Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Due Diligence & The Freddy Defense

JRoll should sue Freddy Garcia for impersonating a pitcher and inducing him to proclaim the Phillies the team to beat. "Freddy made me do it."

AS Bill Conlin wrote in his column yesterday in the Daily News, the Phillies clearly failed to perform due diligence with respect to Garcia. Worse, what "diligence" was done was provided not by the Phillies vaunted scouting department but by AL scouts who publicly questioned Garcia's arm at the end of last season, winning record notwithstanding. Worse than that, Pat Gillick went with his instincts and previous itinerary in acquiring a player from his own past, a habit he cannot seem to break, much to the detriment of his current employers. And worst of all, this organization is now using the DL as a post-facto instrument for stating the obvious, i.e., pitchers who clearly are laboring go on the list later rather than sooner. So, Garcia delays reporting to the doctor's office until he is utterly tattooed once again and only then goes on the DL, for the second time this season. None of Garcia's outings have lasted very long. In some of them he threw more than 100 pitches in less than six innings. The conclusion is inescapable: he was damaged goods when Gillick trumpeted the deal that brought him here. Today's report he has a "frayed" rotator cuff is old news.

But wait, Phillies fans, it gets even worse. The Phillies just drafted a pitcher who's had surgery on his pitching shoulder, calling his name even after 18 clubs drafting ahead of them passed on him. Afterwards, senior management had the unmitigated gall to say Joe Savery would have gone even higher had he not had the surgery. Wake me when this is over.

Unfortunately, the condition in the Phillies' front office is chronic. Their recent history of acquisitions and trades is not a pretty picture and the pieces are in place for more ugliness as the current edition of the club struggles to play .500 ball. This organization has a tendency to acquire players to fill needs at the expense of creating new ones. No trade better illustrates this tendency than the Johnny Estrada for Kevin Millwood deal. Millwood was a frontline pitcher at the time and the Phils considered themselves lucky to get him. Estrada, however, was not only the catcher of the future, he was the catcher of the then present as Mike Lieberthal struggled through a series of crippling injuries. What gain is there in filling one hole by opening another? The Jim Thome deal, not the original signing but the trade for Aaron Rowand, left the Phillies partly hamstrung going forward as they assumed a significant portion of Thome's remaining salary. Coupled with their obligations to Pat Burrell and the amount of Bobby Abreu's salary they had to assume in giving him away to the Yankees, the Phillies were reduced to signing second and third tier free agents with the funds they still had available. Gillick's solution was a never-ending series of signings of players from his past, some of whom no one else wanted.

The Garcia trade fits right in with the pattern. In giving the White Sox two young pitchers, the Phillies figured at the worst they had rented a workhorse for one season. They didn't even get a half season out of him, however, and in the process gave up an admittedly fallen angel in Gavin Floyd and a potentially good pitcher in Gio Gonzalez. And what commodity are they now desperately starved for? Pitching. Had they done their homework they wouldn't be in this mess. It's unlikely Garcia will pitch again this season, at the end of which he is a free agent. There is no hope of moving him prior to that; Garcia is damaged goods and now even the Phillies' alleged brain trust acknowledges it. The Phils will have received nothing for the young pitchers they traded and will still need a starter to take Garcia's spot. Subtraction by addition: it's the Phillies way.


kuff6 said...

I don't really disagree with your central thesis here, but question some of your evidence on being hamstrung by certain salaries. First, my recollection was that the Yanks picked up all of Abreu's salary - in fact, that was the reason the Phils sent him to the Yanks, as they were the only team willing to pick up 100% of the tab. On trading Thome to the ChiSox, yes, the Phils are still paying part of his salary, but that portion plus what they are paying Howard is still a lot less than if they had kept Thome.

Tom Goodman said...

kuff6: I checked and you are correct about the Abreu deal. I thought some of his salary was picked up by the Phils.

Though the Yankees farm system is improving, this trade was all about money. New York will absorb the remainder of Abreu's contract ($13 million salary in 2006, $15 million in 2007 and either $16 million or a $2 million buyout in 2008) and the rest of Lidle's $3.3 million salary for this season. Because the Yankees took on roughly $23 million in financial commitments, they didn't have to part with any of their best prospects. Smith is the only player Philadelphia received who's playing above low Class A. Henry, who has the best pedigree of the group as a first-round pick in 2005, has struggled mightily in his first full season.

David said...

This is a hopelessly mismanaged team, and the real fallout is yet to come. They bet the farm (literally) on vets like Thome, Garcia, Milton, and Millwood, and they didn't win. If .500 seems bleak, look out for what's ahead. And yeah, they'll be in the hunt this year - again. I almost wish they'd skip it this time around. Things can't possibly get better before they get worse.

The least consolation would be accountability. Gillick/Amaro for a wretched off-season, topped off by this negligent acquisition; Mike Arbuckle, above all, for this chronic, total absence of depth.

We joke about Dallas Green being such a buffoon, but I wish one morning that there'd be a headline: "Green tells Gillick to 'Look in the Mirror'". *Somebody* needs to be called on the carpet. I'd rank Charlie Manuel way, way down on that depth chart, but of course he'll be the first to get sent packing. Though perhaps the reason they're so reluctant to fire Manuel is that it'll subsequently place the focus squarely where it really belongs.