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.