Phillies Roster Update

Next week, baseball's general managers gather for a few days of talking shop and swap. The Phillies will be there and may start looking to fill some holes. They may also spend some time with player agents, trying to keep some of their own players and trying to convince other players to call Philadelphia home. Here's a look at the Phillies roster situation as we head into the meetings.

Billy Wagner had his $9 million option for 2005 picked up by the team. His agent also told the Phillies that he won't demand a trade as would have been his right, since he was traded in the middle of a multi-year contract.

Aaron Fultz, who was 3-3 with a 5.04 earned run average for the Twins last year, was claimed on waivers.

Felix Rodriguez, who could have become a free agent, exercised his $3.15 million player option to remain with the Phillies in 2005.

Shawn Wooten, Brian Powell and A.J. Hinch were assigned outright to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. All three opted to become free agents, although the Phillies are interested in bringing Hinch back. Wooten and Powell are both goners.

Starting Rotation: The Phillies' problems in 2004 started with the starters. The rotation combined for just 922 1/3 innings and had a 4.91 earned run average. Not pitching deeper into games put a strain on the bullpen, and falling behind early put pressure on the lineup.

Eric Milton (14-6, 4.75) started the season as the number four starter but ended up as the best pitcher in the rotation. He was the only pitcher with more than 200 innings for the Phillies this year, but is also a flyball pitcher in a homerun park - he gave up 43 long balls – and has filed for free agency. While he is interested in returning, there's no guarantee he'll be back. By the way, of his 43 homeruns that he allowed, 20 of them were at Citizens Bank Park, while his innings pitched were about even at home and on the road.

Kevin Millwood (9-6, 4.85) might have been the Phillies' most disappointing player – again - in 2004. After asking pitching coach Joe Kerrigan to back off and let him prepare his own way, he still didn't pitch up to expectations. He gave up 155 hits in 141 innings, didn't go deep into games and also spent six weeks on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis. He's a free agent who isn't expected to be back.

Vicente Padilla (7-7, 4.53) is one of the best pitchers in the league when he's focused on the task at hand. He has a plus fastball and wicked breaking ball, but too often loses concentration. Since he made $2.6 million last season and is once again eligible for arbitration, he is rapidly approaching a crossroads in his career. There is also some lingering concern about injury problems.

Randy Wolf (5-8, 4.28) was bothered much of the season by elbow tendinitis, which explains the mediocre numbers for the 2003 All-Star. The Phillies badly need him to bounce back next season, especially since he could become the number one starter by default. He should be 100% by spring training, but it will certainly be an issue to watch.

Brett Myers (11-11, 5.82) regressed this season. He's still only 24 and still has the potential to become a dominant pitcher in the big leagues. At the moment, though, he remains an immature thrower. The hope is that the new pitching coach will get through to him after Joe Kerrigan couldn't. Many believe he could also be trade bait if the Phillies were to find the right match with another club.

Cory Lidle (12-12, 4.90) pitched well for the Phillies (5-0, 2.63 in his last seven starts) after struggling immediately after being acquired from the Reds (0-2, 8.16 in his first three starts) in August. He's a free agent but he's also a groundball pitcher, which makes him interesting for a team that must try to restructure its pitching profile to survive in Citizens Bank Park. He is also known for being an innings eater and pitched over 200 innings combining his numbers from Cincinnati and Philadelphia.

Gavin Floyd (2-0, 3.45 in six games) started the season at Double-A Reading. There were no plans to bring up the 21-year-old this past season, but injuries depleted the rotation to the point where he was called up in August and pitched well enough to make himself a frontrunner to make the team out of spring training.

Bullpen: Considering that closer Bill Wagner missed 2 1/2 months with a series of injuries, pushing the rest of the relievers out of their projected roles, and that weak starting pitching meant the second-highest workload in the league (540 1/3 innings), a combined ERA of 3.70 was more than acceptable.

Billy Wagner (4-0, 2.42, 21 saves in 25 opportunities) was acquired from the Astros to give the Phillies the late-inning hammer they thought they lacked with Jose Mesa in 2003. When healthy, Wagner delivered. But everything from a groin pull to shoulder tendinitis limited him to 45 games. Wagner has said that he will rededicate himself to getting in shape this winter.

Tim Worrell (5-6, 3.68) was signed as a free agent to set up Worrell. He ended up having to take over the closer's role 27 times - he converted 19 - and did a credible job although that scrambled the rest of the bullpen.

Rheal Cormier (4-5, 3.56) appeared in 84 games, a club record for a left-handed pitcher. Despite the workload and even though he's 37 years old, he finished strong with a 2.30 ERA from the beginning of August to the end of the season. Cormier filed for free agency and has also considered retirement, although he has reportedly told friends that he is leaning toward pitching one more season and would like to do it in Philadelphia.

Ryan Madson (9-3, 2.34) was the Phillies' most pleasant surprise this season. A starter his entire career, Madson made the team out of spring training as a middle reliever and took to the role immediately. His stats are inflated by one emergency start against the White Sox; as a reliever his 1.65 ERA was third in the league among non-closers. Moving him into the major league rotation for 2005 isn't out of the question.

