Now that the Thome-Rowand deal is official after both passed their physicals, I am here on the day after Black Friday to propose my Christmas wish list for the Phils. I like the first step that Gillick has made, but this is only the first step in what should be a long and hopefully rewarding journey coming into the season.
Number one on my wish list in a top notch starting pitcher. Now I know that they do not grow on trees, and more likely than not the Phillies would have to aquire one through a trade. The free agent market is like a baren wasteland this off season when it comes to starters, but ultimatly this must be done. What has held us back these past two or three years? The lack of a stopper. A top notch guy that you can feel confident can stop a three or four game slide. Rumors have been swirling involving the Phils and getting a starter. Lately I have seen credible sources report two possibilities. Number one includes the Phils shipping Abreu and J-Mike to the Red Sox for Matt Clement and Trot Nixon. Secenario number two involves Abreu and Corey Lidle going to Oakland for Barry Zito and an outfielder. Personally I think I would rather do the trade with Oakland. Even though Zito had a down year last year, he is a former Cy Young winner, and his ex-mates Mulder and Hudson made a pretty smooth transition to the NL with the Cardinals and Braves respectively.
It seems that Gillick is focusing more on trading Abreu rather than Burrell. I can report this with a certain degree of confidence after a quote from Gillick in the Inquirer this morning. Gillick said, "I consider Shane Victorino and Jason Michaels part of the mix in the outfield. One possibility next season could be Michaels playing left field and Pat Burrell playing first base against lefthanded pitching." This is of course due to Ryan Howard’s struggles with left handed pitching to the tune of .148 average with 1 HR in 61 at bats last season. The platoon could be argued against since Howard has to learn how to hit lefties at some point, but as for now at least Gillick is showing some ability to think outside the box.
Back to my wish list, number two would be some bullpen help. With it looking more and more like Wagner is going to sign with the Mets and BJ Ryan just agreeing to terms with the Blue Jays I am getting concerned with who will be closing out games for the 2006 Phillies. Dare I say it, because it scares me to even think about it, but do they finally move Padilla to the closer spot that he was originally intended to fill? I hope there is a better option out there than that, but sometimes with the bullpen you just have to pick up a wiley vetran and hope for the best. I have no idea who can help the Phils, but my fingers are crossed that Gillick has a plan for this area of concern.
Number three on my wish list is for a left handed batting third baseman who can platoon with Bell. I am one of the few who may think Bell is still a good cog to have on the team I am sure, but he does bring mental toughness and is one of the few players with playoff experience. What was clear last year is that the man CAN NOT hit right handed pitching. The third baseman this Phillies pick up does not have to be a stud, just someone you can plug into the seven hole in the line up that can bat .270 against righties and have a solid glove. The majors are littered with guys like this and they often come pretty cheap. As the Nike slogan goes, "Just Do It!"
Finally, I would be remiss to not metion the issue of catcher. Again I am one of the few who believe this, but look around the majors at the starting catchers. Only a few had better offensive numbers than Leiby. Trust me I realize he never comes up with a big hit and is terrible to quite terrible at handling a pitching staff, but like with good starters, good offensive and defensive cathers are a rare breed. Unless you can trade Lieby (which is very unlikely) I feel we are stuck with him. It can work though, trust me!
PS Santa, I think myself and the rest of PhilliesNation have been good people for the most part all year. If you could find it in your bag of gooidies I know one thing we would all like more than anything else on this list. A parade down Broad Street!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday’s to one and all!