Mambo for Starter No. 5
In a few days, the World Series will be over and quite possibly, its champion will be a team that went 3-3 against the Phils this season, including being swept at home under the Arch in August. And while that means a lot of moaning (in addition to the moaning that’s going on already) over the milk spoiled in the final week of the season, it also beckons the next phase of life as we know it – the 2006-07 off-season. It’s free agent time. More specifically, it’s time for an annual tradition in the Delaware Valley: the campaign to bring back Curt Schilling.
Why must this little dog and pony show happen? Well, as we said, it’s tradition and when you have a publicist as relentless as the one the Schill has (himself), its downright inevitable. Plus, the list of free agent pitching won’t overwhelm anybody seeking a championship. Pardon me, the names of those who are realistic signings won’t wow anyone. Mr Zito, and Mr. Schmidt, you are free to go. You are not the drones we’re after. Jeff Suppan, anyone? Gil Meche (more Mariners!), are you out there? Does anyone have an email address for someone named Ben Sheets? Bleh.
Next week, the Schill comes back into town to raise money for the Philadelphia Chapter of the ALS Association through his charity golf tournament, something he’s been doing for years. As some might hypothesize, this would be an opportune time for former Phils ace to make an additional pitch, that is to be the ace once again, most likely in his last year in the bigs. Schilling has all but said that he’s got one more year in him. He’s voiced his desire to finish up in Philly before, we’ve all heard it. If he means it, it’s now or never. The Phils have the money to take him on and it wouldn’t require an inflexible, multi-year contract. At this point, having already won 2 World Series – elsewhere, mind you – he’s the definition of a hired gun. If the team can count ageless wonder Jamie Moyer and the player once known as Jeff Conine among their ‘07 plans, there’s no on-field reason that Schilling couldn’t follow suit. It could even explain why Randy Wolf hasn’t been made an offer yet. Perhaps Gillick knows there are a few options that should be allowed to play out before committing to a fifth starter. One year of Schilling vs. multiple years of Randy Wolf.
Of course, getting Schill, assuming the Phils want him, won’t be quite so easy (is it ever?) First, he’s got a year left on his contract, so he wouldn’t be a signing, he’d be a trade and though the Red Sox wouldn’t get anything for him if they didn’t trade him and he retired, there would and will be a market for him. Somebody will want him. So, the even up Schilling for Gavin Floyd probably won’t happen (and even if it did, Floyd would go 16-9 next year with 4 complete games). Next, there’s the little matter of Schilling not exactly being well-behaved when he is here. The man loves to talk. Not that it should matter all that much, but he won’t be greeted with open arms by all. Finally, who’s to say that he’s got much left in the tank? After suffering through a miserable ’05 in which he was a disaster out of the bullpen, Schilling turned in a below average year for him (ERA+ of 116 when his career average is 127) and gave up more hits than IP for the second straight season. True, he still doesn’t walk many and would certainly fare better in the NL, but he turns 40 next month and his 1.24 HR per 9 innings is due for another jump in CBP.
All in all, this exercise in wild speculation brings up the central question in the Phils’ strategy for ’07: now or later?