Phillies Rumors Big Part of Hot Stove Cookin'

With the free agent market sort of barren, the trade market is fueling the Hot Stove for Major League Baseball. The Phillies are at the center of many of the offerings and should be very active come time for the Winter Meetings next week in Dallas. With that in mind, takes a look at who might go where and for whom.

The most mentioned piece of meat is Bobby Abreu. Abreu was rumored to be headed to the Yankees and as usually happens, reports are that the Red Sox have now jumped into the fray.

You had to know that the Yankees and Red Sox would both be jumping on the Abreu train.

The deal with the Yankees centered on the Phillies sending Abreu and catcher Mike Lieberthal to New York for pitcher Carl Pavano, catcher Jorge Posada and third base prospect Eric Duncan. Both Abreu and Lieberthal have no-trade clauses attached to their contracts, so both would have to approve the deal and there's really no telling on where either of them stand in regards to the Yankees. Abreu does have an option year on his contract in 2008 and if the Yankees were to guarantee that season, he may well be interested. Lieberthal is in the final year of his contract and would only have to stay in New York for one season if he was unhappy. It may be a pleasant change from the lack of support that he often receives from fans in Philadelphia.

Why it could happen: The Phillies have often been interested in Pavano and Lieberthal has been a lightning rod for criticism. In one move, they would get Lieberthal out of town, replace him behind the plate and add a quality starting pitcher to the rotation. The Yankees had somewhat soured on Pavano and it's known that he could be available for the right price. The real upside for the Phillies could be Duncan. Their closest third base prospect is Mike Costanzo, who still needs at least two or three more seasons in the minors and Duncan is almost ready if he's not ready now, to play in the majors. David Bell has just the 2006 season remaining on his deal and Duncan could take over after that.

Why it won't happen: There are no guarantees that Abreu and Lieberthal would waive their no-trade clauses. What do the Yankees do with Gary Sheffield? He could move to left field with Hideki Matsui sliding over to center or the Yankees could ask Abreu to play center. There is no easy or definite answer though and moving players like Sheffield and Abreu, who generally resist change, could ruffle some feathers. Financially, Pavano is guaranteed almost $31 million dollars through 2008 and Posada is guaranteed $9 million in 2006 with a $4 million buyout or a $12 million club option in 2007. The real downside is that the club option becomes guaranteed if Posada catches just another 51 games during the 2006 season. While Abreu is guaranteed another $30 million for the next two seasons and up to $44 million if the Phillies pick up his 2008 option, Lieberthal gets $7.5 million in 2006 and is then a free agent. Since the Yankees are including Duncan in the deal, it's unlikely that they would also throw cash to the Phillies to off-set some of the salary.

The other hot Abreu rumor is with Boston and it's simple enough. Abreu for Manny Ramirez. The Phillies had said that they wouldn't be interested in Ramirez, but plans can change. It's very likely that the rumors with Boston are much more of a reaction to the Yankees and Phillies potential deal than anything else.

Why it could happen: It just doesn't make a lot of sense, but if nothing else, Ramirez would be more of a marquee player for the Phillies to market. Abreu would likely be interested in playing for Terry Francona again. The two had some run-ins while in Philly, but grew to have a mutual respect for each other. On the upside too, is that it would keep Ramirez from going to the Mets, although letting him play there and tying up more of that New York money might not be a horrible thing.

Why it won't happen: Where do we start? Ramirez is guaranteed $57 million over the next three years with $20 million per year options for 2009 and 2010. Abreu is guaranteed just $30 million for two years or $44 million for the next three. The Phillies would likely look for some financial relief from the Red Sox to get the deal done. Clubhouse chemistry is also a part of the equation. Ramirez can and likely always will be a distraction to whatever club he's on. At best, he's eccentric and at worst, he's disruptive and manipulative. That's not the kind of clubhouse demeanor that the Phillies tend to look for. There is also the question of who would move to right field? Would Pat Burrell be asked to move or would Manny be asked to move? Ramirez started his career as a right fielder, but hasn't played there since 2002. While Abreu might waive his no-trade clause, it's not clear if Ramirez would waive his to come to Philly. He seems to have his heart set on playing for the Angels and now that Paul Konerko has re-signed with the White Sox, the Angels may pick up the pace in looking to acquire Ramirez from Boston.

In addition to the above mentioned rumors, the Phillies have also talked to Baltimore and Toronto - meaning that they've covered just about the entire A.L. East - about deals involving Abreu. It's less likely though that Abreu would accept a deal to either of those places.

While the Phillies and Yankees are talking, the name Jason Michaels may come up. The Yankees have long liked Michaels and could turn to him either as a utility outfielder or as a potential center fielder. Actually, there are a number of teams interested in Michaels, including Kansas City, Baltimore, Colorado and the Dodgers. Even though Jason Michaels has become somewhat of a hot commodity, don't expect a deal for him to bring a big name player in exchange, unless the Phillies package Michaels with other players in the move. Kansas City is reported to be offering third base prospect Mark Teahen for Michaels in what may be the best of the offers.

GM Pat Gillick is likely to turn his attention to the starting rotation at the Winter Meetings. Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt and Javier Vasquez are all possibilities, although Vasquez has said that he doesn't want to come to Philadelphia. Perhaps moving the left field fence back five feet and making it two-and-a-half feet higher will help him to change his mind. Zito and Schmidt have long been rumored in deals out of their respective towns, but both are also important parts to their club. Oakland would likely be interested in Jason Michaels and one of the young pitching prospects (Gavin Floyd, Cole Hamels, Dan Haigwood) and another prospect as part of a trade for Zito. San Francisco likes Abreu and he would be an interesting player for them to add to the fold.

Right now, the Phillies are scouring the free agent ranks for a closer, but if that doesn't work, they could turn to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in search of Danys Baez. The Rays have long coveted Gavin Floyd and it's possible that a deal could be made, especially since Tampa has openly shopped Baez. It might not hurt too that Charlie Manuel was Baez' manager early in his career while both were with the Indians. The Phillies had tried to sign Baez when he defected from Cuba, but came up short.

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