The Phillies have reportedly come close to matching Billy Wagner’s demand for a guaranteed three-year deal around $9-10 million a season.
Though he hasn’t entertained offers from other clubs, another potential long-term, locked-in contract, like the one being offered, is exactly what the Phils don’t need, especially involving a 34-year-old, 5-9 fireballer with a history of injuries, at a position where it often pays to be creative.
Unless there’s an endless mound of cash to afford all the other parts needed to build and maintain a champion - like starting pitching - the Phils will once again hold property rights to the best closer in the National League sitting at home watching the playoffs on his flat screen.
The GM-less Phils are wise in keeping the lines of communication open, but foolish in taking the bait on a contract through 2008 layered in trade protection and incentives. Keep in mind that a no-trade clause could prevent the Phils from ever shedding Jim Thome and the $42 million remaining on his contract.
While it’s likely he’ll receive comparable offers from teams that can afford the luxury, make no mistake: the Phils are one of few teams that can actually afford him.
I see the winter unfolding with Wagner following the money trail toward security for himself and his family, and road that could lead back to Citizen’s Bank Park.
I'm not sure what bothers me most: three more years of Wagner, or the way the process is being handled. This approach lacks style and grace. Like always, the Phils are tap dancing with two left feet, this time with a CEO playing the part of general manager with no idea what it takes to waltz out a championship team.
It's bad enough the previous general manager gambled by keeping Wagner at the deadline instead of cashing in to get a young catcher and third baseman to fortify the future.
Forget hindsight on that one. How about the foresight this site and many others saw - a team that wasn't good enough to make the post-season, and didn't. I loath looking at it that way – in cold, hard black and white. But it was clearly an all or nothing gamble, and the Phils lost.
I wonder what the odds are of Wagner being a lights-out closer in 2008. Personally, I take the odds of Vicente Padilla becoming a dominant closer over the odds of Wagner still being an effective, healthy closer in three years, maybe even in two years.
It’s very troubling. Here they are at the crossroads, and they’ve already veered off course. Either lock in, or get nothing but a comp draft choice.
Then again, that’s the way the entire organization is built – on security, loyalty -- surrendering an exit strategy should they fail.