Arbitration is a word Phillie fans should become accustomed to hearing over the next month as it applies to players Kevin Millwood, Placido Polanco and Ricky Ledee. It must be offered to a player who has completed 3 years of service and is not currently under contract if the team wishes to keep the player. It is especially important for a player like Millwood, a "Type A" free agent, who will command two first round draft picks in next June's Amateur Draft. The Phils must offer arbitration to players by December 7, 2003. A player has until December 19th to accept or reject arbitration. If the player accepts, he is bound to the club. If he rejects, the club has until January 8th to resign him, or he is lost until May.
If Millwood rejects arbitration and then signs with another club, the Phils will receive two first round draft picks next June. Given the Phils outstanding track record in drafting talent, this is important and may well pay off for the Phils next June.
He is an agent who is often loved, and often reviled, but Scott Boras can never be ignored. The agent for many of the rich and famous, including Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, his latest staple includes Mr. Millwood. Regardless of whether or not Millwood resigns with the Phils, Boras is a name that will be discussed often during the next few months.
Collusion is a form of price-fixing, and is a word that will be heard more and more this winter as player salaries continue to fall. Agents and players believe that owners are attempting to keep salaries down by sharing information. The new Basic Agreement forbids this. There are even rumors that a lawsuit may be on the way.
What's actually occurring is that owners finally understand supply-side economics. With almost 400 players about to be set free on the market, supply has overtaken demand, a good thing for owners and fans and a bad thing for agents and players. Watch for the cry of collusion before the end of the year!
Draft-pick compensation will be a consideration in arbitration and free agent offers this winter. As baseball attempts to limit salary growth, the farm system has become a more economical way to build a team. As mentioned, a Kevin Millwood will bring two high draft picks from a team that signs him.
One of the reasons the Phils were so happy to acquire Billy Wagner by trade instead of signing a Keith Foulke or Tom Gordon as a free agent is that Wagner will not cost them draft picks. Signing Foulke or Gordon would have meant the Phils surrendering their first round pick.
Perhaps no topic will be discussed as often or as freely over the winter as Economics. Baseball economics has changed drastically, and if you believe the owners, most teams are now losing money. This will limit how much some teams can spend over the winter. Happily for the Phils, the economic picture is a bright one due to the new stadium.
Baseball teams will be divided into buyers and sellers this winter. The Phils will be part of a small group of buyers. Other buyers include the Yankees, Orioles, Cubs, Padres and Devil Rays. Most of the other teams will be attempting to cut salary from the payroll.
He was cantankerous, irascible and often cheap. No owner was more reviled than Charles O. Finley, the late owner of the Oakland Athletics. Yet, like many geniuses, he was a man born before his time.
He owned the A's during the initial free agent period, which began in 1976. In fact, he attempted to sell many of his players like Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi and Sal Bando before they left. Commisioner Bowie Kuhn stopped him.
Yet, it was Finley who first suggested a way to stop the escalating salaries and frenzy that accompanied free agency. He suggested making all players free agents after every season. In this way, they would be competing against each other and would have little time to negotiate, bargain, and hire agents. They would be too busy signing contracts before it was too late!
It was brilliant business sense… and was scoffed at by owners of his day. Now deceased, the current conditions have proven that Finley was correct.
The owners have the purse strings, but it's the General Managers who wheel and deal. Many of the deals to come in the next few months will be initiated this week when the General Managers convene their winter meetings in Phoenix, Arizona. The meetings will run from November 10-12. Deals are not expected this week but the groundwork will be laid for much of the player movement to take place in December.
Most casual Phillie fans have never heard of him but they soon will. His name is Ryan Howard, a first baseman and current MVP of the Florida State league. Howard is suddenly being mentioned as an "untouchable" player, along with star hurlers Cole Hamels and Gavin Floyd.
This is probably being done to make him more appealing to a team wishing to make a trade with the Phils. Although a very talented slugger, Howard is currently blocked at the big league level by Jim Thome. Look for Howard to be traded over the winter.
The baseball world was sent into shock waves last week when Boston Red Sox 100 million dollar player Manny Ramirez was placed on Irrevocable Waivers. Although no other team took the bait on such an outrageous salary, watch for this to be another tool used against players who "cost too much" and "contribute too little."
The Phillies' new best friend this winter well could be Managing General Partner Jerry Colangelo of the Arizona Diamondbacks for reasons that will become apparent later. Needless to say, he mortgaged his future for a successful championship in 2001 and now must cut costs.
It would surprise few baseball pundits if he and Ed Wade became fast friends this winter.
Baseball has always had two sets of rules, one for 29 owners and another set for King George. Although he found that 180 million dollars could buy him neither happiness nor a World Championship, don't expect him to retreat. A player salary structure approaching 200 million dollars would surprise no one.
Losses as in "we must cut our losses this off season." Traditionally, owners play an off-season game of cat and mouse with agents and the public. While crying poverty and insisting they must find ways to cut costs, they attempt to convince the public that they are promoting a product worth watching!
