If there is any piece of info that probably sends chills down the spine of Phillies' fans, it's Gillick's nickname; "Stand Pat". After seeing Ed Wade's record of trade deadline moves that brought the likes of Mike Williams and other "veteran" players to town, the last thing that fans want is a guy who is slow to pull the trigger on an in-season deal to improve the club. Of course, having Wade do nothing might have been favored over some of his trade deadline deals that were made to improve the Phillies.
In his time in Toronto though, Gillick brought David Cone to the Blue Jays to join the '92 team and Rickey Henderson to join the '93 team. Both of those clubs went on to not only appear in the World Series, but win the World Series. Of course, that probably means that Mitch Williams won't be joining the coaching staff anytime soon, unless Gillick feels he owes him one. People close to Gillick also say that the nickname simply isn't fair, because he had his hands tied by owners who refused to provide the final pieces of the puzzle - either players or money - that would have been required to make a major trade. Other GMs though have reportedly categorized Gillick as "cautious".
Remember George Bell?
Many fans forget that George Bell was a Phillies prospect when the Blue Jays grabbed him in the Rule 5 Draft. It was Pat Gillick that made that move and launched Bell's career.
Bell had played in just 22 games at AA Reading in 1980 after a stellar performance in the South Atlantic League the year before. While 1980 was a bust, 1979 was a breakout season for Bell, who at the age of 19 hit 22 homeruns for Spartanburg. In his first three seasons in the Phillies minor league system, Bell had hit a combined .307 and driven in 127 runs. He was a phenom to say the least, but the Phillies exposed him in the Rule 5 Draft and Gillick didn't miss a beat to draft him. Bell went on to play almost 1200 games in a Blue Jays uniform and hit 202 homeruns, drive in 740 runs and hit .285 with almost 1300 hits in his nine seasons with Toronto. Bell also played for the Chicago White Sox for three seasons and finished his major league career with a 265-1002-.278 mark and just over 1700 hits over 12 seasons. Bell was a big part of the '85 and '89 Toronto teams that went to the ALCS under Gillick's leadership.
It's pitching, pitching, pitching for Gillick. While amassing players like Bell, Joe Carter and other sluggers, Gillick is known for his penchant to find young pitchers that he can hoard for his club. Gillick pestered other General Managers to get that one extra piece of a deal that helped him pull the trigger. It was generally always a young pitcher that Gillick saw some promise in that he wanted as a "throw in" to a deal.
In December of '79, Gillick dealt Chris Chambliss to Atlanta and held out to get the Braves to include young Joey McLaughlin in the deal. The following December, Gillick found Roy Lee Jackson, who hadn't given the Mets a lot of help in their bullpen. Both McLaughlin and Jackson went on to become mainstays of the Blue Jays bullpen through a good chunk of the early 80s. Those were just two of the moves where Gillick insisted on young pitchers from other organizations, recognizing what they could bring to his club.
Gillick's approach to young pitching is much like that of Lee Thomas when he was the General Manager of the Phillies. Thomas was known for holding out until he could get that one special young pitcher thrown into a deal from another club.
Pat Gillick believes very strongly in team chemistry. People who have worked with him often mention his interest in finding out more about a player than just his stats. Many times, Gillick looked at how a player would fit into the clubhouse and balanced that with the stats that the player had put up previously and what Gillick thought he could produce in the future.
This is an especially interesting point, since one of the raps on the Phillies has been that they simply don't have the right makeup of players to win. Larry Bowa never allowed the chemistry of the team to build and under Charlie Manuel, the clubhouse was more relaxed and many of the players seemed to bond together better than before. However, the Phillies haven't appeared to be the sort of cohesive unit that players on teams like the '80 Phillies and '93 Phillies have often mentioned as being part of their success. Players don't necessarily have to like each other to win, but history has shown that many teams that have a strong bond in the clubhouse go on to have success. After all, many players point to the chemistry that Pete Rose brought to the Phillies as much as they do his stats in talking about the success of the 1980 Phillies. Rest assured that Gillick will look for a cohesive type of player that can do for the 2006 Phillies what Pete Rose did way back when.
So now that we know the basics of what makes Pat Gillick tick, how might it impact some of the situations facing the Phillies of today?
Who's the closer?
Will Pat Gillick's hiring help or hurt the Phillies' chances of re-signing Billy Wagner? There is no doubt that Gillick won't have the immediate impact on Wagner's thinking that Gerry Hunsicker would have had, but he may be a positive signing as Wagner sees it. After all, Wagner publicly said that he was concerned about the direction of the Phillies and having somebody in charge that he could feel confident would build a solid bullpen and team to enhance Wagner's talents. Gillick loves to add pitching and realizes the importance of a strong bullpen. You have to figure that he'll emphasize that when he talks to Wagner, which will likely be one of the first things on Gillick's agenda. It's also likely that Dave Montgomery has told Gillick of his desire to bring Wagner back into the fold (after all, it was once labeled a "top priority" by Montgomery, even ahead of hiring a GM).
Gillick's arrival should help to calm Wagner's fears about the structure of the team. Overall, Gillick's hiring is probably a positive, but it won't bring the applause from Wagner's camp that hiring Hunsicker would have brought.
