For fans of perennially disappointing ballclubs, early Hot Stove speculation is as inevitable as the leaves changing colors and Terrell Owens bad-mouthing his quarterback. Just as inevitable, though, is the mass fantasizing about big-name stars with big contracts to arrive and solve the team's problems. But whether your flavor is Ramirez (Aramis or Manny) or Rodriguez (Alex), this is probably wasted energy: superstar deals are rare in any case, and Pat Gillick has gone on record suggesting that the Phils don't have a ton of "inventory" with which to swing huge trades this winter. And while Ramirez the Infielder could opt into free agency, my bet is if he does so, he lands in Los Angeles after a bidding war between the two teams based there.
Fortunately, I think I've come up with a six-move strategy that doesn't chain the Phillies to any long-term deals, involve a wish-casting trade ("well, why wouldn't the Marlins deal us Willis and Cabrera for Burrell and Madson?"), or engage the club in crazed bidding for a Zito or Matsuzaka. And if I've crunched the numbers correctly, it actually lowers the payroll.
Am I nuts, or just stupid? Read on.
Here are the first three moves, setting up our 2007 pitching staff, with explanations:
- Trade OF-R Aaron Rowand ($5m team option) to Chicago White Sox for SP Freddy Garcia ($10m)
Why it works: The Sox probably have one more realistic shot to go for it all in 2007, with core lineup players Thome, Dye, Konerko, Iguchi and Pierzynski all more likely to decline than improve in coming seasons. Rowand's numbers for the 2005 World Champions weren't great, but it seemed like everyone in Chicago swore by his intangibles. They're going to move a starter this off-season, whether it's Garcia, Garland, or Vasquez, to make space for Brandon McCarthy. Garcia's price tag is steep, but he's a one-year commitment. In the NL, his peripherals should improve, and he's a horse--more than 200 IP each of the last few seasons. For the Phils, Shane Victorino is a cheaper alternative in CF, with more offensive upside.
- Re-sign SP-L Randy Wolf or SP-L Jamie Moyer for $5 million
Why it works: It's already been rumored that the Phils are likely to bring one of the other of these Crafty Southpaws (tm) back, but not both. My preference would be Wolf, but if the market heats up and some team offers him a multi-year deal, the Phils don't need to go there. A one-year contract with a vesting second year and performance incentives would be ideal; if not, maybe Moyer can be persuaded to return as the fifth starter and dispenser of pitching wisdom.
- Trade SP-R Gavin Floyd to Nationals for RP-R Ryan Wagner
Why it works: To be honest, I'm not totally sure it does. But Floyd is a gone goose, and in Wagner we see another former top draft pick who's disappointed his employers. Washington will be looking for starters, and to bring in an arm of Wagner's quality as a back-of-the-pen reliever with an opportunity to advance to a bigger role could be a nice flyer to take.
The last two relief slots should be open for spring competition. I assigned them to Eude Brito, the hard-throwing lefty, and Zack Segovia, an eventual rotation prospect, but any of a dozen 2006 Red Barons/marginal Phillies or journeyman bullpen arms could wind up in either slot. If a reliever with more major-league experience winds up there, add a few hundred thousand dollars to the tab.
That leaves us with this staff, and their estimated 2007 salaries. Some rounding went into the total roster-area numbers:
Myers (R) $5.5m
Garcia (R) $10m
Hamels (L) $0.35m
Lieber (R) $7.5m
Wolf/Moyer (L) $5m
Gordon (R-CL) $7m
Geary (R) $1.5m
Madson (R) $2m
Smith (L) $0.35m
R. Wagner (R) $1m
Brito (L) $0.35m
Segovia (R) $0.35m
Back next week with the position half of the roster.