It was never going to be considered a "no brainer" move had Amaro and Company
decided to offer arbitration to the two most prominent members of the
Philadelphia Phillies 2008 free agent class, veteran hurler Jamie Moyer and
slugging outfielder Pat Burrell. After all, the arbitration process can be an
unsettling jaunt through murky waters, and the ultimate result is rarely
satisfying to either party. Suffice it to say, that is the reason so few
organizations or players choose to see this process to the end, preferring
instead to negotiate a compromised settlement. Fair enough.
Yet, it was still somewhat surprising that when the dust settled at midnight
Monday night, Eastern Standard Time, the Phils had made the decision to offer
arbitration to neither Moyer or Burrell, setting up the unlikely but still very
real possibility that both of these championship kingpins might choose to take
their still talented services elsewhere, leaving the Phils holding nothing but
the proverbial "empty bag." This somehow seems quite unbecoming of the now
reigning baseball champions of the western world and and very dangerous to the
chemistry of this close knit crew of players.
Of course, the prevailing question left unanswered by this quirky decision is,
"Just what would Pat Gillick have done given this decision?" No one will ever
know for sure as Gillick, although still in an advisory role with the team, is
not prone to second guessing procedures and has never been considered a man
comfortable in the public setting. His thoughts, however important, are likely
to rest entirely with him. Still, his record was quite clear in similar cases
and might provide some insight into just what an Amaro-led front office could be
like during the years that he wears the General Manager crown.
Exactly why it would be of interest as to what Gillick would have done lies
precisely in the resume he left behind as former Phillie GM. Simply put, it is
the greatest one ever in team history. Yes, even better than Paul Owens, long
revered and deservedly so as the chief architect of the greatest era in Phillie
baseball history [1974-83]. While Gillick's reign was short and lasted only
three seasons, the results were more than a bit impressive. To wit...three
winning seasons, two playoff berths and most importantly, one World
Even more impressive is that while many contend he inherited a winning club from
Ed Wade, this belies the reality that on July 30, 2006, when he made his Garry
Cooper like High Noon stance and completely turned over the roster of the club,
the team stood at 46-54 and looked for all the world like a dispirited and
sinking franchise. Instead, those moves completely changed the chemistry of the
club and since that day Gillick's Phils fashioned a 220-166 record, a sterling
.570 winning percentage. Tack on two playoff berths and one World Series victory
and Pat Gillick's legacy is complete.
Simply put, Pat Gillick viewed his players as resources and he also placed a
high premium of the June Amateur Draft and the draft picks he could garner from
that draft. While he understood the need to watch organizational finances
whenever possible and valued "financial flexibility" above all else, he never
wavered in his belief that it made little sense to allow a player like Aaron Rowand to flee via free agency without at least protecting the investment by
offering arbitration as Rowand had one foot out the door.
The strategy worked in a two fold direction. It allowed the Phils to recoup two
top draft picks should Rowand leave [which they did when he signed with the San
Francisco Giants] and also gave his team at least the possibility of keeping
Rowand under the terms of a one-year arbitrated contract. In other words, he
protected the team should Rowand leave while letting the now departed center
fielder know that he still had a place with the team should he choose to accept
This seemed both wise and diligent. Contrast that with former GM Ed Wade and his
prevailing philosophy that it was dangerous and short-sighted to offer
arbitration except under the most extreme circumstances. True, he did offer it
to both Kevin Millwood and Placido Polanco but was reported to have been shocked
when both players accepted the offers of arbitration. To say that he was unhappy
with both of these decisions would likely be an understatement.
It is important to keep in mind that Amaro worked under Wade and Gillick and
undoubtedly was influenced by both of them. The key question that begs an answer
from unknowing Phillie phanatics is just which philosophy Amaro has chosen to
emulate more closely, Wade's or Gillick's? This is not necessarily an empty
question since the end results of both former Phillie GM's couldn't have held
more stark contrasts and Amaro's choice of philosophies could be a key to the
organizations continued future success.
Whereas the Wade Era will be remembered for the never ending determination to
acquire "major league ready" veterans, September near misses and continual
conservative fiscal policies, the Gillick Era will be recalled as a time of
daring decisions, exciting and successful September finishes and in the end,
championship baseball. All the while, Amaro was watching, digesting and
ultimately determining and shaping his philosophical views.
Yet, long held philosophies are difficult to change and many baseball insiders
have long felt that at his roots, Amaro is a Wade-like fiscal conservative.