Charlie Manuel: Will he stay or will he go?
This is a tough one to answer. Pat Gillick kept Lou Piniella on as the Mariners manager when Gillick arrived in Seattle, but Charlie Manuel is no Lou Piniella. One thing is known about Gillick's thoughts on a manager; He's not afraid to go to inexperienced candidates to run his club. Of course, Manuel has previous managing experience and a season under his belt in Philadelphia, so that question won't be the first part of the process for Gillick. Think what you will of Manuel, but Gillick would be a fool to dismiss him without giving the situation serious consideration.
We do know that Gillick appreciates a good clubhouse atmosphere and by all accounts, the Phillies' clubhouse was relaxed and comfortable. Plus, it appears that the players want to play for Manuel and even with his country bumpkin demeanor, Manuel has gained the respect of many in the Phillies clubhouse. There were questions about that when Manuel arrived since he appeared to be Jim Thome's handpicked successor to Larry Bowa. Somehow though Manuel has made a lot of inroads with players who felt beaten down by Larry Bowa. It's likely that Manuel gets at least a good chunk of the 2006 season to show that he is in fact the right guy to lead this club.
If he does make a change, will Gillick reach back to his roots for a new manager? Well, Davey Johnson and Cito Gaston are among his previous hires. Gaston was one of the inexperienced managers that Gillick hired and he wound up taking the Blue Jays to two World Series Championships. With Gillick's willingness to give an opportunity to guys who had been shut out before, in-house candidates Gary Varsho and Marc Bombard would likely get interviews.
Odds are though that Manuel will survive the transition, although his leash may have been shortened by at least a little.
Jim Thome or Ryan Howard or both?
Is it coincidence that as the Phillies narrowed their search for a General Manager, rumors of the Mariners' interest in Jim Thome popped onto the radar screen? Perhaps, but you have to bet that if Gillick had some inkling that he might wind up with the Phillies - and he had to have had a clue that things looked good - he may very well have broached the Thome subject with his buddies in Seattle. The Mariners could use a big bat in their lineup and they have a few bucks that they could put toward Thome's contract. The convenience of this is that since Gillick was GM of the Mariners not long ago and has served as a front office advisor since leaving the General Manager's office, he'll have a good idea of just what he may be able to get in return for the slugger.
Gillick doesn't shy away from young players. He realizes that young players need a chance to play and to show just what they can do. Having seen what Ryan Howard can do, Gillick will likely feel very comfortable putting him into the lineup and dealing Thome elsewhere. Plus, Gillick doesn't have the stigma of having been the one that brought Thome to town. In other words, if he dealt Thome for a package of players, he wouldn't be admitting that he made a mistake - which is not to say that signing Thome was a mistake - he would simply be cleaning up a part of the "mess" left by Ed Wade. In other words, Gillick's arrival makes dealing Thome a lot more likely than had Wade remained on the job.
Another part of Pat Gillick that could relate to the Jim Thome situation is this; He has been known for coming in under budget on his player payroll. He believes that by finding the right players, you can often save money in the long run. Gillick also tends to think outside the box and would look at any of Thome's contract that the Phillies would have to eat as simply paying for production. In other words, the money would be worth it to have Ryan Howard in the lineup on an everyday basis and end the controversy over whether Howard or Thome should play everyday.
For whom the Bell tolls?
Stay with me on this one. David Bell was already a member of the Seattle Mariners when Pat Gillick took over in 2000. The M's had acquired Bell from the Indians for Joey Cora in August of '98. After the 2001 season, Bell was re-signed by the Mariners as a free agent. Of course, not long after that, Gillick traded him to San Francisco for Desi Relaford (another former Phillie) and cash.
Again, if signing David Bell was a mistake - and that's not the point of this particular discussion - Gillick will only be cleaning up the mess left behind by Ed Wade if he were to send Bell packing. On the other hand, Bell is exactly the kind of "good chemistry" player that Gillick loves to have in the clubhouse. Odds are that Gillick may look for a left-handed hitter who can play third against some right-handed pitching and keep Bell around to rip into left-handers as he did this past season. Plus, Bell will still be on hand to help with that chemistry thing. Ideally, Gillick may look for a young, left-handed hitting third baseman that Bell could help to mentor much like Jim Thome did Ryan Howard.
In case you're wondering, the Mariners do have a left-handed hitting third base prospect in Greg Dobbs. Don't get too excited though, because Dobbs isn't a huge prospect. In five minor league seasons, Dobbs is a .302 hitter with just 33 homeruns. He's hit .241 with 2 homeruns in 195 major league at bats with the Mariners. If there is a Jim Thome deal that can be had with Seattle, Dobbs could be part of the return package, although as noted, he's not exactly the kind of player that sets fans hearts to racing.
As the Pat Gillick era begins, rest assured that he'll look to make his mark on the club. With GM meetings set for next week in California, Gillick will hit the ground running and will hopefully spend a lot of time with Mike Arbuckle getting an update on the state of the Phillies' minor league system. That's probably where Gillick will need the most help as he takes over in the Phillies' front office.