Would Schilling's Return Be Worth The Cost?

Arizona's Curt Schilling wouldn't mind being Philadelphia's Curt Schilling – again. While having a pitcher like Schilling in the rotation would be attractive to any team, the Phillies need to stop and do the math – both the numbers and otherwise – to determine whether the return of Curt Schilling would be as good as Schilling's original run in the City of Brotherly Love.

First, we need to get the obligatory, obvious points out of the way. Curt Schilling is a great pitcher. He pitched his heart out for the Phillies and was a huge part of the 1993 National League Championship team. He was always good with the fans and his willingness and ability to raise both funds and awareness for A.L.S. are unmatched. The city embraced him like they have few other athletes of the modern era. When Schilling departed during the 2000 season, it was probably the low point of Ed Wade's tenure as Phillies General Manager and probably the low point of fan enthusiasm for the Phillies as a team. Curt Schilling is loved by Philadelphia fans and he is missed by Philadelphia fans.

Now, you know there's a "however" coming in here.

However, is bringing Curt Schilling back to Philadelphia a good idea. You have to first realize that it might not even be an issue. Everybody who perpetuates the rumor assumes that the Arizona Diamondbacks want to trade Schilling or perhaps, have to trade Curt Schilling. At any moment, Jerry Colangelo could stick his hand into the pocket of an old coat that he hasn't worn in a while and find the money he needs to keep the D'backs together and perhaps even add a piece or two to the mix. Don't assume that he's as broke as he says. There's a difference between the ordinary guy being broke and someone of Jerry Colangelo's stature being broke.

If we get past the point of assumption and discover that the Diamondbacks really would be willing to deal Schilling, then we've really got something to talk about, but there are still things to consider.

One of the advantages of the Phillies improved minor league system is their ability to give up some young players if they need to make a major trade. They have the minor league firepower to get a guy like Curt Schilling if that's what they want to do. That doesn't mean it would be a good idea. That firepower could also be kept around Philadelphia and its minor league cities to benefit our big league club someday, rather than having a guy show up as an opposing player and saying, "yeah, the Phillies used to have him." If the Phillies are in a pennant race this season or next season and need a Curt Schilling to put them over the top at the trading deadline, then giving up young players to get Schilling would seem to make sense. We're not there yet. First of all, we are only in the early stretches of May and secondly, we don't know if this team is going to climb nearer to the top of the NL East.

Another major consideration of course, if financial. Can the Phillies literally afford to bring Schilling back? They're not the tightwads – I'm sorry, "fiscally responsible" – bunch that they used to be. If you need proof, just ask Jim Thome, Pat Burrell, Randy Wolf, David Bell and others.

For 2004, the Phillies have already committed approximately $41 million to six players (Bobby Abreu, Mike Lieberthal, Thome, Burrell, Wolf and Bell). That's about $10 million more than what those players will be getting in 2003. Plus, Jimmy Rollins figures to get a nice raise and if they decide to keep Placido Polanco or Terry Adams, they'll need to find money to keep them out of free agency. There's also the possibility, although admittedly slim, that they'll want to keep Jose Mesa and/or Rheal Cormier. To pick up Mesa's option would cost $5 million and to keep Cormier would cost $3 million. And oh yeah, there's Kevin Millwood. Where it really gets shaky is starting in 2005. The Phillies have already committed nearly $50 million to those six players, plus there's the Jimmy Rollins question and the Kevin Millwood question.

To keep the math simple, that means that to keep this team together, the Phillies 2004 payroll would balloon from $72 million to probably around $85 million without Millwood or Polanco and without signing any replacements for either of them. Don't you hear the term "fiscally responsible" coming from the Phillies front offices?

Financially, the decision may come down to Kevin Millwood with a long-term deal to the tune of about $13 million per year or Curt Schilling at $12 million for the 2004 season.

The final consideration is to consider Curt Schilling himself. You get the guy who raised tons of money for charities, who considers Philadelphia his home, who loves the fans almost as much as we love him and who was always, and I mean always, the first to greet a teammate who did something to help the club win. You also get the guy who ruffled teammates feathers by putting a towel over his head while watching Mitch Williams pitch and who wanted out of town. Don't forget for a second that Schilling wanted out of Philadelphia. He didn't want to put up with rebuilding and wasn't far-sighted enough to see the days that we're living in now. To make matters worse, he went public with his demands, which shrank his value well below what it might have been.

Three years from now, would this city welcome back Scott Rolen? Remember, that Rolen wasn't the one that went public with his desire to leave town. It was the Phillies that leaked the news that he had turned down a contract extension. It was the Phillies that started the media feeding frenzy and fed it until it had consumed the Phillies into making a deal with St.Louis. It was Ed Wade and Larry Bowa that publicly held discussions on the Clearwater fields with Rolen, in full view of media when they could have held those same discussions behind closed doors. If I can claim my own little glimpse into the future, I'm guessing that Philadelphia won't open its arms to have Scott Rolen back three years from now. So, why are we so willing to open our arms and forgive what Schilling did to us with his public demands and public bashing of our team?

Curt Schilling wanted out during the lean times and now, it seems that he wants back in during the good times. If he were a fan, we'd call him a bandwagon jumper. Our money, our efforts and our hearts may well be better spent on Kevin Millwood. Like Schilling, he has electrified this town and unlike Schilling, he has put himself into the record books with a no-hitter. We had Schilling in his prime and now, we have the chance to have Millwood in his prime. The Phillies need to save their prospects and do what they can to get Millwood locked up for the next five or six seasons and let him be the one to push us toward greater heights.


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