Thursday, December 07, 2006

Good Beginnings But What About The Ending?

Going into the off-season if you had told me the Phillies would add two starting pitchers I would have been surprised, yet here we are in early December and they have done just that with the free agent signing of Adam Eaton and yesterday’s trade with the White Sox for Freddy Garcia.

The Eaton signing shows up on many observers’ lists as one of the worst deals of the Hot Stove League to date in terms of the dollars spent. The Garcia trade will be viewed by many as one of the best deals. To get the proven right-hander the Phils gave up [on] former first round draft pick Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez, whom they had acquired from the same White Sox.

The surprise here is that the White Sox were willing to gamble that Floyd would eventually fulfill his early promise. The Phils gave him every chance and he muffed the overwhelming majority of them including a stint in the Arizona Fall League that just concluded. His promises will likely remain unfulfilled. Gonzalez is a known commodity to the Sox, who originally developed him and then traded him to the Phils in the Jim Thome deal. Gio was inconsistent at Reading last season but was still considered one of the organization’s top pitching prospects.

Garcia is eligible for free agency at the end of next season and thus may turn out to be a one-year rental, but it is highly unlikely Floyd would have helped at all this coming season or beyond and Gonzalez, like many young pitchers, remains unproven.

The other surprise is that the White Sox did not insist the Phillies include Aaron Rowand in the deal. They have openly regretted trading him in the same Thome deal and have made no bones about wanting to reacquire him. In today’s Inquirer it was suggested they can wait another year when he becomes a free agent.

Commenter extraordinaire George S. wrote a number of us an email this morning suggesting that the improvements in the starting rotation should translate to more innings thrown by that quintet and thus less demands on a clearly depleted bullpen. Theoretically George is correct though Charlie Manuel has shown himself to be one of those managers who turns to his bullpen with Pavlonian consistency after five or six innings no matter what the situation. When he does, he is going to find less proven arms there to call on as things currently stand. Chief among the deficiencies are a proven set-up guy and someone who can take Flash Gordon’s place should the aging right-hander suffer yet another injury. No matter how much they improve at the beginning of the game, the Phils must have someone for the finale if they expect to compete for the NL East title.


Corey & Carson said...

Gillick is going about things in a smart manner, unlike the free-wheeling Cub's GM. Gillick locked up the predictable inning-eater old goat Moyer for 2 years before the market exploded. He signed Helms to a reasonable contract. He went a bit crazy giving Eaton 3 years 24.5 million, but he did it with the intent of trading for another starter so that the club would be in a position of strength like they are now with surplus starting pitching. Lieber is going to be traded and he should bring us relief help and possibly an outfielder. Rowand is probably going to be traded as well for relief help, so looks like Gillick by offseason end will have drastically altered the face of the team for the better. Our rotation will be stronger, our bullpen will be sured up, and our outfield will be adequate.

RickSchuBlues said...

Both George and you make good points about the bullpen. It's true that it probably *won't* get the kind of use it got in the recent past, but you're right to point out that Manuel will always have a quick hook, and besides, for all anyone knows, those nice-looking starters could get injured or the Phillies could end up playing 120 extra-inning games. You have to be prepared and not just assume the starters will log the majority of innings.

I like the trade, naturally, but I don't think Garcia is any better tham Millwood, Milton, or Lieber were during the off-seasons in which they were added. Garcia won 17 games last year? Great. Lieber won 17 in '05. Millwood had won 18 in '02. It's about as good an addition to the rotation as anyone could have hoped, but please, let's all implement our short-term memories and realize that this doesn't make the Phils a lock for the playoffs.

Tom Goodman said...

RSB: I could not agree more. The addition of Garcia is very welcome but he isn't sufficient to put them over the top. While all of us are focused on getting bullpen help, the offense still has its problems. Jimmy will hit .275 - .280, Utley will hit .290 - .310, Howard will hit for average, too, but in the end will only hit as much as the league pitches to him, which should be less next season. The rest of the lineup is filled with unkowns as far as what to really expect. Will Victorino hit when given a starting job? Will Burrell hit if he is back? Will Helms be a .269 hitter or a .300 hitter based on his career stats? Will Ruiz hit? Those are a lot of questions without addressing the bullpen.

bbned said...

We're Phillies fans RSB. Most of us know better than to consider the Phils a lock for anything.

However, there is reason for optimism. Adding, even on a rental basis, a solid starter in this marketplace while giving up little in return, at a fair salary, while maintaining bargaining chips (Burrell, Lieber, Rowand) is a near miracle. Makes you wonder if the same guy that made this deal, the Thome deal, and the Moyer deal, also made the Padilla deal (shoulda got some return) and signed Ryan Franklin etc. Anyway at least he's trying.

Can't say I gonna miss the likes of Bell, Abreu, Padilla, Leiberthal, Lidle (RIP), Wolf and their salaries anyway. Gillick has transformed the team nicely with good deals, questionable deals, and bad deals.

Now if he could finagle V. Wells, C. Crawford or a legit closer to partner with Gordon we might then begin to think playoffs.