Free Agents: There's not much happening on the free agent front. Most teams are expected to wait until after December 7th to get serious about many free agents. That's the day that teams must decide whether or not to offer arbitration to their free agents and if they don't, they don't receive draft compensation for losing a top free agent. A player who isn't offered arbitration may be much more attractive to teams since they won't lose a draft pick to sign him.
The Phillies top free agent, Eric Milton, is being pursued by a few clubs, but is one of the guys who teams may wait until after December 7th to sign. He will possibly also have to wait for players like Carl Pavano, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe to sign, since those players will be higher priorities than Milton. Now that the Phillies have their coaching staff in place, their talks with Milton could accelerate. Milton had wanted to see who the manager and pitching coach would be before he committed to signing with the Phillies long-term. Milton could be offered arbitration, much like Kevin Millwood was last season.
As for the free agents that the Phillies are pursuing, David Wells appears to be the prime target. The Phillies initially offered Wells $5 million and a one-year deal. They have reportedly upped that offer in terms of money, but aren't willing to increase the number of years. Right now, they're just waiting for a response. David Wells is a "Type A" free agent, meaning that if the Phillies sign him before the arbitration deadline, or if the Padres offer him arbitration, he will cost the Phillies a first round pick in next June's Draft. The Phillies had stated that they had hoped to avoid losing any draft picks, but wouldn't necessarily let that stand in the way of signing a free agent. It's likely that San Diego would offer Wells arbitration, since they are interested in having him return and he is generally being offered just one-year deals anyway.
Trade Bait? The Phillies would deal Pat Burrell and/or Mike Lieberthal if the right deal came along. Actually, they've talked to other teams about them, but since both have rather cumbersome contracts and no-trade clauses, it might tough to swing. One potential target for Lieberthal would be Los Angeles. He is from California and would be likely to accept a deal out west. The Dodgers are said to be looking for a catcher, so there could be a fit.
As reported on PhillyBaseballNews.com last week, the Phillies and Yankees are keeping in close contact. The Phillies have interest in Kevin Brown and also in either Kenny Lofton or Bernie Williams. It's likely that the two teams will wait to see how things play out in their free agent pursuits. If the Yankees get Carlos Beltran, then both Lofton and Williams will be on the block. The offers for Brown have been next to nothing, but the Phillies may be able to use that to get the Yankees to pick up the bulk of his big money contract for 2005.
The Phillies are also interested in San Francisco's Marquis Grissom. Center field is a definite area of concern for the Phillies and they are pursuing a number of opportunities. Most of the solutions that they're looking at are more short-term than long-term, which is okay with the Phillies. The emergence of Chris Roberson and Michael Bourn in the minors makes the Phillies believe that they don't need a long-term solution to center field. Other names like Randy Winn and Scott Podsednik continue to pop up, but Seattle and Milwaukee start conversations for those players by asking for Ryan Howard or Gavin Floyd and the Phillies don't want to do that. Tampa Bay has told the Phillies that they're really not interested in dealing Carl Crawford, so that appears to be dead.
Can you hear me now? The Phillies will return to WPHT - 1210 AM in Philadelphia for their flagship radio station. Complaints about the signal of WPEN, their now former flagship station prompted the move. WPHT is a 50,000 watt radio giant that can be heard on much of the east coast. The only small hitch is that Friday night games will be switched to sister station WIP, since WPHT didn't want to disrupt the broadcast of their popular Fridays With Frank show spotlighting the music of Frank Sinatra.