The First Day of the Rest of our Phillies Lives
This is definately one time when we don't mind admitting that we were wrong. About a month ago, in the beginning stages of this blog, CL went out on a limb and predicted that Jim Thome would not be moved until after not only the start of spring training, but the regular season as well. This was based on nothing scientific, only the overall culture Dave Montgomery has presided over since the late 90s, the seeming aversion to big trades, and new GM Pat Gillick's own admission that he was going to take time to get to know everything and maybe do this here or there. All of this added up to slow progress.
With the trade of Jim Thome before Thanksgiving, just days after a front page profile of him ran in the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer -- how's that for a conspiracey? Gillick must have known he was getting close and possibly let a beat writer or two in on the knowledge -- the Phillies have begun what could very well be one of the most engaging offseasons in club history. And begun it well, thank you. This is good for many reasons, not least of which being that their division mates seem to be following suit. The Marlins are unloading, the Mets are opening their pockets, and the Braves are the gold standard taylors for making annual alterations. In sending their former franchise cornerstone to his hometown along with an envelope of cash, the Phils welcome their newest starting centerfielder to town (as opposed to last week's newest starter there) along with two highly-touted left-handed pitching prospects into their farm system.
As is generally agreed upon by both Phils bloggers and Southside Chi-town web gurus, both teams appear to have addressed weaknesses through these trades, but the NL almost certainly made out better. The two prospects were apparently rated #3 and #6 in the White Sox's minor leagues, including a barely-out-of-his-teens, projected ace southpaw with good K numbers at single-A ball last year. At the top level, the team appears to have added its 6-slot hitter for next year, and one with a large patrol area in centerfield. Based on this trade alone, Gillick has proven himself to be the guy the Phils needed right now to turn things around right now. Three players for one is hard to beat.
The move is not without its side effects though and they are pretty obvious: along with the acquired, the team has a surplus of players in the outfield, including two very expensive corner starters and two very inexpensive role players in center. Add to this a few highly-regarded minor league outfield prospects and you have a legit logjam both short and long term in the grass at CBP. With pitching still an unaddressed need, it stands to reason that another off-season move could bring a live arm to the mound for the price of one near the fences. Burrell should be safe as the only right-handed power in the lineup. Will it be the high-priced Abreu, the displaced former CF starter Victorino, or the perennial odd-man out Michaels? Sounds like Bobby has been shopped, inquiries on Michaels have been stopped, and plans to start Victorino have flopped. What happens from here is anyone's guess. It could be that Gillick himself doesn't know. Whatever it is, CL humbly suggests that Endy Chavez is thrown in.
One wildcard to the deal: In Jim Thome, the organization had a stand-up guy who liked to play in Philadelphia. No one can say yet for certain that Aaron Rowand, a Chicago Bears fan who was visably disappointed to leave the windy city, will feel the same. Here's to hoping he doesn't lose that willingness to run through walls.