When it comes to writing a report card for Phillies GM Pat Gillick, the measure of a man is the way he assembles a bench.
Hypothetical question: If the Phillies win it all, how much credit can be placed at the feet of GM Pat Gillick? Many of the key pieces were already in place before Nov. 2005. To Gillick's credit, locking down three quality starters and extending another is no small feat in this market. But neither is the development of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Brett Myers and Cole Hamels, which had nothing to do with him.
Let's go back to the beginning. Gillick’s first order of business was to ship Jim Thome to Chicago, clearing room for Howard while acquiring center fielder Aaron Rowand. Most agreed it was the right call, and of course, it was. But then came a series of small misfires, which added together, became a significant problem: Alex Gonzalez; Sal Fasano; Julio Santana; Vicente Padilla traded for Ricardo Rodriguez; Ryan Franklin. Many of them had standing ties to Gillick. It wasn’t until late spring when Gillick finally acquired a worthwhile piece in David Dellucci. Along with Tom Gordon and Jamie Moyer, Dellucci represents the best, proven acquisition of the Gillick era. Freddy Garcia, Adam Eaton and other recent additions remain to be seen, along with the remaining two years of Gordon’s contract and Moyer's extension.
Bench is much more important in the National League, a lesson Gillick found out the hard way. The reservists were a major reason for the team’s first four months of futility. Gonzalez was so bad, he retired, and Fasano was the worst possible solution for backing up Mike Lieberthal’s broken body. Abraham Nunez couldn’t get his batting average above .140 until he became an everyday player. As a pinch hitter, he was embarrassing.
Bench is one area where Gillick has had some flexibility, especially on a team with as little minor league push as the Phillies. Usually, fourth and fifth outfielders become available with low price tags, much more than, say, bullpen, where the pickins were even worse than in 2006.
This year, Gillick shopped at the clearence rack. Jayson Werth was non-tendered by the Dodgers after missing all of last season with a wrist injury. Versatile reservist Greg Dobbs was claimed off waivers. There’s a chance both of these players could work, but there’s an equal chance any number of non-roster invitees around baseball could perform better. Either way, Werth and Dobbs are staring at wide-open opportunities.
In addition to Dobbs, Randall Simon, Karim Garcia and Chris Coste are the names mentioned most for the two openings; Werth is a lock if healthy. Simon and Garcia must be seen to believe, as will Coste's ability to play third base and outfield. Toolsy outfielder Michael Bourn may need more seasoning in Ottawa, but not much. His path to the majors rests on Pat Burrell’s foot and Jayson Werth’s wrist, which is to say, Bourn will arrive by mid-season, and slide into a significant role. Mark my words.
-- Dobbs was the subject of an AP article that ran over the weekend. Here’s the link, and a highlight:
"While he is a contact hitter, Dobbs doesn't possess much power or base-stealing ability. That's why his ticket to the majors must be punched as a player who can play multiple positions (he can play both corner infield and outfield spots) and come off the bench late in games and make solid contact.
"Phillies general manager Pat Gillick believes Dobbs can do those things. Gillick was the G.M. in Seattle when Dobbs was signed in 2001, so when he saw Dobbs on the waiver wire, he took action.
" ‘I view him more as an N.L. player than an A.L. player because he can adequately play four positions," Gillick said. "I'm sure when he started his career he wanted to be a regular in the American League. But when it becomes apparent that it isn't meant to be, then this situation becomes more attractive here.’ "