Aaron Rowand is among the list of players expected to receive sizeable offers from other clubs as the free agent signing period begins tomorrow.
Exclusive free agent negotiating rights will expire tonight at midnight, meaning guys like Mike Lowell, Torii Hunter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Rowand are free to sit at the table with other clubs and bandy about figures one could only dream about.
While Boston and New York are reportedly making strong offers to Lowell and Posada, talks with Rowand have remained a mystery. The latest from Phillies Assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr. today in the Daily News: “We’re still keeping an eye on Aaron, but I’m not sure he’s a realistic piece for us right now. If we’re not in a position to bring back Aaron or someone of that ilk, we’ll be looking for a fourth or fifth outfielder.”
That’s not what Rowand supporters want to hear. As tight-lippped as they’ve been regarding Rowand’s future, there’s been even less talk surrounding the other free agent possibilities with the exception of Lowell, and even that gossip has quieted considerably. Andruw Jones and Hunter would replace Rowand’s bat nicely, but there hasn't been any reported interest.
The freshest gossip coming out of the GM meetings centers on players who may be available via trade, an extensive and surprising list. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Scott Rolen's name was “loaded into the gossip pipeline” last week. The former Phillie is owed a guaranteed $36 million through 2010 and is suffering on-going shoulder problems. Meanwhile, Miguel Tejada, Miguel Cabrera, Johan Santana and Dontrelle Willis have been mentioned here a couple of times, but not in any attributable way.
A new name popping up on the radar is Pirates left-fielder Jason Bay. Bay, 29, had a disappointing 2007, hitting .247/.327/.418 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs while nursing a bum knee. A year before, you could include him in a list of the top five National League outfielders offensively. A defensive liability with a weak arm, diminishing range and question marks about his effort, he's owed $13.25 million over the next two seasons and will become a free agent in 2009.
Bay is still set to make less than half of what Rowand is predicted to make in free agency with a contract set to expire in 2009, as opposed to 2011 or beyond. A betting man might compare Rowand and Bay’s careers thus far and chose Bay to have the better career going forward.
With Ryan Howard’s arbitration looming, plus the new deals to J.C. Romero and acquisition of Brad Lidge, available resources may be drying up in a hurry, and pitching is still being mentioned as the No. 1 priority. However, if Rowand walks, the Phillies will be left with a below-average outfield and an offense less equipped to cancel out the shortcomings of their pitching staff.