Perez and Polanco: Bench dawgs in '05?
The Phillies have ten free agents and the front office staff is spending the week thinking about what to do with them. Some of the decisions on free agents are pretty easy, while others are tougher. Suffice it to say though that many faces on the Phillies roster could change during the off-season.
Eric Milton is one of the tougher decisions. Yes, he gives up a lot of homerun balls, but he pitched pretty well for the Phillies. He’s a popular player and a good influence in the clubhouse, which is also something that the Phillies could use. He also wants to come back to Philadelphia and many folks around baseball believe that he’s really just coming into his prime.
Watch for the Phillies to make an effort to re-sign Milton, but not break the bank on a new deal for him. He could turn into this year’s version of Kevin Millwood, coming back to the team after accepting arbitration from the Phillies. The Phils almost have to offer him arbitration to at least get the draft compensation if he does sign elsewhere. You have to figure that teams like the Yankees would love to have Milton in their rotation.
Speaking of Kevin Millwood… He’s a goner. The Phillies offered him arbitration last season and he took it only to return with another disappointing season. His agent, Scott Boras, will try to put the best spin possible on Millwood’s back-to-back disappointing seasons and will try to sell him off as a staff ace. It just isn’t the case and the Phillies have other options. Don’t look for the Phillies to pursue him at all. A return to Atlanta and Leo Mazzone’s approach to the game are likely in the works for Millwood.
Cory Lidle is perhaps the guy that the Phillies will make the biggest push to re-sign. He’s a groundball pitcher in a homerun happy park. He’s exactly the kind of guy that the Phillies need to pursue for their staff and he showed it late in the season. He eats up innings and has talked glowingly about wanting to return to Philadelphia. Plus, he will likely be cheap compared to a lot of the alternatives out there. It’s more than likely that the Phils will work out something to offer Lidle and it’s more than likely that he’ll accept an offer to come back and be a part of the Phillies rotation. Having Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, Gavin Floyd, Brett Myers and Cory Lidle as a rotation isn’t the greatest, but it’s not bad. Of course, rumors persist that the Phils will look to deal Myers and possibly Padilla as part of a package to upgrade, so Lidle could become a little more important to them.
Rheal Cormier has a few things to consider. He’s one of the few pitchers that completely bought into Joe Kerrigan’s program and has had his best seasons under Kerrigan whether in Boston or Philadelphia. He’ll likely watch to see what happens with Kerrigan and could follow him elsewhere. It’s also possible that Cormier will retire. The 37 year old is said to be considering calling it a career, but hasn’t ruled out a return to the mound for at least one more season. The Phillies are interested in having him back, but he can be replaced if necessary. Odds are that he will return for one more season in the majors and the Phillies will be very much in the running to re-sign him.
Todd Jones is a goner. Roberto Hernandez is a goner. The Phillies won’t make an effort to sign either of them. If either of them are out of work when spring training comes around, the Phils might bring them into camp – especially Jones – but likely both will be elsewhere next season.
Placido Polanco represents another interesting decision. The Chase Utley era is here. The biggest question is whether Polanco could accept being a utility player for the Phillies or if he wants to find a steady job elsewhere. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa loves him and would take him back in a heartbeat, but with Tony Womack coming into his own, there won’t necessarily be room for Polanco in St.Louis’ starting lineup either. Polanco could play second against some tougher lefties in the league, fill in at third for David Bell and give insurance if Bell were to get hurt. He could even re-learn the shortstop position to give Jimmy Rollins an occasional day off. Polanco could be a valuable part of the club next season and the Phillies will at least offer him arbitration. That way, they get the compensation for him and can bring him back for at least one season to give them some depth.
If Tomas Perez decides to go elsewhere, Polanco may become a bigger target for the Phillies. Perez is a valuable type of player and there would be a number of teams interested in him. Would the Phillies have room on the bench for both Polanco and Perez? They definitely could make room for both. They also have minor league super-sub utility guy Buzz Hannahan close to major league ready, so either Polanco or Perez could be allowed to leave if the Phillies believe Hannahan can handle a major league utility job. Perez is very popular in the clubhouse and is valuable to the Phillies in many ways. They’ll try to keep him, but won’t go too high in the bidding to do it.
Doug Glanville will consider retirement, although another season may appeal to him. The popular theory is that he has a front office job waiting for him with the Phillies if he does call it quits. The Phillies will actually consider another season with Glanville, which won’t be a popular decision with the fans, but the front office folks love this guy. It’s possible that if he hangs out there long enough, he’ll sign a minor league deal with the Phils and come to camp competing for a job. A new manager might have a lot to say about Glanville’s future as well.
Todd Pratt likely won’t get much better offers than the Phillies might give him. Like others, Pratt will consider retirement, but may come back for one more season. The Phillies will shop for another veteran back-up just in case. A.J. Hinch could take over for Pratt if the Phils decide to let him go. Pratt is one of the spark plugs on the team and has a lot of value even though he is in the final years of his career. He brings a tough mentality to the team and the Phillies have relied on him to help out with a struggling clubhouse. Plus, Pratt feels comfortable in Philadelphia and will certainly look to join a team with hopes of going to the playoffs and giving him one last crack at a World Series ring. Again, if the price is right, Pratt will return, but it’s certainly not written in stone.
Shawn Wooten was another of the Phillies eligible for free agency, but he’s already hit the bricks. The Phillies reassigned him to AAA Scranton and he declined the assignment to become a free agent. The move cleared an early roster spot and didn’t make any difference since there was no way the Phillies wanted Wooten back and there was no way he wanted to come back.