Jim Salisbury has the rumor in today's Inquirer:There have been strong indications in recent days that the Phils will be players in the Willis sweepstakes if Florida decides to move him, and many baseball executives believe that will indeed happen as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
Last weekend, Phillies general manager Pat Gillick sent his most trusted aide, scout Don Welke, to watch Willis' start against Tampa Bay. The Phils wanted fresh reports on Willis, just in case he becomes available.
Even before Welke peeked in on him, there had been rumblings as far back as the winter meetings that the Phillies coveted Willis and were prepared to enter any bidding for his services.
That feeling has not waned in the first two months of the season. The Phillies are an imperfect team, but so is the entire National League East. Willis is a difference-making talent who could help the Phils this year and beyond.
Baseball sources say the Phillies have made their interest in Willis known to the Marlins through the back channels that crafty teams use when they're trying to gauge the market on a particular player. The Phillies aren't the only team that has been in contact with the Marlins. The Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Mets and Yankees are keeping close tabs, and the list could grow as the summer heats up and the Marlins' intentions become clearer.
The Phillies do not have a deep farm system, but they have enough quality to get Willis if there's a deal to be made. The Marlins are looking for pitching, catching and outfield help. The Phils have excellent arms in Gavin Floyd, Scott Mathieson, Gio Gonzalez and Carlos Carrasco, to name four, that might interest the Marlins. The Phillies have some catching depth, though they are unlikely to give up Jason Jaramillo. Carlos Ruiz, a better hitter than he's shown in Philadelphia, could interest the Marlins as part of a package. As far as outfielders go, Shane Victorino's value has skyrocketed recently, though the Phils might not want to part with him when there is the possibility they could trade Pat Burrell or Bobby Abreu in the coming months or off-season.
Huh. Willis makes me a little nervous because of his unorthodox mechanics and--I need to check this--fairly heavy usage at a young age. And his performance is down this year (1-6, ERA near 5); is that a result of injury, or just doldrums at being the best pitcher on a terrible team at age 24? He was certainly an ace last year, he'd be probably the third-best bat off the bench for the Phils, he'd sell tickets, and he could possibly help Cole Hamels come along even more quickly as a lefty with a somewhat similar arsenal.
I still wonder if the Phils have enough position talent in the system to get him. The Marlins have tons of young pitching, but they seem to need hitters (though the strong early performance of guys like Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez might have eased this consideration). Florida has long coveted Tampa Bay's Joey Gathright; could they be interested in Michael Bourn, a similar type of player? A package of Gio Gonzalez, Bourn and another pitching prospect not named Mathieson or Carrasco would be fine by me. Any thoughts?