I'm not about to make a federal case out of the deal, but Major League Baseball's decision to host their annual winter meetings in Las Vegas is a curious one. Of the four major sports, it is safe to say that the national past time is also the past time most sullied by gambling, and therefore most sensitive to any perceived conflict of interest involving the activity. From the Black Sox to Pete Rose to the current scouting scandal, the sport has had several black eyes over the years. And while I don't think it is a major deal, I also don't know if it was the wisest decision to take hundreds of scouts, coaches and front office personnel and house them in a hotel that has access to a legal sports book.
Then again, maybe I'm just bitter because I'm not there. . .
Anyway, I thought now would be a good time to take a look at the first month-and-a-half of the offseason while also previewing the remaining month-and-a-half. Make sure to stay tuned to High Cheese for coverage from the Winter Meetings from Paul Hagen (pictured above with the Inquirer's Jim Salisbury). I expect the winter meetings to be fairly busy, and wouldn't be surprised to hear a couple pieces of news leak out. Because I like numbered lists, that is the fashion we will do this in. Feel free to chime in.
1) What is the most pressing issue still remaining?
This one's easy. First and foremost is Jamie Moyer or Jamie Moyer's replacement. I think signing Jamie Moyer will be a lot easier than signing his replacement, so I still think that's what is going to end up happening. What is taking so long, you ask? I'm not privy to these things, and both Moyer's agent, Jim Bronner, and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. refuse to discuss specifics. But I have a feeling Moyer's side is pressing for a two or three-year deal, and the Phillies are very hesitant to guarantee anything beyond one. From Moyer's side, it makes sense to try to get a career-ending contract. Coming off a year in which he led the World Series champions in victories, his leverage will likely never be higher. And he has already said he would like to play for three more years. So why not try to make this the last contract negotation he will ever have to endure? That said, the Phillies' hesitancy makes sense as well. Moyer is 46. And when it goes, it goes quickly.
2) So how do you think the situation will be resolved?
Creatively. I wouldn't be surprised to see a one-year deal with an option that automatically vests should Moyer reach an appearances or innings-pitched milestone. I think that would make sense for both sides.
3) What other teams make sense?
I doubt Moyer would want to play for losing franchise, and I doubt he'd want to leave the East Coast now that his family has re-located to Florida. One team that makes a lot of sense on paper is the Rays, who play less than an hour from his Bradenton home and who could use a veteran presence on their young pitching staff. Then again, that is pure speculation.
4) What are the chances the Phillies re-sign Pat Burrell?
Late in the season, then-general manager Pat Gillick handicapped the odds at 50-50. Judging from what I have heard and seen, I'd say those odds have dropped dramatically. If the Phillies are looking at Burrell as a serious option in left field, they are doing a good job of disguising it. Granted, they really have no reason to move on him until the market starts to sort itself out.
5) What do you mean, the "market starts to sort itself out?"
Well, this is how I see the offseason: There are three marquee chips. One is C.C. Sabathia. One is Mark Texeira. And one is Manny Ramirez, who also happens to play the same position as Burrell. None of those three has signed, meaning the top of the market has yet to be defined, and potential suitors for players like Burrell are not yet known. If the Dodgers fail to sign Ramirez, they might then need a left fielder. Likewise for anybody else who happens to get into the Manny sweep stakes. Right now, Burrell and his camp have an idea of what he is worth. But neither Burrell nor the Phillies have a way to gauge the reality of that number until some other pieces start falling into place. That said, I don't think Burrell and the Phillies will ever meet. I'm sure Burrell would like a three or four year deal, and I can't imagine the Phillies going past two.
6) Are Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett realistic possibilities?
Lowe, maybe. But I have a hard time believing the Phillies will be major players in the Burnett sweepstakes. Under Pat Gillick, there was a hard-and-fast rule that the Phillies would not sign pitchers to deals longer than three years. And there are indications that it could take five to lock up Burnett. Lowe might be a little more realistic, and he would appear to be a good fit for the Phillies. But when names and bank accounts like "Red Sox" and "Yankees" are involved in the bidding, I find it hard to believe that the Phils will end up walking away with the spoils.
7) What about relievers?
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Phillies lock one up soon, since they seem to be the one position that is moving off the shelves with any degree of regularity. Veterans Doug Brocail and David Weathers are off the market, so cross them off your lists. Righthander Russ Springers is still available and would not cost any draft picks. And I'd continue to keep an eye on D-Backs righty Juan Cruz, although the 29-year-old would cost a draft pick.
8) Who is more likely to get a long-term deal, Jayson Werth or Ryan Madson?
Right now, I'd say Jayson Werth. I wouldn't be surprsied to see Madson reach arbitration and then try to sell himself as a closer in next year's free agent market. I think the Phillies like Werth as part of their future, and it would make sense to me if Werth chose to sacrifice some future dollars for some long-term security.
9) Are the Phillies even thinking about arbitration yet?
With 10 players eligible for the process, they can't afford not to. But exploring the free agent and trade market continues to be priority No. 1.
10) Would you mind throwing some names out there?
Sure. Nick Punto has been mentioned as a possible utility infielder, but reports I've read have him hoping to stay with the Twins. . .The Phillies are one Jermaine Dye's no-trade list, so he isn't a likely corner outfield option. . .If the Phillies end up spending some money on a upper-tier starter, I wouldn't be surprised to see them satisfied pairing a Geoff Jenkins/Matt Stairs/Greg Dobbs platoon with someone like Rocco Baldelli. . .Former Brave/Padre second baseman Marcus Giles, who sat out last season, could be back in the league next year.