If you're gonna be a fly on a wall somewhere right now, the Phillies offices in Clearwater, Florida might be a good place to be hanging around. The entire brain trust is down there, including coaches, scouts and others in the organization with any sort of official voice to be heard. Rest assured that they've all got opinions and they won't all be of the same mind when they address various topics and players.
One player who may evoke a huge amount of discussion is Brett Myers. The effective, but sometimes moody and potentially volatile right-hander, doesn't have a defined role for 2008. He came into last season as the ace of the Phillies starting rotation and finished the season as their closer. In between came a stint on the DL and a couple of clubhouse blowups with various reporters. Still, whether as a starter or reliever, Myers was generally effective and is an important part of the Phillies staff. Just where will he be most effective?
Tom Gordon's best days are well behind him. Ryan Madson is coming off an injury and wasn't effective as a closer when the Phillies tried him in that role before, so the weight may well fall on Myers' shoulders. While there are some potential closer candidates in the minors, the Phillies don't want to defend their NL East title - boy, doesn't it feel good to say that - by starting next season with a rookie in the closer's role.
While the internal fixes are few and far between, the external options are much brighter. Francisco Cordero and Mariano Rivera officially filed for free agency and either would look impressive in red pinstripes. With Gordon and Madson able to set them up, Myers would then be free to head back to the rotation, which would immediately give the Phillies a needed shot in the arm there.
The Phillies know they have Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick to lean on. Of course, the role that Adam Eaton would play is also going to be debated in Clearwater, but he'll figure into some sort of mix unless the Phillies can dump him and his sizable contract on some GM who believes a reclamation project is just what his team needs. Good luck on finding that. With Myers settled back in the rotation, the Phillies could openly audition starters for the number five spot in Spring Training or perhaps re-sign Kyle Lohse, who was adequate in his stint with the team. While the Phillies wouldn't want to go with a rookie as their closer, having a Carlos Carrasco or another bright, young prospect in the fifth spot of the rotation would be acceptable.
With the decision on what constitutes Plans A and what constitutes Plan B not yet settled on, there is a Plan C.
Offer Brett Myers up in trade. He's been effective as a starter and reliever and could bring a decent return in the right situation. If the Phillies can't, or decide not to, re-sign Aaron Rowand, perhaps Myers could bring some help for an outfield that would suddenly have a hole. Then, the Phillies could sign one of the free agent closers and either hope for an Eaton turnaround or possibly find another veteran starter who could take a spot in the lower ranks of the rotation, without eating up too much of the payroll. The free agent ranks among starting pitchers is pretty thin this season, but there's always Curt Schilling.
Actually, Schilling brings up another interesting situation. Much like their pursuit of Cordero or Rivera could push Myers to the rotation, pursuing Schilling would be just the addition to push Myers firmly into the closer's role. And, if they hit the jackpot and get one of the closers and Schilling, they could then consider Myers value with other clubs or have one of the better starting rotations around with Hamels, Myers, Schilling, Moyer and Kendrick. The cost of doing that could be prohibitive, but not out of the question, especially considering that Schilling would likely be signed for two years at most and would possibly consider a slight discount to sign a deal that would allow him to finish out his career as a Philadelphia Phillie.
Rest assured that the discussion will center on all of these options and the Phillies brass will be kicking around various free agent and trade scenarios during their stay in sunny Clearwater. Rest assured too, that many of those discussions will have one Brett Myers anchored firmly in the center of the discussion.