Paul Hagen reporting ...
Conventional wisdom had it that, if nothing else, the Phillies would offer salary arbitration to at least lefthander Jamie Moyer.
Conventional wisdom whiffed.
National League sources confirmed to the Daily News that the midnight deadline to offer arbitration passed with the Phillies passing on all four of their players eligible for free agency: Moyer, leftfielder Pat Burrell and righthanders Tom Gordon and Rudy Seanez.
That doesn’t mean the defending world champions have closed the door on bringing back any of the affected players, although it is considered unlikely that Gordon or Seanez will be re-signed.
It does appear to mean that, with as many as 10 players up for arbitration — including NLCS and World Series MVP Cole Hamels, NL MVP runner-up Ryan Howard and postseason hero Shane Victorino — the front office is carefully avoiding being backed into a financial corner.
Any player offered arbitration — a process in which a player and the team each submit a salary figure and a three-person panel must choose one or the other — has until Sunday to accept. At that point he becomes, in effect, a signed player although contract negotiations can continue.
The incentive for teams is that if a player is offered arbitration and declines, the club receives draft picks as compensation. Moyer and Burrell, both Type A free agents, would have brought two selections next June in return.
The danger is that a player might unexpectedly accept arbitration rather than continue to test his worth on the free-agent market. That happened to the Phillies with Kevin Millwood and Placido Polanco.
Burrell made $14 million in 2008 and, after hitting 33 homers with 86 RBI, would figure to be well-positioned for a significant raise. And the Phillies don’t seem interested in committing that much of their payroll to a player who, after all, routinely comes out for a defensive replacement in the late innings.
It’s not surprising, then, that the Phillies didn’t offer him arbitration. It’s still early, but there have been few rumors of interest in Burrell except for some loose talk that the Angels might look at him as a first baseman if they lose Mark Teixeira.
Burrell, however, is popular with his teammates and has shown an ability to play in Philadelphia, something not all players can do. And his production won’t be easy to replace. Still, his future in red pinstripes seems doubtful unless his market value retreats.
The Phillies have made no secret of their desire to keep the 46-year-old Moyer, who was a bargain at a base salary of $5.5 million this year while going 16-7 with a 3.71 earned run average. And he has been open about wanting to come back.
So it was surprising that the Phils didn’t offer arbitration. The reason they didn’t appears simple enough: They didn’t want the amount of money they pay him to be decided by a panel or arbitrators.
That’s reasonable enough. Of course, if they can’t come to terms with Moyer the next step — finding a suitable replacement for the rotation — could end up costing even more.