Certainly, he had to have been impressed by Gillick's ability to tinker and
rework his plan to successful completion but he always seemed more comfortable
with Wade's way of doing things than Gillick's. If the recent decision not to
offer arbitration to either Jamie Moyer or Pat Burrell is any indication, the
answer seems apparent.
To his credit, Ruben Amaro justified the move by using one of Pat Gillick's most
beloved mantras, "financial flexibility." It was the defining theme under
Gillick and served the sage GM well. However, in the case of both Moyer and
Burrell, this move seems ill-conceived and possibly dangerous to the chemistry
of the 2009 squad.
Make no mistake, both Moyer and Burrell were not only contributing members to a
championship core but were highly esteemed voices of reason in the clubhouse.
Jamie Moyer has been like a pitching coach on the field for the likes of Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and J.A. Happ while Burrell not only provided the greatest
source of right-handed power to the middle of the order but was also the longest
tenured member of the Philadelphia Phillies. These are not two players who would
easily be replaced. Truth be told, the offer of arbitration would not
necessarily guarantee their return as it seems likely that Burrell will receive
a more lucrative offer elsewhere and Moyer's love of Seattle could influence his
choice of residences for 2009.
However, by not offering them arbitration they have given notice to the entire
core of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, players like Jimmy Rollins,
Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels that they are prepared to
move on without either key player. For a team interested in defending their
championship this seems at first glance a very unsettling proposition. To have
at least offered arbitration would have quieted this notion.
It is well worth noting that the Phillies, while not alone in their decision not
to arbitrate, will have a hard time defending their decision when held in
comparison to many other recognizable names on the free agent list. Key players
like Manny Ramirez, A.J. Burnett, Raul Ibanez, Derek Lowe, Frank Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets and Milton Bradley were all offered
arbitration by their existing teams. Most did it not necessarily because they
felt they could keep these players but in order to protect their assets.
The true litmus test, however, lies with the Boston Red Sox. If any team has an
organization that seems to do things the right way, it is Boston. Enlightened,
clear thinking, and far sighted, the Red Sox have developed a philosophy that if
you build an organization that can compete on a yearly basis, you will
occasionally combine talent with luck and win a championship. This philosophy
has served them well since they first brought GM Theo Epstein on the scene and
remains the blueprint for the Phillies and others to follow.
With this in mind, it is worth noting that the Sox chose to offer arbitration to
both catcher Jason Varitek and pitcher Paul Byrd. This is both significant and
comparative with the Phillies. Both Varitek and Burrell are tenured and
respected veterans with their teams and in many ways represent the very best in
their franchises. Both Byrd and Moyer are older yet still highly effective
hurlers who contributed mightily to the success of their teams in 2008.
Interestingly enough, it would be easy to argue that Burrell and Moyer were more
valuable to the efforts of the Phillies than were Varitek and Byrd with the Sox
yet it was Boston that chose to arbitrate while the Phillies chose not to.
Perhaps no other team had such comparable cases as did Boston and the
differences in philosophy could not have been more pronounced. Boston was not
fearful of the consequences whereas the Phillies obviously were.
Phillie phanatics are now left to ponder the likely ramifications of this
action, or inaction. If reports are to be believed, the Phils and Moyer are not
far from agreement on a new deal, one that will probably involve two seasons
plus a team option. For a 46 year old pitcher, this seems uncharted waters, but
Jamie Moyer is coming off a 16 win season, remains in great shape and seems
deserving of his just rewards after his efforts on behalf of the championship
run in 2008.
However, a player and his ego are never far removed from each other and it will
be interesting to see just how Moyer views this perceived "slap in the face" of
non-arbitration. He is a classy guy and understands the business aspect of the
game but, as previously mentioned, the Phillies have entered dangerous territory
with this move. Stay tuned.
Pat Burrell's case is a somewhat more complex one. There are many within the
Phillie community who feel that his career in Philadelphia has run its course
and culminated in a grand finale championship season. They site as evidence his
slowness afoot, and his defensive inadequacies in left field. They talk at
length about his long and pronounced slumps at the plate and theorize that his
career could catapult downhill quite rapidly. Perhaps.
Still, it is well worth remembering that this is a player who has annually
averaged over 30 home runs and 90 RBI while routinely being replaced by the
seventh inning of any game the Phillies led. It can easily be quantified that
Burrell has lost on average 100 at bats a season because of this, 100 at bats
that well could have pushed his home run totals to nearly 40 and his RBI average
to well over 100 per season. Not necessarily easy numbers to replace.
In fact, there is a prevailing theory that Pat Burrell, much like Pat Gillick,
is one who will not be truly appreciated until he is gone. In both cases, this
theory may quickly be tested in 2009. Burrell, while professing an undying
affection for the team, city and its phans, may eventually have to choose
between love and money and past results do not speak well for the love of city
and team over the offer of more money.
