White Sox right-hander Freddy Garcia is the newest member of the Phillies starting rotation following a surprise deal that sends only RHP Gavin Floyd and LHP Gio Gonzalez to the Chicago White Sox. What's next? It's anyone's guess. [Link]
Beerleaguer: Phillies GM Pat Gillick buys himself a 17-game winner in a Winter Meeting shocker. Garcia is swapped for two minor leaguers, one ticketed for another backward try in AAA, the other probably two years away from the majors. As you've noticed, neither of these players is named Aaron Rowand.
Gillick is making it clear: He's ready to go toe-to-toe with the division champs, as word spreads that the Mets are nearing a deal for Oakland right-hander Rich Harden, in addition to their ongoing pursuit of free agent prize Barry Zito. That's why Garcia is in, and Jon Lieber will be moved to Milwaukee or some other hole. The Phillies are sitting on a great looking rotation, and still hold a big chip in Rowand, who's coveted by several teams. Very odd trade for Chicago; they get nothing to improve their 90-win team for next season after falling just short of the playoffs.
It's anyone's guess why someone would grouse about the loss of Gio Gonzalez when the best shot to win has to be right now. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Brett Myers are under contract and in their prime, right as the city can be seized from the floundering Eagles.
Gonzalez is still a mystery to everyone. The 21-year-old left-hander came over from Chicago in the Jim Thome trade and is rated as one of the 10-best left-handers in the minors by Baseball America. Pitching last season in Double-A Reading, he hit a speedbump, going 7-12 with a 4.66 ERA. Scouts issued mixed marks, including concerns about makeup and maturity. There's plenty of time to fix all that.
However, all the experts in the world, including special instructor Johnny Podres, haven't been able to fix Gavin Floyd. The soon-to-be 24-year-old former No. 1 pick and Baseball America cover boy was a disappointment, but gets a fresh start with noted coddler Ozzie Guillen (cough). Floyd finishes his Phillies career 7-5 with a 6.96 ERA in 19 starts. He made his major league debut in 2004 and has struggled to get out of AAA ever since. He was given an extended audition at the beginning of 2006 before seeing his ERA climb over 7. He last saw action in the Arizona Fall League, where he may have set a record for having the most big-league experience of any AFL player in league history.
As for Garcia, he has a chance to become a dominant starter in the National League, and gives the Phillies a playoff-tested starter. In eight seasons, the 30-year-old right-hander is 116-71 with a career 4.01 ERA, in addition to going 5-2 with a 3.11 ERA in nine postseason starts. Last season, he rated as the 10th best starting pitcher in the AL, according to Hardball Times Win Shares, which basically means you jump on him if Jon Lieber is the alternative. However, his 2006 ERA +, which measures park factors, issues a less than sterling 102, only slightly above league average. He's a true innings-eater, and not in the Ryan Franklin sense, either. Garcia will help keep the bullpen innings in check.
The residual effect is the added leverage to fill other holes. The Phils have six starters in a pitching-starved market. Rowand is a wanted man. Lieber is drawing interest from other clubs; the Milwaukee deal should be killed.
Final thoughts: That strange sensation you're feeling might be something you've rarely experienced: leverage, weight, clout, the ability to think big instead of small. Stepping outside the box for a moment, you know Gillick wants that bat, don't you? A big bat. Just out of curiosity: What would Jon Lieber and Pat Burrell get them? How about Brett Myers and Burrell?