Okay, so you've never heard of Chris Booker and the first thing that you saw was that he posted a 31.50 ERA in two innings with Cincinnati last season. Then, you realize that he's the only real addition to the club during the Winter Meetings and that typical Philadelphia panic feeling starts to settle into the pit of your stomach. Then, you remember that Pat Gillick used to carry the nickname "Stand Pat" and the feeling gets even more intense. Relax. It's technically not even winter yet, so the Phillies have a lot of time to make something happen. Plus, there are still a number of ingredients on the Phillies section of the Hot Stove.
While the Phillies have been looking for help in their starting rotation, they've turned their attention to stocking up the bullpen. If they're successful there, they could then conceive of moving Ryan Madson into the starting rotation, hoping to fill a hole with the young right-hander who has developed into an important part of the relief corps for the past couple of seasons.
First on the agenda appears to be Braden Looper. The Phillies would look to Looper to setup Tom Gordon and take over in the closer's role should Gordon stumble or be otherwise ousted from the job. Apparently, there is a lot of competition for Looper, who saved 28 games for the Mets last season, posting a 3.94 ERA in the process. As with Gordon, Looper is reportedly not looking just at the money, but is considering the options as far as what role he would play with a club. That's where the Phillies could get hurt. It's possible that Looper would be able to find a spot with another club that would let him close out games and then potentially lead to more money. That's something that the Phillies can't offer unless Gordon were to stumble and there's no guarantee that Looper wants to be in a position where he's waiting for another guy to fall apart before he gets his next shot at closing.
The Phillies still have their eye on Danys Baez of the Devil Rays, but with the addition of Gordon, Baez has fallen down their list a little. It's likely that Baez presence wouldn't be a comfortable situation and there are no guarantees that he would be happy working as a setup man to the 38 year old Gordon. It's likely that the Phillies will look more to free agents than to trades to find suitable relievers. One option disappeared on Thursday when Elmer Dessens signed a two-year deal with Kansas City. The Phillies had interest in Dessens, who pitched effectively both as a closer and spot starter for the Dodgers last season.
Even though the Phillies are looking for relievers at this point, they haven't turned completely away from the idea of adding starting pitching through a trade or free agency. The free agent market for pitchers is developing slowly as teams try to figure out if the signing of A.J. Burnett to a huge deal with Toronto is just an anomaly or will it simply become the going price for starters? There are plenty of free agent starters waiting for a new club. The Phillies, under no circumstances, would go after Kevin Millwood, who appears destined for Seattle. Jarrod Washburn however, would be another issue. The former Angel wasn't offered arbitration by Anaheim (I still can't call them Los Angeles), so the Phillies wouldn't have to offer up any compensation draft picks. It's very possible that Washburn, who is represented by Scott Boras, will be asking for near-Burnett money, but if the market does slow for starters as a backlash to the Burnett signing, the price could fall a little. For now, Boras seems more interested in seeing how Johnny Damon will get a seven-year deal from somebody than he is in finding a deal for the pitchers in his stable.
Barry Zito to Philadelphia isn't dead. It's close to it, but it's not dead yet. Since the Phillies and A's couldn't agree on a pretty simple and straight forward deal of Abreu for Zito, how about expanding the deal. Oakland regrets the big contract that they gave to catcher Jason Kendall. Perhaps the Phillies could take Kendall and his contract ($19 million over the next two years) if the Phillies sent the lesser priced Mike Lieberthal to Oakland. The deal would work out to be Zito and Kendall for Bobby Abreu and Mike Lieberthal with the Phillies possibly "throwing in" Gavin Floyd. The addition of Floyd may appear as a bit of a desperation move by Gillick, who doesn't make many of those. In the expanded deal, the finances would help Oakland and Kendall's contract isn't so horrible that it would hamper the Phillies too much for too long of a time. Plus, a move back to the National League could be what Kendall needs to rekindle his career.
The Phillies are also interested in Brad Penny or Derek Lowe from the Dodgers and possibly in Tanyon Sturtze from the Yankees. The 35 year old Sturtze was somewhat of a workhorse out of the Yankees bullpen in 2005, but could possibly be moved into the starting rotation, where he spent part of his career. The Yankees continue to ask for Jason Michaels in exchange. The Phillies would be open to trading Michaels, but value him higher than most other clubs are likely to. In fact, they're trying to build a package around Michaels that would pry Lowe or Penny away from Los Angeles.
Don't take the end of the winter meetings as the end of opportunity road for the Phillies. It isn't like a trade deadline passed or GMs don't have cell phones to talk to each other on. Sure, the meetings are a convenient time to get things done, but they're not the drop-dead opportunity for teams to pull off major deals. Especially with a slow free agent market, it's possible that some of the bigger deals will come sometime past the holidays and college bowl games. We could even see big moves in the last few weeks before spring training. Gillick isn't going to let the current roster enter camp as all the club has to go with. Rest assured that the Phillies will continue to work both free agency and the trade market for more pieces of the puzzle.