing the games.

At 3:15 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

That's a good question, and I don't believe the Phillies would be able to replace his production.

There are some bargain free agents with good production from only one side of the plate, like David Delluci from Texas, who made about $1 million last season. That said, he's a fourth outfielder at best.

I'd still deal Burrell as a sacrifice for the future. I'd wait on it though, until free agent pitching shakes down. If they get a No. 1, then stand pat. If they don't, it's time to deal.


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