Monday, July 31, 2006

A Salary Dump Is A Salary Dump For All That

The rich may get richer, but is that any reason to simply hand them the combination to the vault?

Yesterday’s lopsided trade of Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yankees for four less-than-top-drawer prospects and the assumption of all but $1.5 million of Abreu’s salary sent a clear message:  Pat Gillick has a mandate to disassemble this team.  Whether or not he can rebuild it is not nearly so clear.

Only last week I suggested in this space the Phillies would package Abreu and Lidle in a deal at the deadline, but I hardly suspected the latter would be a throw-in.  I have no doubt Bobby’s time was over in Philadelphia.  He appeared to be unhappy from Opening Day.  Despite an on-base percentage every commentator, color analyst, and play-by-play announcer  loved to point out every single time he stepped up to the plate and drew another walk, his batting average continued to slip, his power numbers were down dramatically and his base-running and fielding were paradigms of indifference.  He needed this change of scenery.

Interestingly, in the few comments received thus far on this blog (see the post below), Lidle’s name isn’t even mentioned!  Now I know Cory isn’t the second coming of Catfish Hunter, but in the baseball world of today he is hardly chopped liver.  By all indications, the Yankees weren’t going to take on Abreu’s bloated salary unless Lidle was included in the deal.  Gillick blinked.

Lidle was leaving town after this season anyway, but a quick look around the Majors suggests there were more than a few clubs who needed a number three starter.  Frankly, given the state of pitching in the National League in particular, Lidle is a number two starter these days.  Coming off three straight quality starts (and then some), Lidle is a valuable commodity.  In the deal with the Yankees, however, he was the first player-to-be-named later whose identity was revealed within seconds of the initial announcement.

As for the whole matter of rebuilding the Phillies, Gillick has already written off 2007.  I’ll grant the Phils’ GM this much, when he sees something he doesn’t like, he doesn’t mince words.  Gillick wrote off 2006 prior to the start of the season (you could look it up) and he isn’t about to spin the situation for next season when it is abundantly clear his team’s prospects, literally and figuratively, are poor.

So, the Phillies now have the “financial flexibility” deemed mandatory to compete in today’s atmosphere.  That suggests Gillick sees the road to the post-season leads directly through free agency, not the farm system.  A quick glance at the crop of free agents who will become available this off-season is less an awe-inspiring, especially among pitchers.  Then, there is the problem that the reputation of Citizens Bank Park, to say nothing of the team that calls it home, all but insures most free agent pitchers will tell their agents not to take calls from Gillick over their dead bodies.  

Let us not forget another thing about free agency:  the Phillies already went down that road in the recent past to decidedly mixed results.   The addition here and there of a significant free agent is probably helpful, but in the long run the Phillies need good prospects, especially at catcher, pitcher, third base and at least one outfield position.   And top prospects are what the Phillies are not getting in the deals consummated thus far.

These are your Philadelphia Phillies.  Still mediocre after all these years.


Oisín/Wizlah said...

my big concern now is how long howard, utley and (providing he works out) cole hamels will want to stay around. They've just seen a deal go through which shows no promise for the future - just cost cutting. They've had their GM say forget 2007, but with no indication where the prospects and depth for '08 is coming from. They are being told to just sit and wait it out. They only need to look at how many times that promise was broken to schilling and rolen.

Oisín/Wizlah said...

I also note that gillick said its hard to get great value in a trade when you've only got four teams interested.

This is miserable excuse making. To have the front to say it will take a while, but then not own up to botching getting fair value for a trade is beyond excusable. He's in a position to bit up the value of the trade, not down.

I realise those with older and wiser heads are probably shrugging and saying 'what's new?'. The team line on this (as parroted by Amaro) is that we got good value for what we would expect today. The same good value that the marlins got for beckett? We bent over backwards to make this trade cost the yankees *less* by arranging for bobby to drop the demand for his option and then we're expected to take it as given that the most we could do is dump salary?

the worst and most frustating thing is the number of fans who are now saying that they're happy that the old losing team is now broken up. Well, I could have put up with half a season more of the old team if we'd got good value in the offseason. Combine the july deadline with gillick's efforts last winter and it is apparent that Gillick's ability to trade for value is sorely lacking.

Greg said...

Someone on ESPN recently wondered why the Phillies, like the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL, simply cannot win. It's mystifying.

