Naptime in Nashville

The Tigers got Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. The Dodgers got Andruw Jones. The Phillies got someone or something called Lincoln Holdzkum.

It's a bit of a downer when the addition of two longshot Rule 5 pitchers--Holdzkum, a former Boston farmhand who might challenge for a bullpen spot, and Travis Blackley, a onetime Mariners (surprise!) prospect--constitutes the biggest Phillies news from the Winter Meetings, which conclude today. At the same time, it's possible that the groundwork was laid this week for a couple moves of note later this winter. The Dodgers' signing of Jones--for two years and $36 million--might increase the odds of Aaron Rowand returning to the Phils, and another former Phillie also has expressed interest in coming back.



That guy is Carlos Silva, the groundball-throwing right-hander traded to Minnesota in the Eric Milton deal four years ago. Scott Lauber reports that Silva's agents have reached out to Pat Gillick and associates about a return engagement:

Carlos Silva wants to pitch for the Phillies -- again.

At least that's what Silva's agents, Barry Praver and Scott Shapiro, are telling people around here. But Silva, one of only three free-agent pitchers (Tom Glavine and Andy Pettitte were the others) to win at least 13 games last season, wants a four- or five-year contract. And, as we know, Phillies GM Pat Gillick is opposed to such long-term deals for pitchers. So, whatever interest Silva's people have shown toward the Phillies this week hasn't been reciprocated. Again, that's according to Praver and Shapiro.

Now, you could argue Silva isn't worth a four-year, $48 million contract. He's 55-46 with a 4.31 ERA in six seasons with the Phillies and Twins, and he's never won more than 14 games (in 2004). Over the past two seasons, he's 24-29 with a 5.01 ERA. And when assistant GM Mike Arbuckle said yesterday, "We don't want to pay for a Cadillac when we're getting a Ford Focus," free agents like Silva popped into my mind.

But, given this market for pitching, it's hard to see Silva's price coming down. So, as the offseason chugs along, the Phillies may have to ask themselves this question: How much is it worth to deepen the back of a rotation that features still-unproven Kyle Kendrick, 45-year-old Jamie Moyer and injured/ineffective Adam Eaton?

Silva probably isn't worth the deal Lauber posits. At the same time, though, the team's options are shriveling. Paul Hagen points out that the demand for pitching is so intense that Glendon Rusch, a careerlong mediocrity who didn't pitch last season, is drawing interest from many teams and won't commit to anyone unless he's guaranteed a rotation spot. Another rumor is that the Phils made a big play for Baltimore ace Erik Bedard, offering Shane Victorino and Kyle Kendrick among others--and couldn't even get close.

With that in mind, the fact that all Silva costs is money and a draft pick--valuable as those are--is compelling. Over the last four seasons, pitching for a generally under-powered Twins lineup, Silva won 47 games and made 124 starts. At age 29 as of next April, he's out of the so-called "injury nexus," and with the exception of his gruesome 2006, he's always kept the ball in the park--a big deal for anyone pitching at OFJOAB. Silva records few strikeouts and gives up an astonishing number of hits--the risks of consistently throwing three grounders for every two flyballs--but compensates with a superb walk rate.  

Given Silva's durability and relative consistency, adding him as the #3 or #4 starter would stabilize the rotation. Projected over the next four years, his 2004-2007 performance might well be worth what he'll command in a deal. It's not a glamorous move, and certainly not without risk, but Silva might make more sense for the Phillies than anyone else now available.

Another note from Lauber: if the Padres non-tender third baseman Morgan Ensberg next week, as widely expected, the Phillies are likely to show interest. Ensberg is a little duplicative of Wes Helms, but probably has a better glove and more power potential.

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