The GM Game: Remember Ryne Sandberg

<I>The GM Game</I> allows our readers to take over as the general manager of the Phillies. All you have to do is send your ideas about what trades you would make to <a href=mailto:phillies1964@att.net>Phillies1964@att.net</a> and if we use your idea in a story, you'll receive a complimentary one month subscription to the PhillyBaseballNews.com Insiders Club.

The trade idea: Given the state of baseball today, the Phillies should not do anymore trading. Good young talent, especially pitching, is worth it's weight in gold in baseball, so let's keep as much young talent as possible in Philly.

Anyone remember Ryne Sandberg?

The Phillies have finally built a great farm system, and Wade has already addressed the teams biggest need through trade, so let's not get carried away. There are excellent mid-level free agent starters available, like Miguel Batista - who they would be signing away from a good National League team in Arizona - and more bullpen help would be nice. How about signing Keith Foulke so the Braves don't have him setting up Smoltz, or worse yet, closing, so Smoltz can start again next season. The Phillies have no major holes to fill at this point, so more trades would be foolish, and Ed Wade has proven to be anything but.

Does it work? The "no more trades" plan may be a pretty good policy. Every Phillies fan remembers Ryne Sandberg. However, do they remember Jason Grimsley to Houston for Curt Schilling? Or Joel Adamson and Matt Whisenant to Florida for Danny Jackson? The point is finding the right young player to deal and the right veteran player to acquire to make it all worthwhile. Fans of any major league team can tell you about the young guy that they traded away, but too often they forget about the trade that put them over the top.

Still, an embargo on trades isn't a bad idea. The best plan is probably right in the middle; a compromise. The Phillies need to identify players that they will not include in any trade and they need to stick to that. Period. When they identify those players, they need to err on the side of caution. If there is any discussion about whether or not a guy is untouchable, then he should be untouchable. Second, they need to identify players that they will only give up to get the right player, like a Curt Schilling or Javier Vazquez, and vow to include only one of those players in the deal. Then, the rest of the players become touchable. If a trade comes along that looks like it works and it only includes those touchable players, you make it.

The economy of baseball has changed drastically and there are a lot of teams that are guarding – and stockpiling – their young players. Youth equals cheap labor, which is something that teams are looking for.

As for free agency. Keith Foulke isn't likely to sign with anybody to be a set-up man. There are enough teams that can use a closer so that he should be able to find work somewhere. Probably the only way you get Foulke to come to a team to set-up your closer is if the established guy is basically on his way out or if you overpay for him. Foulke will likely be too expensive to sign simply to keep him away from Atlanta. Frankly, if the Braves want to put Smoltz back in the rotation and sign Foulke as their closer, so be it. I would rather see them go through the season with that alignment because Foulke won't give them the dominating closer that Smoltz did.

Free agency also carries its costs. The Phillies know that all too well after last season. They lost their first and second round picks because they signed Jim Thome and David Bell. Not that it was a bad move, but it carried a cost with it. They are trying to do what they can this offseason to keep all of their draft picks. That's why it's likely that they won't sign any free agents until after December 7th when teams must decide whether or not to offer arbitration to their free agents. Offering arbitration kicks in the compensation plan for any team signing those guys. It's very likely that a guy like Keith Foulke will be offered arbitration. A guy like Tom Gordon may be more likely to sneak through since getting an arbitration offer isn't a slam dunk and also because he's more likely to accept a set-up job than a guy like Foulke would be.

The Phillies are at an important place right now. They have a solid minor league system and their major league team isn't far away from being a playoff team. The wrong move either through trade or free agency could put an albatross around their neck for years to come, yet, they have to be somewhat aggressive in filling any perceived holes on their team. A couple holes will likely be filled by re-signing their own players – Terry Adams, Dan Plesac and Todd Pratt come to mind – but there will likely still be a move or two to make. That's where general managers are separated into men and boys.


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