Hey CD...On Wagner, Bell, Madson, Vazquez & Others

<b><I>Hey! CD</b></I> is a regular Q&A column by California Dreamin, a Phillie die-hard from SoCal. His unique perspective on Phillie baseball issues & events draws grassroots interest from Phillie fans living in different parts of the country. Send your comments or questions to CD at <a href=mailto:connectthedots@earthlink.net>connectthedots@earthlink.net</a> and read his response to you on a future edition of this column. Thanks!

Q: On the Billy Wagner Trade, from Dominick Patrone, Richmond VA

Hey! CD, I was just wondering what your thoughts were on the Billy Wagner trade. Do you feel we gave up too much to acquire him?

CD says...
Dominick, thanks for becoming a regular, and thanks for the question!

Yes, Dominick, we did pay a steep price for Wagner, but it was a trade that had to be made. Billy Wagner is one small notch below Gagne, Rivera and Smoltz, and that's it! This is a left-hander who routinely throws 100 MPH, and with solid control. He will make everyone better around him, the starting pitching, the set up guys, and the defense.

Suddenly, baseball will be an eight inning game in Philadelphia and when Wagner comes in to close, he will do it almost every time! He saved 44 of 47 games last season, and this has just about his career percentage. It is not unfair to say that had the Phils had Wagner last year, they would have been the wildcard team, and not the Marlins. Since the Marlins are now World Series Champions, one can only surmise what might have happened had the teams traded places in the playoff run!

As for what we surrendered… lets just say that we gave up three pitchers with lots of talent and potential. Duckworth, although almost 28, could blossom with a change of scenery, and probably will be in the Astros rotation next year. Astacio was a 15 game winner at Clearwater, and may surface as a big leaguer in 2-3 years. As for Buchholtz, ah, here is the plum. No pitcher named Hamels or Floyd was a better prospect in the Phils organization. He is a crown jewel, and seems to have a future as either a starter or as a closer. It would not surprise anyone if he is pitching in Houston by August of 2004.

That said, this was a trade that Ed Wade had to make, and it sets him up to now acquire a #1 starting pitcher.

Thanks, again, Dominick for the question.

Q: On third baseman David Bell, from Tom McCullough, Paulsboro NJ

Hey! CD, I have not heard anything about David Bell in quite some time. What is the status of his injury and will he be fully recovered for Spring Training?

CD says...
Hi, Tom, good question and the timing of it is perfect!

On Monday night, Larry Bowa went on television to talk about the Wagner trade and commented that he had "recently seen David and he is doing fine!" Although he did not go into detail, and was not pressed on the comment, one can gather from this that he was referring to David Bell. So, if we take Bowa's comment at face value, it appears that Bell is recovering from his back injury and will be ready to reclaim his starting third base job in March.

However, let me add this caveat. I still believe the jury is out for two reasons.

  • One, back injuries are historically iffy propositions and I would not be too sure that he won't suffer a relapse when asked to play at full speed.
  • Two, I find it more than significant that the Phils are making it clear they do not wish to trade Chase Utley.

I really like Utley and am happy with this announcement BUT I also think that Utley is insurance in case Bell doesn't come back! If the Phils are that adamant about not trading Utley, I think it's because they are also hedging their bets against a Bell full recovery.

By the way, although I supported the Bell acquisition and like him very much, I still believe that his injury was much more serious than advertised and that he may have trouble regaining his form. Hope I am wrong because I think David Bell adds a lot to the Phils lineup when healthy.

Q: On a possible trade for Curt Schilling, from Carmine Pirone

Hey! CD, now that we have acquired Billy Wagner, how does this affect our efforts to trade for Curt Schilling? Is the deal now dead?

CD says…
Carmine, welcome aboard, it's always nice to receive questions from new readers!

The Schilling question comes up to me in emails almost daily so that is why I continue to address it! As the regular readers of this column know, I have always believed it was not a question of IF but WHEN Curt Schilling would return and nothing that has transpired lately has changed my way of thinking.

In fact, the Wagner trade makes it more likely that Schill would return, in my opinion, for this reason. Wagner is a Rolls-Royce reliever and a team doesn't acquire a Roll-Royce reliever and then place a Pinto engine in the car. As much as I love Wolf-Padilla-Myers, this group is still two starters short, especially at the top end. You do not pay a reliever 9 million dollars unless you are planning on making the playoffs and having Schilling increases those chances.

I also feel that the D'backs will realize that if they are to acquire anything for Schilling, it will have to be now. As a free agent in waiting, and with a no-trade clause, Schill is in the catbird's seat, and everyone knows it. I still believe that Schill will be a Phil by Christmas.

Q: On Ryan Madson's Chances of Securing a Starting Birth, from Ed Siegler, Norristown PA

Hey! CD, what do you think of Ryan Madson as the Phil's fifth starter next year?