The Phillies have reportedly offered the slugging left fielder two years and $22
million, an offer he has so far rejected. Some baseball scouts think Burrell
might find a team willing to give him a third year and another 12 or 13 million,
making the final package somewhere around three years and $35 million dollars.
The Phils are either gambling that no such offer will come forward or that they
can find another free agent bat to replace the thunder of Burrell's booming
They speak of free agents Rocco Baldelli or Raul Ibanez but neither is without
some of the same warts that bedeviled Burrell. Baldelli has a degenerative
condition that makes performing on a daily basis difficult if nigh impossible.
He seems better suited for a platoon system in left field, possibly with either
Geoff Jenkins or Greg Dobbs. Whether or not they could combine to offset the
lost production of Pat Burrell is problematical at best.
As for the talented and highly valued Ibanez, he too brings as many questions as
he does answers. For one thing, he is yet another left-handed bat which would be
added to a squad that already tilts much too far to the left. Many contend that
it was as much the left-handed bat as the $16 million contract that eventually
caused Gillick to move former star Bobby Abreu to the Yankees in the summer of
2006. Gillick believed that neither Utley nor Howard would ever truly reach
greatness if burdened by yet a third left-handed bat in the middle of the order,
and both players recent success seem to indicate that Gillick was correct in
In many ways, Raul Ibanez would be much like bringing back Bobby Abreu, almost
as if a walk down memory lane. Baseball history teaches us that it is rarely
successful to relive the past instead of march forward to the future. Truth be
told, Ibanez would be a poor replacement for Pat Burrell.
Rather, if Burrell does indeed depart, the team should investigate the
possibility of acquiring either Jermaine Dye from the Chicago White Sox or
Magglio Ordonez from the Detroit Tigers. Both Dye and Ordonez are solid left
fielders, strong right-handed bats, excellent clubhouse presences and eminently
available because of their contract status. They might be able to acquire one of
the two for much less than true market value because of the unique circumstances
involved with their current teams this off-season. Both Chicago and Detroit are
looking to "downsize" financially and might be agreeable to a package offer of
what constitutes about 50 cents on the dollar.
As for the possible loss of Moyer, albeit however slight. the Phils would miss
his leadership qualities more than his probable performance on the field. The
team looks capable of replacing him with the likes of rookies J.A. Happ, Carlos Carrasco, Andrew Carpenter or youngish veteran Kyle Kendrick. The team could
also delve into the free agent market for an A.J. Burnett or Braden Looper but
that scenario seems unlikely at best. Better they make every effort to bring
back Jamie Moyer and allow the team to defend their crown with the players who
earned them the crown in the first place.
While Phillie GM Ruben Amaro put forth a brave face when defending his reasons
for nixing both Moyer and Burrell in the arbitration process, the entire scene
seemed somewhat uncharacteristic of a team that recently scaled the mountains to
the peak of baseball championship success. Champions generally have an almost
disdainful look about them, whereas this decision seems fraught with
apprehension and fear. Baseball insiders still recall the unbelief that the team
felt when an arbitrator awarded slugger Ryan Howard a $10 million contract last
February, and many suspect that result has left reverberations within the
organization that are being felt even today.
Yet, in times like this it might best behoove Amaro and Company to recall the
words of one William Burnham when asked about his cure for the common ailment
known as "fear." Burnham waxed poetic by stating that "the most dramatic and
usually the most effective remedy for fear is direct action." At first glance it
doesn't appear as if direct action was the course the Phillies chose when faced
with the Y in the road in regards to Jamie Moyer and Pat Burrell.
Rather, they seem to have succumbed to the maladies of the illness rather than
seek the cure. Yes, at first glance it would appear that the Philadelphia
Phillies and their new general manager, Ruben Amaro, are suffering from a
powerful case of...arbitration trepidation.
Spring Training Announcement!!! What better way to celebrate the
2008 Champions than to attend Spring Training in Clearwater, Florida with Allen
Ariza [aka CD from the Left Coast]. We will spend four days, March 20-23 at the
Phillies spring site, watching the team prepare to defend their title while also
visiting with the players in the sun and fun that only Florida can provide. The
trip will include three nights stay at a three-star local hotel, several
outstanding meals, many baseball related activities, and at least two spring
training games. For more information on this once in a lifetime opportunity,
please email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and cost. See you in
Columnist's Note: Please email all questions and comments to
email@example.com and I will respond. Thank you! CD from the Left