The Phillies have re-signed left-handed reliever Aaron Fultz to a one year, $1.2 million contract, avoiding arbitration. For those of you who don't understand the arbitration process, the Phillies already controlled Fultz for 2006 because he's not eligible for free agency yet. In order to keep him on the roster for 2006, they'd have had to offer arbitration by December 19 which would mean he would have had an arbitration hearing to set his contract for 2006. This contract superceeds that process, as Fultz and the Phillies have agreed upon a mutually acceptable number for 2006 before the arbitration process even begins.
This is a good move on many fronts.
First of all, it's a reasonable contract for someone who is coming off a great year. You aren't going to find many relievers with 2.24 ERA signing for only $1.2M. This value is probably comprable to what he was going to get in arbitration anyway, though I suspect he may have been able to get more if he held out for that process. Anyway, signing the contract ahead of time avoids the sometimes contentuous process of arbitration which can create hard feeling for one or both parties involved.
Second of all, it's only one year. That is always good for relievers who are notoriously inconsistent. Fultz may repeat his tremendous success of 2005, but he may just as easily revert to the mediocraty he displayed from 2000 to 2004. A one year deal lessens the risk associated with the behavior since if he's bad in 2006, he is gone after the season.
Third of all, we know have some additional cost certainty with the team, which always helps when knowing how much a GM has to spend on the rest of the team.
Interestingly, this is the last year for Fultz before he becomes a free agent. If he is decent in 2006, he may very well be a Type B or higher free agent after 2006 (rankings are based on the previous two seasons, so his stellar 2005 will count). So, even if he leaves after 2006, the Phillies may get something for him in the form of draft picks.
I continue to be impressed with how Gillick is building a bullpen. He has only handed out one long term deal -- a three year deal to "Flash" Gordon which was necessary to get him on the team. He did have to give up a draft pick for it, but the Phillies had previously picked up a 1st round pick and sandwich pick for losing Wagner, so that lessens the blow. Gordon is paid quite a bit, but he's quite good and sometimes you have to pay some market rates to get quality.
Other than that, Gillick has mostly tinkered with the pen, picking up cheap arms in Booker and Santana. He did express an interest in Brandon Looper, but (from my impression) was not planning on offering a three year deal so Looper signed a big deal with the Cardinals. I'm impressed that Gillick didn't continue in a bidding war and that restraint is good. So, he may resort to filling any other spots with additional cheap, higher upside pickups which is lower risk than 3 year deal. There is always success stories to be heard with this kind of move, not the leave of which is Aaron Fultz himself who was a waiver wire pickup for the Phillies last October and went on to be the second best reliever for the team.
Gillick has talked about moving Ryan Madson back to the rotation (where he successfully was his entire minor league career). I like that move as well, as it shows an understanding that a good starter is more valuable than a good (and even great) reliever. I cannot image Ed Wade ever doing that to his precious bullpen.