If Gillick has already written off 2007 (nice to hear THAT) then he should do what the Marlins do every few years and have a fire sale. Bell, Abreu, Lidle, and Rheal Cormier this morning - I think Utley and Howard should be the only untouchables on the roster. Why not gut the team and start from scratch in 2007? Absolutely no expectations, so all the new people can play a year and take some serious lumps. It worked for the Marlins and it's working this year for the Tigers. Of course, the Phils should have done this a few years ago when the ballpark was still a novelty, but it seems like if they're giving up on this year and next, you need to clean house.

RickSchuBlues said...

I'm not writing off 2007, and nor do I believe Gillick is. As weak as the NL is, and as revitalized as the Phillies are bound to be with the considerable talent they will still possess, there's absolutely no reason to think they can't compete next year, even from this great of a distance. Maybe not win the division, but be at least as good as this year's team and most likely better.

Tom Goodman said...

The Phils will obviouilsy be younger, but the people coming up to take the spots of departed veterans and some of the youngsters already here have yet to prove themselves as starters at the big league level and are not, in general, as highly touted as some of the kids stepping in for teams such as Florida, Arizona or Colorado. Among the veterans still here, I fully expect Dellucci to say a firm "No thanks" to any bid to re-sign him. He has never hidden his feelings that his acquisition and subsequent misuse by the Phillies were impossible for him to understand. (To his credit, he gives his all when afforded the opportunity to play.) It appears we are stuck with Burrell. Liberthal is in his final months. Victorino can expect to see a lot more playing time this year and certainly next year. Indeed, he will probably be a starer next season unless the brass believes they have to go out and get an outfielder with more punch. I like him as a player who generates energy and excitement, but it remains to be see if he will hit when given a fulltime job. As always, pitching will be the big question mark next year. If Myers is here, and I think the Phillies have made it clear he will be here, and Lieber is still around by 4:01PM today, I see a rotation filled with question marks. Hamels should only get better with time but it is clear he needs more of it. Madson will not improve over what we have seen. He does not have the pitches. Wolf may be here depending on the next sixty days. (BTW, I thought the Phillies did him a huge disservice by having him start the day game yesterday. It's tough enough to come back after a year of surgery and rehabilitation without having to go out there in a scorching mid-day sun. They are clueless!!) Mathieson looks promising but probably could use another pitch. All together, those are a lot of ifs in the rotation. Did I mention third base and catcher? Hard to see how they can contend next year.

RickSchuBlues said...

In a transitional year, would you be content with a livelier team which doesn't quite contend but which certainly should be able to compete? A team that isn't playoff-caliber but which could finish around .500 or possibly better?

Here's what I see: a lot of talent still on the Phillies and eight months for Gillick to look into filling holes. By no means does that translate into some kind of disasterous 2007. And it's hard to believe anyone could argue that the Phillies would have had a chance next year had they kept all these deposed players, when the results of precisely the roster as it's been has been in full evidence all year. If you buy that 49-54 makes you a contender, even in the weakest of leagues...I dunno. I don't see it that way at all.

The Phillies did the right thing here.

Tom Goodman said...

I have to agree the Phillies did the right thing in moving everyone they have moved thus far. None of them was likely to return except Abreu, who, as I have said, needed to move on. But the Lidle "throw-in" was a terrible move just to save salary. This team needs prospects with real potential, not the marginal prospects we have received thus far in all trades made.

I would not have wanted to see this year's team on the field next year. I agree with you. And I love the game too much to stay away next year. But I don't expect all that much from next year's club. Still, I'd bet Howard and Utley are looking forward to playing with younger guys.

RickSchuBlues said...

I don't really expect all that much from next year's club. I just have a feeling they'll be far more interesting and exciting to watch. After this depressing squad, I really believe it can only get better.

I could care less about Lidle going. He was mediocrity before he got here, he was mediocrity personified while he was here, and now I'm glad to have his mediocrity handed off to someone else. He's a stop-gap, pure and simple; he didn't fit with what's going to be in the works here.

Abreu was the only Phillie (besides the obvious untouchables) who could have commanded prospects - if it weren't for the enormous constraints of his contract and right to waive trades. I'm certain that if Gillick could have done any better, he would have. But it's not hard to see why he couldn't. I don't think Lidle on his own would have commanded anything more significant than anyone they got from the Yankees.

Ruby Legs said...

I'm sure you guys saw the piece in the NYTimes ripping the Phils for the Abreu trade. Well, now St. Louis of all places is getting into the action.

In an article appearing in some magazine distributed at Cardinals games, an article stated Phils ownership delivered a "gutpunch" to Phillies fans by trading Abreu.

I've got more about the article on my blog.