Unexpectedly, it isn't Randy Wolf.
Two days after Wolf, a lefty who has pitched for Philadelphia since 1999, bolted for a one-year contract with his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers, the Phillies finalized a deal with free agent right-hander Adam Eaton, their first-round pick in 1996.
Eaton, 29, signed a three-year, $24.5 million pact that will pay him $6,875,000 next season, $7,635,000 in 2008 and $8.5 million in 2009. There's also an $8.5 million mutual option for 2010 and $250,000 bonuses if he pitches 200 or 220 innings.
The incentives are significant since Eaton has pitched only 193 innings over the past two years combined because of a torn tendon in his right middle finger that required surgery last season.
"We've got a better starting rotation than we had at the start of the 2006 season," Gillick said. "We've got five starters who have National League experience, or American League experience with Moyer. We didn't have that last year." Gillick might not remember, but the Phillies did have five starters who all had major league experience at the start of the season. Granted, Ryan Madson had won a spot in the rotation and was short on experience as a starter and Gavin Floyd was also low on experience, but there was some experience in the rotation. The 2007 rotation is stronger than the one that started the 2006 season (Lieber, Myers, Cory Lidle, Floyd and Madson).
Eaton went 7-4 with a 5.12 ERA in 13 starts last season for the Rangers. In parts of seven seasons, he's 54-45 with a 4.40 ERA, and he had a 4.34 ERA in six seasons with the Padres.
If Eaton is healthy, the Phillies believe he can return to his pre-All-Star Break form from 2005 when he was 9-1 with a 3.18 ERA in his first 13 starts for San Diego.
Ironically, the Phillies offered Wolf a deal close to what they gave Eaton, but he turned it down to accept a one-year deal with a club option for 2008 with L.A. The Phillies simply weren't going to be able to overcome the hometown factor, which surprised the Phillies since Wolf had talked about wanting to return to the Phillies. If Wolf and Eaton pitch comparably this season, the Phillies will likely be happy with the deal since they would have had three left-handers in the starting rotation.
Wolf admitted he felt a sense of loyalty to the only team he's ever played for during his nine-year major league career.
But that still didn't outweigh his desire to go home.
Wolf, 30, accepted a one-year contract to pitch for the Dodgers, his favorite team while growing up in the Los Angeles suburbs. He will make $7.5 million in 2007 with a $9 million option for 2008 that will vest if he reaches 180 innings.
"Realistically, yeah, I could have gone to the highest bidder," Wolf said. "For me, it wasn't about trying to get the most money. It was about having this opportunity I don't know will ever come up again of playing for the Dodgers. I couldn't pass this up."
Wolf, a second-round draft pick in 1997, completed his Phillies career with a 69-60 mark and a 4.21 ERA in 194 games. He became the first Phils pitcher since Shane Rawley (1984-87) to post double-digit win totals in four consecutive seasons.
As Wolf prepares to pitch for the Dodgers, he has one final good-bye to say in Philadelphia; The Wolf Pack. "I have to e-mail them. I was holding off talking to them until this became official. Those guys were incredible. I appreciate every single game they went to, and they went to every single home game I pitched," said Wolf.
Floyd, 23, was once an elite prospect after being picked in the first round of the 2002 draft and likely was hoping in secret that Wolf might sign elsewhere, possibly opening a spot in the rotation for him. But Floyd has endured back-to-back dismal seasons, and posted a 5.59 ERA in the Arizona Fall League. Numbers like Floyd has posted will test any teams patience and the Phillies patience is admittedly wearing thin.
"He's kind of treading water, to be frank," assistant GM Mike Arbuckle told the Wilmington News Journal. "There's inconsistency still, from a delivery standpoint and a stuff standpoint. Some days there were positives. Other days, there weren't. We would've liked to have seen a little more than we saw."
"The clock's ticking, so whether it's spring training, regular season, Arizona, whatever, we'd like to see him stepping forward. We'd like to see him factoring in for us, but the jury is still out."