On the surface, both sides say that those days are past and that they won't affect the negotiations to sign Millwood. You would like to believe it, but then again, I like believing cute blondes who say they'll call me later, too. It gives you hope and that is at least something.
In this case, the Phillies are waiting for the call and Scott Boras is the cute blonde. The two sides have talked and know that they are both interested in seeing Millwood back in Philadelphia. Now comes time for the phone call. Word in the organization is that Boras has told the Phillies he will present them with a proposal in "the very near future", to let them know exactly what they would have to do to keep Millwood in red pinstripes. Are the Phillies holding their breath? Yes; well, they're sneaking a breath here and there, but they do want Millwood back.
It's interesting that the proposal will likely come in the form of a fax, since in the old days, a mis-sent fax was part of the war between the Phillies and Boras in the J.D. Drew fiasco. You may remember that Boras claimed the Phillies faxed their contract proposal to the wrong number and that he never got it. Of course, he also said that Drew had moved and they had sent the proposal in the mail to the wrong address. To hear Boras tell it, the Phillies were more inept than Gray Davis run as Governor of California. The skeptic in me has to believe that somewhere down the road, Boras will say, "Well, I faxed them a proposal and they never got back to me. Maybe, I faxed it to the wrong number." Even if Boras does send that fax through, that's just the very first step in what is likely to be a long, tough process for the Phillies.
Let's say the fax comes through. Odds are the Phillies won't like the numbers in either the money side of things or on the length of contract side of things. True, that in most negotiations, that's the way it goes. When was the last time that you saw a car salesman accept the first offer that you threw at him? Even if things do look good, it's almost an obligation to try to change a few things here and there just for good measure. After all, you don't want to appear to be a push over. Even the most optimistic among us has to know that the numbers will be very, very high. Probably too high for the Phillies to accept. They're probably thinking three years – tops – at about $10 to 12 million per year and Boras is probably in the five year, $15 million dollar neighborhood.
It's very possible that the two sides won't be all too far apart on the money. The problem could be the number of years. Boras and Millwood are looking at this as Millwood's mega-bucks contract. Perhaps, the biggest and longest he will ever sign. Plus, they look at him as a bona fide number one starter who belongs in the financial league of Randy Johnson and Kevin Brown type numbers. That means that it's likely Millwood will at least look elsewhere, but is likely to keep Philadelphia in his sights. The problem for the Phillies is that you have to believe a team like the Yankees will give Millwood the five and possibly, six years that he wants.
In a perfect world, Millwood would sign for three years. In that span of time, he has the potential to become a true number one starter who would deserve that kind of contract. Since he is 28 – he turns 29 on Christmas Eve – he could sign a three year contract, establish himself as a true top of the rotation ace and still be young enough to get the five year super bucks deal that would take him through the rest of his career. Problem is, the world ain't perfect. The other side of the coin could also be that Millwood suffers some sort of major injury and the three year deal becomes his last, meaning that he loses a lot of money that he can get guaranteed now.
The Phillies plan should be something like this. Guarantee four years, but with the first couple of seasons being the kind of numbers that they're looking for. Then, give Millwood his numbers in years three and four. You can then build in an option for the fifth season and possibly link it to the number of innings pitched or where Millwood stands in the ERA race or something. That would give Millwood some guarantee and would also give him the fifth season that he is likely to want as long as he's healthy and has become the sort of ace that the Phillies hope he becomes. If he hasn't, they can cut him loose and let him look elsewhere. It's unlikely that will happen though. Compromise isn't something that the Phillies and Boras seem to have much hope of doing. Plus, the "evil empire" will be losing Roger Clemens, David Wells and possibly, Andy Pettite. You have to figure they will go after pitching long and hard in the offseason. Boras knows that and will use that as big time leverage.
Seeing Millwood back in Philadelphia is only likely to happen if it's as an opposing player. Of course, if Millwood pitches against the Phillies like he pitched against his "other" former team, the Atlanta Braves, then that wouldn't be so bad. The Phillies will likely receive that fax and they will likely send one back with some revised numbers and the two sides will talk about wanting to get a deal done, but that they need to get the best deal possible for their side. In the end though, the Phillies probably look elsewhere. You have to figure there will be a few calls to Montreal about Javier Vazquez and a couple calls to Andy Pettite if he does look to free agency. Yes, there will be the calls to Phoenix too, to ask just what Arizona needs in exchange for Curt Schilling, but don't get me started on that. There's a whole other column coming for when that gets closer; I mean, if that gets closer.
It's possible that the Phillies could re-sign Millwood. It's very likely though that they would need to accept something very close to the first offer that Boras sends over, including guaranteeing five years. Likely? No. Possible? Yes. Of course, I still think that cute blonde will be calling any minute now.