The Mets have reportedly offered Derek Lowe a three-year, $36 million contract.
Lowe and agent Scott Boras seem to want something closer to a five-year, $70 million deal for the right-handed starter. It was reported that the Phillies made an offer to Lowe during the Winter Meetings, but that offer was questioned later, and a Phillies official denied it (at least, an official denied a three-year offer).
It’s obvious Lowe won’t get the five years he seeks. But he’ll get better offers than the one the Mets threw up there. So should the Phillies throw their chips onto the table? I don’t think so. It’s pretty evident the Phils don’t want to take on Lowe’s demands anymore, especially with a slew of arbitration-eligible players slobbering over their 2009 paychecks. They’re fooling nobody at this point.
The Mets are poised to sign Lowe, maybe not for three years and $36 million, but for something agreeable for both sides. It’s very likely the Phils will be staring at this rotation in 2009: Johan Santana/Derek Lowe/John Maine/Mike Pelfrey/Jon Niese. Is that so bad? The Phils defeated Lowe twice in a week back in October. They also handled Pelfrey for a 4.24 ERA. Maine has fared well against the Phillies during his career, but he’s still hittable.
Basically, the Phillies don’t have the required cash to sign Lowe. Not after Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth receive raises. Not after Raul Ibanez signed. The Mets, meanwhile, are willing to spend the money to seize Lowe. It raises the eternal question: Should the Phils break the bank? Should any team break the bank?
Recent world champions demonstrate that spending a generous amount of money on player payroll helps the cause. Last year’s Phillies broke the $100 million mark and finished with the gold ring. Before that, the big-spending Red Sox took home the crown. And before that, the Cardinals — a somewhat frugal, but always ready spender — found triumph. The list goes on. Yes, you almost have to spend some money to win the title. But you also have to be wise.
Loading up on free agents during the offseason isn’t always the satisfying idea. Sure it’s tempting to grab all the foods at the buffet line immediately, but when your plate is half finished and your stomach is bloated, you know you made a mistake. Are the Yankees guaranteed a championship with CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett on board? Absolutely not. Nobody thought the Phillies could win a title with the soft additions of Geoff Jenkins, Pedro Feliz, Chad Durbin and Brad Lidge. But once he sorted out the details and discovered the holes, Pat Gillick found his plugs: left-handed specialist Scott Eyre, big-hitting bench player Matt Stairs, stopgap starter Joe Blanton. Hell, he found great plugs in his own system: All-world athlete Jayson Werth and resurgent starter Brett Myers, for two.
The Phillies won because they constructed a complete team by the end of 2008. Right now, they have a somewhat incomplete troupe, with small potential weaknesses in the rotation, the early part of the bullpen and the bench. Nothing to panic about. And nothing worth the trouble of a damaging contract like Derek Lowe’s. Let the Mets worry about that one — let them gamble with an albatross by June 2010. There’s no reason the Phils need to play coy: They’re fooling nobody.