With the non-waiver trade deadline less than a week and a half away, expect the Phillies’ fire sale to occur toward the end of their 11-game homestand, which also happens to be deadline day.
Radio host Howard Eskin said yesterday that a source in the Phillies front office has indicated their intention to sell. The Phils are 5.5 games back of Cincinnati for the NL Wild Card, but that number isn’t the issue. The critical number is 8, the number of teams standing between the Phils and the Wild Card. The odds are simply too high for all of those teams to finish the second half below the pitching-poor Phils.
The hottest embers of the fire sale will likely fall at the 11th hour of this homestand, the longest remaining home swing of the season. The reasons: The Phillies wish to show the public they still have faith in winning. Obviously from a business standpoint, it is their intention to get as many people in the seats before they waive the white flag. This includes two businessperson specials that occur four days apart, in addition to two, huge promotions next week, including a PECO Energy Aaron Rowand jersey night and American Red Cross Ryan Howard bobble head night.
That doesn’t mean a few items won’t trickle off the shelf over the next 11 days. Relief pitchers like Rheal Cormier, Aaron Fultz, Arthur Rhodes, Ryan Franklin and Rick White aren't likely to make or break a World Series, but they could help a contender that’s thin in middle relief, particularly teams without situational left-handers, such as San Diego. It would take two of these players to even sniff a mid-level prospect.
Jon Lieber will make two more starts before the deadline. Lieber could stabilize the bottom of a rotation, but is set to make $7.5 million in base salary next season. As Eskin said yesterday, pitchers like Lieber "fall out of trees." It’s true. There are plenty of No. 3 pitchers to go around, and calling Lieber a No. 3 is probably generous.
To certain teams, the more attractive pitcher may be Cory Lidle, who becomes a free agent after the season. Lidle has been the more consistent of the two, usually going 6 innings and allowing 3 runs. Lidle has also been the better ground ball pitcher.
Lieber and Lidle should draw interest from two separate types of teams. In Lieber’s case, he could be attractive to a contending club that can afford to add the contract. A team like the Giants, for example, are shedding close to $50 million in salary next season, including Jason Schmidt if he isn’t resigned. On the other hand, Lidle could be attractive to a team like Boston or St. Louis, which has some young pitching in the pipeline and only needs a stopgap to take them through 2006.
The rewards will be modest. Lieber could fetch a decent prospect, and Lidle would return something less than that.
As for the latest trade rumors:
--- Tom Gordon is on the White Sox’s radar, according to Baseball Tonight analyst John Kruk. The deal is said to include promising starter Brandon McCarthy. This would seem to be an excellent deal for the Phils, which is why it probably has no basis in reality.
--- According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the Phillies and Mets are still talking shop about Bobby Abreu. This time, the package would be topped by Mets' marquee outfield prospect Lastings Milledge.
As discussed in yesterday’s thread, getting the Mets involved in a bidding war for Bobby is a great thing. The Mets are going for broke this season, and should. Ideally you don't want to make a division rival better, but when a team starts getting a name like Milledge involved, the next thing you know, Boston starts throwing out pitcher John Lester, the Yankees start mentioning Philip Hughes, and maybe the Tigers, who should also go for it, give you something better than pitcher Zach Miner. Maybe they send you lights-out pitching prospect Huberto Sanchez.
For all the hype surrounding Bobby Abreu, the flip side are the marquee prospects teams like the Phils should be asking about. My list would include Sanchez, Milledge, Hughes, Anthony Reyes of St. Louis, and a third baseman via a three-way deal, someone like Ian Stewart from Colorado, or one of Kansas City's corners - either Alex Gordon or Billy Butler.
Sal Fasano had a last-minute assignment change yesterday and caught seven innings for Reading. Fasano went 0-3 and has one hit during his rehab assignment.