Phor Phillie Phans
This is part-two of my series of answers to e-mails. Today I'll be saying what the Phillies should do this offseason. My baseball trip has me in Boston today, seeing the deadly Boston vs. Oakland series.
The Phillies have made a decision over the last few years that they want this team around a long time. Mike Lieberthal, Jim Thome, David Bell, Pat Burrell, and Bobby Abreu are all signed in the long-term. Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd are still young enough to be on the roster for awhile before they reach free agency, so that leaves one position...second base. Placido Polanco is under contract next season, but the team has a great prospect at AAA in Chase Utley. Utley, formerly a standout at UCLA, is back at second base this season and tormenting the International League. He will play second base next season, leaving Polanco in the utility role.
Larra Bowa has verbally challenged Jimmy Rollins this season, basically to use his talent to the best of his abilities. The Phillies have altered Rollins so much since his entrance to the Majors, he's a different player. Unfortunately, he's the type of player who wears his heart on his sleeve, and will let offensive slumps effect his defense. The team will try him again next season, but he's on a shorter leash then ever. They can't take a .320 or less OBP from their leadoff hitter.
The rotation will remain mainly in tact. Vicente Padilla, Randy Wolf, and Brett Myers are guaranteed to be back. The team will lose $10M player Kevin Millwood, putting them in the market for an ace. Expect Ryan Madson or Taylor Buchholz to take the fifth starter job from Brandon Duckworth. But at the ace spot, the team will have two options: Millwood or Curt Schilling. Since early this season when rumors started that Arizona needed to dump salary, Philly has been a potential destination. The team has the minor league depth to make this type of trade, and bringing back Schilling would give a nice start to the new field.
But what Ed Wade has in front of him is piecing together a new bullpen. This season has seen great things from a bullpen that has expectations low, and we will see how many players he re-signs. Here is the status of each:
Jose Mesa- Team option- expect Philly to finally let Mesa go
Rheal Cormier- Team option- 2003 bullpen MVP will be back
Dan Plesac- Option- Retirement or Philly?
Mike Williams- Team option- next few months decide
Turk Wendell- Free Agent- Should move to greener pastures
Terry Adams- free agent- team will bring him back
Six guys could be gone from this bullpen. I expect Cormier, Plesac, and Adams to definitely be back. If Williams performs well in the next couple months, then Philly will pick up the option, and make him the 2004 closer. If not, then Mesa and Williams are both gone, and the team goes hunting. Eddie Guardado and Ugueth Urbina are free agents, and Trevor Hoffman will be as well. Expect the Phillies to land Guardado or Hoffman to close games. They will then add a few middle relievers, people in the Scott Sullivan mold.
Ed Wade took a career gamble the last few years. He wanted Phillie Phield to open like Jacobs Field did, to a team with great potential. That will be true in 2004, whether Schilling or Millwood pitches Opening Day.