I would be remiss if I did not mention the fact that I have spent the past couple hours watching the final stages of the Presidential election play out on the television screen at my hotel. I don't want to turn this post into a political discussion, because the beautiful thing about the sport of baseball is that it allows us to forget about such things for three hours at a time. But regardless of who you voted for, or who you supported, or what your emotions were as the night played out, it is important to note that everything you are about to read played out against the back drop of an event that will shape our nation for years to come. Baseball is a reflection of our nation, and Tuesday night was an indication of what makes our nation great. In the end, everyone who wanted it had their say. I don't want to go all George Will on y'all, but keep all that in mind.
1) There is nothing new to report on the Phillies' negotiations with any of the top three priorities on their list of incumbents (Pat Burrell, Jamie Moyer, Scott Eyre). I spoke with representatives of both Jamie Moyer and Pat Burrell on Tuesday, and in both cases the situation is the same. There is a fundamental understanding that the Phillies would like both players back in the fold. That said, no actual negotiations have begun.
2) The Phillies think Burrell will at least file for free agency. Going on what I have heard and who I have spoken with, I'll take that one step further and say Burrell will at least test the free agent waters. There was some confusion on the Phillies part. They at first thought Burrell had parted ways with California-based Greg Genske of Legacy Sports and hired Philly-based Ed Hayes. But that is only partially correct. Burrell is actually retaining the services of both. Hayes labelled it tonight as a "joint partnership."
3) So what does this "joint partnership" mean for Burrell? He has said since spring training that he would like to remain in Philadelphia. And in the wake of the Phillies' World Series run and the Parade, I think that desire has only gotten stronger. Anyone who watched him in the aftermath of the World Series win and during the Parade down Broad Street knows how much playing in this city means to him. That isn't just lip service, something Hayes emphasized tonight when we spoke. That said, it is a complicated situation. I don't think anyone knows what, exactly, the market will be like for him. The conventional wisdom is that he would be a good fit for an American League team looking for a DH. But Burrell doesn't like to DH. He likes playing in the field. He has expressed that this season. There are a lot of factors in play, which is why nobody - not Hayes, not Amaro, not Burrell, not myself - can really give an accurate prediction on how this will play out.
4) Why the talk of Jenkins, Stairs and Dobbs? It is pretty simple. The only two every-day right-handed hitting outfielders on the free agent market are, by my calculation, Manny Ramirez and Burrell. The Phillies would love Ramirez, but Amaro has heard the same talk out of Scott Boras that I heard today when the superagent met the press at the GM meetings. Judging by the rhetoric, Ramirez's price tag is going to be beyond what the Phillies judge as prudent to spend.
Amaro's exact quote: "Manny's probably the best offensive player that's been around for several years. That said I think, at least through the rumor mill, his ask might be beyond where we want to be."
(Although, keep in mind, Amaro is well versed in contract negotiations. And as a general rule of thumb, it does not help a general managers stance to say "We love Client X and will pay him whatever he want.")
I'd also direct your attention to a survey that Philly suburbanite (and ESPN baseball expert) Jerry Crasnick conducted with 15 front office execs. He asked each one of them to predict where Ramirez would land. None of them said the Phillies.
Beyond Ramirez and Burrell, the market seems thin. Raul Ibanez, Adam Dunn and, yes, Bobby Abreu are all lefties. Charlie Manuel said tonight that if the Phillies do not re-sign Burrell, they will need to bring in another right-handed middle-of-the-order bat. But after Ramirez and Burrell there aren't a ton of options. Which might mean a platoon situation in which guys like Dobbs or Stairs or Jenkins are matched with a similar right-handed bat.
5) Is Dobbs really a possibility in left? In short, yes. Manuel and Davey Lopes both think Dobbs' best defensive position is left field. That isn't to say they are giving up on him as a third baseman. In fact, they think he has made strides there. But if the Phillies don't wind up with an every-day right-handed bat, they will consider focusing Dobbs on left.
6) What about a trade? Amaro did not shoot down the possibility of a blockbuster such as the one that sent Brad Lidge to Philly during last year's GM meetings. Magglio Ordonez and Matt Holliday are both right-handed-hitting outfielders who play for teams who will at least listen to offers. I am sure there are more possibilities out there. That said, nothing is imminent.
7) So where does this leave us? Hey, as Amaro said today, "It's only my second day on the job."