CD says...
Ed, as usual, thanks for the question.

Ryan Madson is perhaps one of the 3-4 most talented young hurlers in the farm system and has done everything needed to receive an opportunity to win the fifth starter spot. I do believe his future is as a starter, and I think he is a heavy favorite to win that spot if he is not traded over the winter. Ed Wade mentioned that Madson has received a glowing endorsement from Dave Stewart, a coach on the Olympic Team. Stewart, a former 20 game winner in Oakland, is not prone to hyperbole so if he endorses someone, you can be sure it was earned.

As for Madson's competition…unless the Phils acquire a bottom of the rotation pitcher over the winter, and this is very possible, I believe the fifth spot falls to one of the following hurlers, Madson, Josh Hancock, Bud Smith or Amaury Telemaco.

Q: On the possibility of Kevin Millwood staying with the Phyllis, from Chuck Burg

Hey! CD, Now that the Phils have acquired such an outstanding closer in Billy Wagner, do you think this might convince Kevin Millwood to accept arbitration and stay another year?

CD says...
Chuck, your questions are always timely, thanks again for writing!

In regards to the possibility of Kevin Millwood accepting arbitration and staying for one more year, it is possible but I sincerely doubt it. For one thing, Millwood has had arm problems in the past and his agent, Scott Boras, knows this. It is doubtful that he would risk a 29 year old arm on a one year contract when he probably will receive a three year contract elsewhere.

Another reason is that I just feel that Millwood's level of comfort in Philadelphia was always tenuous at best, and probably low by the end of the season. I still believe Millwood will replace Greg Maddux in the Brave's rotation as Maddux moves west, possibly to San Diego.

It is not coincidence that both the same agent, Boras, represents Millwood and Maddux, so one scenario is directly related to the other. However, there is little doubt that the market is rapidly changing, possibly even faster than Boras could have imagined. He will probably ask for 5 years for Millwood, hope for 4, and settle for 3, with a fourth year team option.

In my opinion, this will be a contract that the Phils will walk away from.

Q: On trading Bobby Abreu, from Mugs

Hey! CD, what are the chances of the Phils trading an underachieving Bobby Abreu for Schilling or someone like him?

CD says...
Well, Mugs, you are not alone in your feelings about Abreu, but I must admit I do not share your sentiments. First, let's answer your question, my friend.

Unfortunately, there is absolutely no chance of this happening…and for several reasons: One reason is that in the long term, Abreu will be playing for the Phils even after Schill has settled into happy retirement life in Philadelphia. Another reason is that Abreu is a very solid player for the Phils and it is never wise to trade solid players unless you are receiving someone of equal value in return.

I was not happy that Abreu refused to bat lead off in June when it seemed quite obvious that he was the best choice, but I was happy with his season. In fact, he will probably go down as the greatest Phil's right fielder of ALL TIME before he is through. A player who consistently hits .300, with 20+ home runs, 20+ stolen bases, and 100 RBI is not an easy player to replace. The Phils had many problems in 2003 but Abreu was really not one of them.

Thanks for the question, Mugs, and I hope you write again.

Q: On acquiring Javier Vasquez or Andy Pettitte, from Peter Bogert

Hey! CD, now that it appears that Kevin Millwood is gone, what do you think are the chances of acquiring Vasquez or Pettitte?

CD says...
Interesting question, Peter, and one that is on the lips of many Phillies fans, especially concerning Javier Vasquez.

Other than Schilling, there is no starting pitcher available that I would rather see the Phils acquire than Vasquez but I just don't see it happening. He will command players like Chase Utley, Gavin Floyd, Cole Hamels or Brett Myers and this is just not going to happen.

After trading Buchholtz and Duckworth to the Astros for Billy Wagner, the Phils will be very reluctant to trade away too much more of their farm system. Also, keep in mind that Vasquez's current team, the Montreal Expos, will be very reluctant to trade him to a division rival, someone they will see 19 times. Vasquez may or may not stay in the National League, but it says here that it won't be as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

As for Pettitte, the chances are even more remote than with Vasquez. Although a free agent, and technically, available to any team, Pettitte has made it fairly clear that he has limited his choices to two options. He will either stay with the New York Yankees, or go home to Houston as a member of the Astros. In fact, speculation in Houston was that they traded Wagner to the Phils to free up money to make a bid for Pettitte.

I have no feeling either way about this one…he probably loves getting to the World Series every year as a Yankee, but probably is tiring of the constant headaches that owner George Steinbrenner brings to the club.

If I had to venture a guess, I would say that King George will win out as he usually does…by outbidding the Astros. Stay tuned!

To My Readers and co-Fans: Thank you for your continued patronage and the undying interest in our beloved Phillies. Keep the questions coming! CD from the Left Coast

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