Somewhere on the west coast...
Friday night, a "friendly" poker game between 3 old friends who work in the same business.
The first 30 minutes is some mediocre poker, and general catch-up talk on family and common friends. Then, someone breaks the work-talk ice with a joke: "How do you know a Phillie is available?" "How?" "They trash him in the papers, then announce he'll be hard to trade because of his contract!" Laughter all around... "Hey, speaking of that, can you believe that they're willing to pay half of Burrell's deal just to dump him?" Nods and sly smiles around the table. Slowly, the grins fade, and the friends-slash-competitors start to eye each other; everyone's ignoring their cards. Suddenly, the host stands up, excuses himself, and strides into the kitchen - grabbing his cell phone as he goes. As he fades from earshot of the other men, he speaks, "Pat? This is Brian Sabean...
"Listen, I think I can help you solve two problems at once. I've got Armando Benitez unhappy here - he's still got that incredible arm, but he's more of an east-coast guy, and I'm thinking if you're willing to help on Burrell's contract, we could work something out. You get out from under Burrell, and you patch that bullpen up real quick.... what's that? Benitez's salary? I think it's about 7 mil, but the beauty is he's a free agent after next year, so no long-term commitment.... Yes, it is intriguing, isn't it.... You'll sleep on it, and call me in the morning? Fantastic, I'll be waiting." He closes his phone, smiles, turns back toward the game room and sees his two friends - Ned Coletti and Kevin Towers - staring at him. It's obvious from the looks on their faces they've been there a while. "Hey, Brian - I thought we said no deals on poker night!?!" "Uh... I'm really short-handed in LF, I couldn't resist. All's fair, you know."
At that, Coletti whips out his phone, as Towers runs back to the game room, presumably to find his. Coletti hears a ring, then a greeting.. "Hey Gillick - Coletti here. I was looking around for some good fits on deals, and I just saw Nunez's final numbers. Whoa! Can't believe you had those guys in contention all year dragging his ass along.... anyway, I think I can help you. I've got a logjam in the infield, and I'm considering shopping Julio Lugo. Great glove, professional hitter... hell, you have him last year, and you guys are taking 4 of 5 from the Tigers..... Plus, I'm looking for an outfielder in the 5-7 million range. I see you've got Burrell, but he's way too expensive.... what's that? Half? Hmmm... I'd have to sell it here to ownership, but they trust me. I think I could work that. So we're saying Burrell for Lugo, you pick up half of Burrell's deal, right? .... okay, sleep on it. I'll call you first thing." Coletti smiles, looks at Sabean and says "Benitez... you're shameless."
Towers, after 5 minutes of dialing and getting voice mail, loses the last remaining life on his battery. "Damn! Hey, Ned, toss me your cell" "What? So you can get Burrell for Brocail? No WAY. Get a real cell phone next time..." Towers is angry at first, but knows he's beat. He resignedly rejoins the game.
An hour later, Sabean's short on chips, and holding pocket aces. He pushes all-in, and throws in a slip of paper with the Benitez-Burrell deal on it. "All my chips, plus my deal. I lose, I take it off the table." Coletti, with suited face cards, can't let that pass, and calls - chips and deal. Towers has nothing and folds. Sabean flops a set, and takes the pot - and the Lugo deal. He rips up the Lugo paper, points to the den, and says "Ned, the fax is in there... Gillick's on speed dial, number 2. Fax him your withdrawal, if you'd be so kind."
AS the sun rises on the east coast, Pat Gillick rises, looks in the mirror and smiles knowingly. "I've got 'em where I want 'em," he mutters, "fighting over my guy." On his way to the office, he calls the local beat guy and lets slip that there's a bidding war for Burrell, and he expects to move him as early as today - "and we'll be filling a big hole, I expect," he finishes. As he walks in to the office, he's handed his fax, realizes he's down to one bidder, and decides swift action is necessary. He sits down, lights a cigar, and dials... "Hey, Brian, I'm a man of action... let's get this done. If I throw in Gavin Floyd, can you close this morning?"
To be continued.... over and over again.