Kevin Millwood: "To arbitrate or not to arbitrate"

"Whether It Is Nobler In The Mind To Suffer The Slings And Arrows Of Outrageous Fortune". Both Phillies ownership and their long suffering fans need to ponder long and hard on this one. Just what is at risk if one arbitrates or does not arbitrate with Kevin Millwood. The right choice will lead to the following words by a gravedigger years hence – as the skull of an agent is held aloft and the heady words are uttered… "Alas poor Boras – I knew him Horatio…"

The Question we have before us regarding offering Kevin Millwood arbitration is a crucial one. It is about whether or not the Phillies are going to enter the top tier of Baseball or will if they will continue to disappoint. It is really about whether or not the current ownership who has been able to hang on all these years with insufficient capital will have a good kick to the finish line to increase the value of the franchise before that sell in the next year. It is all about whether Ownership will be far-seeing or short-sighted.

First of all, I do not agree with a number of assumptions.

One, that it will be automatic that Millwood will accept the one year arbitration. Millwood will still be the most solid arm in the free agent mix. I believe that as teams dream of "just one more piece" their interest in Millwood will go up as well.

Two, if he stays that he will automatically receive 13 million dollars in arbitration. This is just not going to happen. The arbitrators look at recent contracts and Millwood's 3 year history does not match Schillings last 3 years which produced a $13 million dollar contract. Arbitration numbers go up as contracts go up, they must level off as contracts level off. Millwood second half will take the number lower.

Three, the key to this is that if Millwood and Boras pull the "Maddux Maneuver", then there are two things in play. Millwood will have a reliever in Billy Wagner and he will not wear himself out in one run games as he did pitching for the Phillies during the first half of last year when each and every pitch and inning had to be perfect. He will also be pitching for a 4-5 year free agency deal, be in better shape, and he will know that his future tens of Millions of dollars depend upon his performance should he play for the Fightin' Phils in 2004.

Four, the 10 to 13 million dollars that might be on the books for the Phillies if Millwood accepts the arbitration is only for one year. It is not an A-Rod or Hampton multi-year contract and poses far fewer risks to the club than if the question marks in the rotation (Wolf was hittable – Myers got tired and cursed out Pitching coach Kerrigan – Milton in a new league with knee and control issues) create a losing this year for the Phillies. The Phillies ownership needs a World Series to increase the value of the club and to open the park on an up note and not risk a bad taste in the mouths of the Phillie Phans...by playing penny wise and pound foolish.

Five, what will it give the Phils if he Millwood is on the team? Not one - but two - top Pitchers trying to prove value prior to the 2005 Free-Agency. If Kerrigan works his magic on Eric Milton his price will soar. Having two guys in this situation pushes each to excel and will doubles the chance that one of them might sign a sane 10 million per year long term deal, which is where the market is going. You cannot build clubs around 17 million dollar or 13 million dollar pitchers. Just as 100,000 dollars was the standard for a player for so many years, the 10 Million Dollar mark will likely become the new Millwood line. If the Phillies go into next year losing both Milton and Millwood the Phils will be one year closer to Hamels and Floyd. But it will be after a top campaign.

Six, are the Phillies minor leagues plump and full? They are so much better than the past, but the rotation in AAA Madson, Junge, Hancock, Telemaco, and Smith last year did not produce prospects that would have produced trade bait.

The Phillies need two number one picks, a sandwich pick and a second round pick. The Phillies should be happy that because of their recent hard work they will not have to over pay for top picks or lose them a la J. D. Drew.

Seven, lucky seven.... roll the dice - worst case - the Phillies will have two in Milton and Millwood trying to pitch their hearts out for a big free agent payday - doubling the chances that we retain one of them next year. The downside is minimized in that it is only one year of cost. If Milton or any other on the staff fails - the Phillies will not go deep into the playoffs. Best Case? The Phillies get to trade Johnny Estrada for one year of Millwood and a first or second round draft pick and a sandwich pick!

And, do not forget if Millwood stays we can offer arbitration again and get picks next year as well.

Pretty good trade I would say.

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