Felix Rodriguez (5-8, 3.29) was acquired from the Giants one day before the trading deadline. He pitched well enough that the Phillies are glad he's coming back.

Roberto Hernandez (3-5, 4.76) was signed to give the team another veteran presence in the bullpen. He brought intangibles but probably didn't pitch well enough for the Phillies to bring him back in 2005.

Todd Jones (11-5, 4.15) was acquired from Cincinnati before the trading deadline. While he had some effective stretches, he admitted he didn't think he pitched well enough for the Phillies to offer him a contract and he has filed for free agency.

Catching: Some fans wanted the Phillies to dump Mike Lieberthal, but the reality is that there is no replacement available in the farm system. And Lieberthal would be difficult to trade because he's guaranteed $7.5 million next season and needs only to stay healthy to vest his $7.5 million option for 2006. Todd Pratt is an able reserve but is a free agent.

Mike Lieberthal (.271-17-61) had a disappointing year but finished strong by batting .356 from September 1 until the end of the season. He also led NL catchers in homeruns.

Todd Pratt (.258-3-16 in 45 games) remains a valuable backup, but his batting average has declined for three years in a row, from .311 in 2002 to .272 in 2003. He's a popular player with fans and in the clubhouse and it's not out of the question that the Phillies will do what they can to bring him back into the fold for one more season.

Infield: Three of the four positions are set with Jim Thome, Jimmy Rollins and David Bell. The only change is likely to be at second base, where Chase Utley is expected to take over.

Jim Thome (.272-42-105) broke his right middle finger in spring training, then jammed his left wrist early in the season. While he never complained, the injuries nagged him all year and limited his production.

Placido Polanco (.298-17-55) was probably the Phillies' best situational hitter. He can also be a free agent who doesn't appear to have a position since Chase Utley has been penciled in to play regularly next year. Polanco, however, hasn't ruled out returning as a utility player, but he's a free agent and may be courted for an everyday job somewhere other than Philadelphia.

Jimmy Rollins (.289-14-73) had his best year. He finally became the leadoff hitter the Phillies have long expected him to be, improving his on-base percentage to .348. He scored 117 runs and is also a legitimate Gold Glove candidate after making just nine errors.

David Bell (.291-18-77) rebounded from an injury-plagued 2003 season during which many fans questioned the wisdom of signing him to a four-year, $17 million contract. His batting average was a career high and, more important, he was a strong clubhouse leader.

Chase Utley (.266-13-57) proved that he's ready to hit at the big-league level, putting up decent production numbers in just 267 at-bats. His defense remains a question mark, although he was much improved in 2004 from the previous season. He also filled in well at first base when Jim Thome needed a break.

Tomas Perez (.216-6-21) remains a valuable reserve despite his low batting average this year. He can also play the other three infield positions and keeps the team loose with his antics in the dugout and clubhouse. Perez was signed to a two-year deal rather than letting him go into free agency.

Ryan Howard (.282-2-5) may or may not be a part of the 2005 Phillies. He's got a lot of power and the Phillies love his bat. There are two very possible scenarios that would keep him out of Philadelphia. One is that he will play at AAA Scranton to get more experience and to learn playing in the outfield. The second is that he is traded elsewhere as the Phillies hunt either for a center fielder or front-line starting pitcher.

Outfield: The Phillies are set at the corners with Pat Burrell in left and Bobby Abreu in right. General manager Ed Wade has admitted he'll probably pursue a trade or free agent in center since Marlon Byrd seems to have played his way out of the team's plans.

Pat Burrell (.257-24-84) rebounded somewhat from his disappointing 2003 season but still didn't hit to the level the Phillies expected when they gave him a six-year, $50 million extension. He has problems when he tries to pull everything for homeruns, something he did with disturbing frequency in the second half of the season. The good news is that his wrist should be fully recovered by spring training.

Marlon Byrd (.228-5-33) played his way back to Triple-A Scranton, was recalled and still hadn't regained his stroke. He played only sporadically the last month and is considered very available going into the offseason. Was it just a sophomore jinx? It's not likely that the Phillies will figure on him being a part of their club in any way.

Bobby Abreu (.301-30-105) also had 47 doubles and 40 stolen bases. He became a 30-30 player for the second time in his career, the only Phillies player to do it even once. He was also the only Phillies regular to bat .300 this season; it was the sixth time in his seven seasons with the team he's reached that milestone. He was also awarded the Silver Slugger Award as the best hitting right fielder in the National League.

Jason Michaels (.274-10-40) got a chance to play regularly at the end of the season and went 34-for-114 (.298) from September 1st on. The Phillies think he could be an everyday player but envision him as more of a corner outfielder and, with Burrell and Abreu, the team is set at those spots. Michaels could also be potential trade bait.

Doug Glanville (.210-2-14) gives the team some speed and outfield defense. He has filed for free agency and may consider retiring. If he has a future in Philadelphia, it might be as a member of their front office.

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