Speculating on the intentions of new GM Pat Gillick and the Phillies has been as intriguing as the hot stove itself.
The annual winter meetings have wrapped up without the Phillies making a significant deal. Around the league, a boatload of rapid-fire small trades and signings have occurred, including small pike Jose Mesa heading for the Rocky Mountains, and trophy bass Alfonso Soriano coming to Washington for a handful of chum.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have been all talk, no action, making the rounds and spreading word that no player is off the table. Assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr., interviewed this morning on WIP radio, said he hasn’t slept for days, working non-stop on deals to improve the club.
Amaro Jr. believes a significant trade could still happen in the next week or two, and says a number of clubs have been trying to match up on two, three or four-way deals. He addressed the Bobby Abreu situation, saying they’ve been in contact with his agents. Abreu is considered the Phillies best chance to net a top pitcher in a trade.
It’s no secret the Phillies need pitching, and though Amaro Jr. didn’t address this situation specifically, it’s clear the Phils brass and others have realized free agency is never a good option this or any season.
Besides the deep-pocketed Mets, there isn’t a team that improved their chances all that much this way, including the Blue Jays, who have committed about $100 million to two free agent pitchers. For all that spending, there’s no guarantee Toronto is going anywhere but third in their division.
So far, the Phillies have backed off from spending ridiculous money on free agents. The X-factor of course is free agents must be willing to play in Philadelphia. This is rarely the case. It’s mostly the opposite.
One senses Gillick would rather put an end the Phils' dependency on free agency once and for all, a wise decision for the long haul. All it’s done for the Phillies is lead them down a dark tunnel to nowhere. They came in much lower than the Mets on Billy Wagner, and didn't make offers to any of their other free agents.
In addition, reports in both the Daily News and Inquirer yesterday said the Phils may settle for moving Ryan Madson to the starting rotation, where he hasn’t seen regular time since the minor leagues. The Phils believe he will benefit from having regular work instead of frequent work out of the pen, where he was overused and was consequently burnt by September.
Whether or not Madson works out in this new capacity, the benefit is the team is solving a problem internally. As a fan, I am willing to roll with the punches if this is Gillick’s strategy. Gillick is trying to fix a dirty mess created long before his tenure, and the idea of giving players like Shane Vicorino or Carlos Ruiz a shot is somewhat appealing.
Today, the Phillies are no closer to the playoffs than they were last season; maybe they’re even further from it. However, this is still the same NL East that was a toss-up for much of the 2005 season. Albeit Wagner and Urbina-less, this is the same club that finished two Tim Worrell blown saves from the NL Wild Card.
Yes, the question marks are many, but no more than a middle-of-the-pack White Sox team faced last winter.