Free Agent Mania: Pen A Concern For Wade & Phils

The off-season has hit Philadelphia faster than John Streets' lead over Sam Katz has widened and Ed Wade, no doubt, has some daunting tasks ahead of him. We take a look at five of the seven players (the other two being Jose Mesa and Mike Williams, both of whom had their options declined) who could find themselves on the free agent market if not resigned first. That list includes three pitchers, a catcher, and yet another hurler expected to send in his papers by the November 9th deadline.

Most importantly of all is that the bullpen could have three solid arms hitting the open market: Dan Plesac, Turk Wendell, and Terry Adams.

Kevin Millwood
The Phillies undisputed ace is expected to file for free agency within the next week, but Wade is in the process of trying to wrap him up with a deal. The twenty-eight-year-old right-hander finished 14-12 with a 4.01 ERA and also tossed in a no-hitter against San Francisco April 27 inside the Vet. The workhorse pitched 222 innings, but based on the reaction he got in the last game of the season (saying they were negative is an understatement), will he be back?

Turk Wendell
At the age of 36, he came back with a very successful season after elbow surgery put him on the sidelines for the entire 2002 campaign. Wendell only gave up 54 hits in 64 innings of work while obtaining a 3.38 ERA in 58 games. He finished with a 3-3 record. Right-handers hit a weak .194 against him, but that number balloons to .302 when it comes to facing lefties.

Terry Adams
The thirty-year-old, despite a brief stint on the 15-day disabled list (August 28th - September 12th), enjoyed a tremendously successful season by finishing with a 2.65 ERA in 66 games. In 68 innings of work he gave up only 23 walks while compiling a 1-4 record. After starting 41 games -- 16 with the Phillies -- the prior two years, he didn't begin one game on the mound for Larry Bowa in 2003.

Dan Plesac
The left-handed specialist appeared in 58 games for the Phillies this season, clocking 33 1/3 innings and compiling a 2-1 record with a 2.70 ERA. With his excellent slider, 92-95 MPH fastball, along with a solid changeup and sinking fastball, Plesac should be kept and all signs point to that happening.

Todd Pratt
The thirty-six year old backstop completed a great season as Mike Lieberthal's understudy; pounding out four homers and a .274 average in 125 at-bats. One of the most unforgettable events of the 2003 season was his 13th inning bomb that made the Phillies winners over the Boston Red Sox. The catcher has a habit for coming through with dramatic hits, being one of only five players to end a post-season series with a homer (1999 NLDS with the Mets).

Reportedly, Carlos Silva and Rheal Cormier are guaranteed spots in the bullpen, but the main concern on the Phillies problem sheet will continue to be trying to find a successor for Jose Mesa.

"The priority is the closer," Phillies general manager Ed Wade said to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "As demonstrated last year, we need to try to be as efficient as we can in the closer role. And those guys are difficult to find."

It's sure to be a thought-provoking winter.

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