This has always been an entertaining show, and quite often very enlightening. The Phils have been as guilty as anyone else in this clever game, but to their credit, they no longer use words like losses. They now prefer words like economic realities, or fiscally responsible.
Clearly, the Phils have entered a new era, one that the fans should relish and enjoy.
So much of what the Phils hope to do this winter will be placed on hold until Kevin Millwood decides where he will pitch next season. In the unlikely event that he stays, the Phils rotation is set at the top. If he goes, look for the Phils to attempt to acquire a top of the line starter, regardless of their current official posture.
On December 20, 2003 the baseball landscape will change when at least 100 players flood the market as Non-tendered free agents. These are players that are not offered contracts for next year by their current clubs and the list will be impressive.
Among the potential players on this list are Livan Hernandez, Carl Pavano, Miguel Batista, and Brad Penny. No doubt, teams will be very judicious in handing out large free agent contracts until this list becomes known.
The Phils may well pick up a very serviceable starter during this period.
Outrageous … a word that will be heard by more than one owner at a player's salary demands and by more than one agent, who deems the offer unfitting for a talent such as the player he represents!
The jury is still out on the future of
Juan Pierre, the center fielder for the Florida Marlins. Yet, watch for teams to seek a Juan Pierre "type" player this off-season. The havoc he created, the rallies he started, and the way he affected his teammates in a positive way during the Marlins playoff run has made him the baseball flavor of the month.
Teams that don't have a Pierre will want one, and teams that have a similar player will encourage Pierre style play. The Phils player most likely to be encouraged to play with Pierre style is shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
Paul Quantrill stands for Quality and is a prime target of the Philadelphia Phillies. He is a most valuable hurler, the pitcher who bridges the starter to the closer. With a staff of solid starters, and Billy Wagner to close, Quantrill is a pitcher to watch during the free agent extravaganza.
It certainly doesn't hurt that he has had success in Philadelphia before (1995) and that he is a very good friend of Phil's lefty Dan Plesac. It would surprise no one if Quantrill were a Phillie in 2004.
Relief pitchers will be very much in demand this winter. The Phils already plucked the most desirable one in lefty Billy Wagner but there are several other talented relievers available. The list includes Keith Foulke, Ugueth Urbina, Eddie Guardano, Shigi Hasegawa, Tim Worrell, Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill, LaTroy Hawkins and Arthur Rhodes.
This article would not be complete without mention of Pitcher Curt Schilling. No player will be talked about by Phillie fandom more than Schilling during this off-season. Already the Schilling chatter has become so loud than when Curt sneezes, Phil's fans everywhere say, "bless you!"
Schilling longs to return to Philadelphia and if Millwood leaves, watch for the Phils and D'backs to arrange a trade to return him to the city and team of his roots.
An off-season would not be complete without Trades, and lots of them! Almost no player is off base this year and although it is still unlikely, watch for names like A-Rod, Ramirez, Garciaparra and Piazza to be bantered about in trade talk!
Untouchable, as in Cole Hamels and Gavin Floyd. It is safe to say that when these two hurlers make their debuts in the major leagues it will be in Phillie uniforms. They are that good… and that untouchable!
The most sought after free agent this winter will no doubt be outfielder Vladimir Guerrero of the Montreal Expos. As talented as any player in baseball, this 5-tool gem will be in demand from San Francisco to Baltimore to New York.
Although its never wise to count out the Yankees, most people close to Guerrero feel that he would prefer a less pressurized atmosphere than King George can provide. It would surprise no one if he stayed in Montreal, although teams like the Orioles, Giants and Mets appear determined to enter the bidding.
Look for a Jim Thome-like contract for Guerrero, and he is well worth it!
As important as the General Manager's meetings are this week, they are merely a precursor to the main event, the Winter Baseball Meetings, on December 12-15.
This is when the trades are made, the free agents are signed, and the Rule 5 draft picks are selected. This is baseballs off-season Super Bowl and is always eagerly awaited by a baseball fan base thirsting for news.
Historically, the Phils have been somewhat silent at these meetings, preferring to make their announcements when the meeting ends. This winter may be no different, as GM Ed Wade has already mentioned that he may be patient until the December 20 non-tender list is announced.
Nevertheless, this is a time when agents like Boras and Jeff Moorad enjoy the spotlight and promise to make the meetings newsworthy.
Place an X on the city of San Diego and that is the likely destination of free agent pitcher Greg MadduX. Maddux is in the autumn of a career that promises to culminate with an induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Once inducted, Maddux will join a select group of X-Men… Grover Cleveland Alexander, Nellie Fox, Jimmy Foxx and Sandy Koufax.
No off-season would be complete without mentioning the New York Yankees. It is a foregone conclusion that the Yanks will be busy. It has been 4 years since they last won a World Series and for the Yanks, championships are measured in years, not decades. Watch for the Yanks to resign Andy Pettitte, pursue sluggers like Guerrero and Gary Sheffield, and attempt to sign players like infielders Luis Castillo and Katsuo Matsui.
The list is complete - author is tired, let's call it a day and a pleasant good night…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
Columnist's Note: I welcome suggestions, questions and comments. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond! CD from the Left Coast.