Some Rumors Just Don't Make Sense

Doug Brocail (Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty)

With the official opening of free agency, you're going to be hearing a lot of rumors. We've got a look at which ones you can believe, which ones you can't, and why.

Building on a strength?

There are reports flying around that the top two names on the Phillies shopping list are Doug Brocail and Russ Springer. First, both are right-handed relievers and both are - to put it nicely - contemporaries of Jamie Moyer.

The Phillies bullpen was a definite strength last season, with the Phillies leading the National League in bullpen ERA at 3.22, but there's always room for improvement. That being said, Brocail and Springer, while both having strong 2008 seasons, would be risky moves for a couple of reasons.

First, their ages (Springer just turned 40 and Brocail will be 42 in May) make them an automatic risk. Second, both are Type A free agents, which would require the Phillies to give up their first round pick if they were to sign either of them.

The only way the Phillies should consider either of them is to wait and see if they're offered arbitration by their former teams. If they're not, then the compensation is off the table and the Phillies should definitely pursue them. If they are offered arbitration, the Phillies will pass, not wanting to give up a young player - even though it is a very low first rounder - for an aging veteran just to build on a strength.

Manny-Mania!

Just stop the madness. Manny Ramirez is not coming to Philly, there are too many reasons why. His attitude wouldn't play well, he'll cost too much and his agent, Scott Boras, doesn't want him in Philly when there are more lucrative places for him to be.

Yes, Charlie Manuel knows him from their days in Cleveland, but Ramirez is a different guy now than he was back then and controlling him is not an option. If Pat Burrell leaves, the Phillies will need help in left field, but Manny Ramirez is not the answer when you consider the distractions that he would cause. Besides, if he were to sign with the Phillies, you know that the rumors of Curt Schilling signing with them would never come true and what would an off-season be without rumors of Curt Schilling returning to Philly?

Help for the rotation

Besides Schilling's pending return, the only other definite for an off-season in Philly is the hunt for more starters.

It begins with Jamie Moyer. If the Phillies can't re-sign him, then they better act fast to tie up one of the better starters out there. It's been assumed all along that re-signing Moyer was easy. Just write a number on a piece of paper, give it to Moyer and wait for him to autograph it. That hasn't happened and it could be time to start getting a little nervous. This could be a situation where the longer it goes on, the bleaker the situation appears.

So, is CC Sabathia next? He's going to cost a lot of money and the return on free agent starting pitchers isn't generally very good. Just ask the San Francisco Giants how that Barry Zito signing is going. Or hey, Seattle, how's Carlos Silva working out for you?

When it comes to free agent pitchers, most of the good moves are on the lower tier pitchers. St. Louis is pretty happy with the 15 wins and 200 innings that they got in exchange for the $4.25 million they gave Kyle Lohse last winter. (Here is where you insert the obligatory reference to the fact that the Phillies could have signed Lohse, but I'll let that to your imagination.) Cleveland got 36 wins and a combined 4.67 ERA over 2 1/2 seasons for Paul Byrd and paid him about $18 million for that performance. Then, they dealt him to Boston.

Tim Wakefield is a Type B free agent, meaning that the Phillies wouldn't lose any compensation for signing him. All they would do is have to find a catcher that could handle a knuckle-ball. Derek Lowe is a Type A player, but would be worth the compensation and might be a better financial risk than Sabathia.

And actually, this might be an interesting time for a Schilling return. The Phillies would no longer need him to be a top-of-the-rotation guy and if Moyer re-signs, putting Schilling fourth in the rotation might be a good fit. I have to admit though, it would still be hard to welcome back a guy who pleaded for a ticket out of town, but maybe it's time to forgive, even if forgetting is out of the question.

None of this proves that Sabathia will crash and burn. If the Phillies can afford him - and it says here that if they really dug deep, they could - he makes the rotation probably the best in baseball. But if things don't work out, keep in mind how much you wanted him if and when the Phillies are saddled with a huge contract that they can't off-load.

What about trades?

Well, there are some interesting names out there to consider. Jermaine Dye is probably the most mentioned for the Phillies now that Matt Holliday is off the table. The Phillies have some depth in their minor league system, but they have to be prudent in when and where they deal that strength to. For instance, rumors are that Holliday will be back on the trade market again next Summer if the Rockies don't appear headed for the post-season. Maybe a stop-gap left fielder gets you through until an in-season deal for Holliday or one of the other outfielders that are likely to be available can be made. In other words, don't spend all your prospects too soon.

Will "Elvis" be back in the building?

If "Elvis" returns, he brings his owner with him, which is a good thing. Elvis is the beloved dog of outfielder Pat Burrell and the canine leader of the World Series parade down Broad Street. Burrell is signable. He wants to be back in Philly, which is generally the biggest stumbling block in re-signing a lot of free agents. Suddenly, Burrell and the fans are in a love affair and there should be some way for the two sides to agree on a deal that can keep Burrell in Philadelphia pinstripes.

Pat Burrell accompanies "Elvis" at the Phillies World Series celebration. Maybe Elvis could be baseball's next version of the Rally Monkey.
(Photo: Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)
Here's an idea. A few years back, the Angels had the Rally Monkey. How about the Rally Elvis? The Phillies can sell off stuffed replicas of Elvis and show him doing some cute tricks - although he doesn't look like much of a trick type of dog - on the video board at Citizens Bank Park when the Phillies need a rally. Imagine, the whole crowd could bark along with Elvis as the Phillies mount a rally to come back to win yet another game. The marketing money might just be enough to pay Burrell's contract. It would be a beautiful thing; imagine 44,000 people barking at the New York Mets as they take the field looking for their again beleaguered bullpen to hold a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. With every ball that the Mets' closer - whoever he'll be - throws, the barks grow louder.

Of course, Burrell himself wouldn't be part of the rally, because he would have been lifted for defensive reasons.


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