It must be a little awkward to be Jon Lieber these days. Not everyone can be Best Bargaining Chip and Best Insurance Policy at the same time.
Everyone agrees the Phillies as currently constituted enter the coming season with a few serious question marks remaining. Chief among these is the back end of the bullpen where the absence of an experienced left-handed set-up man and emergency closer spells trouble. Not far behind is concern over the overall outfield with an unpredictable Pat Burrell in left, oft-injured and weaker-hitting-all-the-time Aaron Rowand in center and inexperienced and out-of-position Shane Victorino in right. Next to last but not least is the defense on the left side of the field where neither Wes Helms nor Burrell will win any Bronze Gloves let alone Gold ones. And finally there is the overall health of the starting rotation that includes the oft-injured Adam Eaton and Cole Hamels, the aged Jamie Moyer and the newly “svelte” but previously out-of-shape Brett Myers (For you statistics mavens out there, the rate for regaining weight lost is astronomically high.)
More than a few pundits have suggested Lieber provides the solution to a few of these areas. Long rumored to be the team’s best trade bait, his stock may not be as high as it once was, but veteran starters remain in chronic short supply and should attract buyers as the season openers approaches. More than a few teams with pretensions toward contending are having trouble finding enough healthy arms to fill out their rotations. Lieber might not bring the second coming of Goose Gossage but he might fetch a decent reliever.
On the other hand, in recent days some observers have suggested the Phils should keep Jon Lieber as insurance lest one of the remaining five starters goes down with an injury. Such notions let alone luxuries ignore a few issues, namely Lieber’s own spotty history of health and conditioning – he’s been on the DL many times in his career and does a reasonable impersonation of the oversized truck he drives on numerous others -- hardly qualifies him as much of an insurance policy. Moreover, he has a well-documented history of starting out very slowly so forget for a moment the value Lieber might bring in return and consider this: the Phils won't benefit much in the opening weeks of the season by retaining his services, so the earlier they move him the better.