Saturday, November 06, 2004

Philling in the blanks

After re-reading what I wrote about the White Sox and what The Can scribed for the Bloody Hose, I have a theory. You can predict the perceived level of competitiveness of a team based on the number of free agents they have. Logically, this makes sense. A competitive team usually is a veteran team. A non-competitive team is often composed of younger players who are not eligible for free agency. Here's a list of the teams with ten or more free agents:

Boston, Yankees, Texas, Arizona, Cubs, Florida, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

With the exception of the debt-laden Diamondbacks, you could feel pretty comfortable about the chances of any of the remaining teams making the postseason next year. Granted, a lot of it has to do with how they cope with those free agents, but all these teams know how to spend money.

How about four or fewer free agents:

White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle, Milwaukee, District of Columbia, Pittsburgh.

Which of those teams do you think will make the playoffs next year? If you said Cleveland, I'd congratulate you for your ability to think out of the box but the true answer is none of these.

There's also something to be said about the market size of the teams listed above. For the most part, big-market equals free agents. Little market, no.

That puts us back at the familiar tale, big market teams buy the players to win while small market teams have to develop talent and make the run while they're players are all under contract (a la Twins and A's).

What about the middle market teams that don't fit in either place? If they can mix both aspects, home grown with a few good signings, they can make a run.

The Phillies are one of those mid-level teams. The additions of Thome, Millwood, and Milton were supposed to supplement the Phillies own Abreu, Wolf et al. Didn't work. Now they have a new manager and nine free agents to make decisions on for next season.
A third of these free agents made up the bullpen for the Phillies: Rheal Cormier, Roberto Hernandez, and Todd Jones. They all were modestly effective but they are 37, 39 and 36 years old, respectively. Cormier and Jones have both openly discussed retirement. It would be a surprise to see any of the trio back. Again, though, don't discount the Phillies ability to do something stupid and re-sign them all.

Another trio of Phillies free agents come from the starting rotation. Ouch. Milton, Millwood and Lidle are no longer under contract. I doubt Millwood will be back. He'll want too much and the Phillies aren't thrilled with him because they thought he was ace caliber. Milton might be retained. Lidle will go somewhere where the GM thinks like me. "Lidle always has shown potential. Maybe he'll hit his stride with us". Then you look at his age, "He's 32 already?", and look somewhere else. Lidle makes a good #4 starter. I wouldn't mind seeing him on the Phils since they won't be contending anyway.

Hometown humorist Doug Glanville is a free agent. Doug hit .210. The only reason to have him on a team is because you like him. Baseball-wise, he's done.

Todd Pratt will enter his 43rd year of being a backup catcher in the major league. I hope it's with the Phils. He does everything you could want from a backup catcher.

Lastly, Placido Polanco is a free agent. The Phils have to re-sign him and that frightens me. Like Cory Lidle, he's functional, maybe even pretty good. You don't win championships with him. He is 29 and improving and may surprise me.

Pitching is obviously a concern for the Phillies. Without Milton, you're looking at Wolf, Floyd, Padilla and Myers in the rotation. Milton could replace Myers or Floyd. Still, there's no ace, no single guy to anchor the rotation. If you score runs like the Cardinals, you don't need one. The Phils need one. I don't know that they would make a run at Pavano, the best pitcher available. Radke, Pedro, Lowe. None of these guys are currently a number one.

If I were running the Phils, I would accept that 2005 is not my year, sign Radke and Milton, let Myers regain his talent in the minors, let Wolf be the number four where he belongs for a championship caliber team, wait for Floyd to develop in an Oswaltian fashion into the ace for 2006 and try to find takers for Pat Burrell and get a leftfielder who is more than a pretty boy.

What will really happen, though, is they'll sign Kris Benson and Terry Mulholland in the hopes of winning it this year.


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