According to a story on MLB.com, the Philadelphia Daily News reported Monday that the Phillies have offered a five-year, $73 million contract to outfielder Alfonso Soriano. He is believed to be asking for a seven-year, $114 deal.
Six hours spent painting a master bathroom allowed plenty of time for quiet Phillies reflection yesterday. While Sunday’s IronPig post stood idle, trades and free agent signings were knocked about in pastel blue isolation. Two conclusions were made. First, I’m a decent painter. Second, Phillies GM Pat Gillick is facing a tougher challenge than most of us realize.
Within reason, meaning, what’s reasonably expected considering the Phillies track record and estimated $90-$94 million budget, there are enough options available through free agency or via trade to get them over the post-season hump. That's a fact.
In his first year on the job, Gillick earned a one-year grace period from his constituents, time to dissolve bad contracts and regain breathing room. Now that he has it, what will he do with it? Should he lock in with Alfonso Soriano, or save the flexibility for a rainy day, specifically, trade deadline day, or arbitration day?
I'm of two minds on a several issues like that, ranging from Pat Burrell, to Jon Lieber, to Wes Helms. On one hand, they shouldn’t give Burrell away for nothing. On the other hand, the "40 good swings" argument was deadly accurate. Is Lieber an overweight, overpriced mediocrity, or a servicable one-year answer to fill the rotation? And if Helms could platoon with Abraham Nunez at third, would he and Burrell offer enough protection for Ryan Howard against left-handed pitching, with Chase Utley batting behind him against right-handers?
It’s early, but the market for outfielder Alfonso Soriano appears to be a little overrated. The Phillies are clearly the most aggressive pursuers. The team has reportedly made a preliminary offer, believed to be five years, $73 million.
Conflicting reports say he’s seeking a West Coast, warm-weather climate. Others, including WIP’s Howard Eskin, says Soriano absolutely wants to come to here.
When in doubt, follow the money trail, which may well lead to Philly. Ask yourself which teams can afford Soriano that haven’t already targeted top-shelf pitching first. The Mets will probably bid on Barry Zito and can’t afford another big-ticket bat. Boston made a $42 million bid just to have coffee with Daisuke Matsuzaka’s agent. And reports say San Diego’s interest in Soriano is overblown.
Frankly, after Detroit acquired Gary Sheffield, and the Yankees got Bobby Abreu last season, high-ticket outfield is not in great demand from teams that need it. Players like Carlos Lee, J.D. Drew and Vernon Wells – that next tier after Soriano – would probably make better sense for teams like the Padres, Orioles or Giants.
Only a handful of players have signed on the dotted line, but several options have already been taken out of play, including third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who resigned with the Cubs Sunday. A-Ram might have made the most practical sense offensively, but there were few indications the Phillies had any interest at all. Maybe it was assumed he’d stay in Chicago all along.
That leaves Soriano, the lone player to whom they’ve shown total dedication. Even Randy Wolf, to whom they’ve shown great loyalty over the years, reportedly has his bags packed.
As the roster stands, they are close, but not close enough. If they decide to pay big for Soriano, it shows they are interested in matching the Mets' bats in the NL East. But they need pitching, specifically, relief pitching, and that might be a better, more logical strategy to overtake the division. (Has anyone heard anything on Tom Gordon's health? Isn't this the most critical situation of them all?)
Of all the dilemmas the Phillies face, I’m most torn about Soriano. Why would Gillick, a GM who commands great respect, express such fanatical devotion to him? News of his preliminary offer has proven more than one report true: the Phillies are hot for Soriano, whether Burrell is here or not.
Gillick must see it ... and if my six hours in pastel-blue seclusion revealed anything, it's that part of me sees it, too.