Posted: Tuesday December 5, 2006 1:35AM; Updated: Tuesday December 5, 2006 1:04PM
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Some teams are deciding not to throw any money at this market, trying to work trades or going with young pitchers in their own systems instead. But there are other teams that are taking chances, as Pat Gillick, the general manager of the Phillies, admittedly is doing with Eaton.
"Clubs have to make decisions based on their financial position as well as ... the quality of the talent," Gillick said Monday. "Maybe some of the clubs don't believe the quality is there. They don't want to sign a contract, basically, that they might regret a year from now."
Those teams testing the market not only have to figure out how much to spend, they also have to decide when to spend it. Eaton got more than $8 million a year from the Phillies about a month ago, a stunning sum that was still creating quite a buzz as the meetings here began.
But who's to say that, in three weeks, that contract won't look like the bargain of the winter? If the report about Padilla is accurate, Eaton's contract already looks a lot better.
"If you put players in a certain level, or category," said Gillick -- and it's safe to say that every team does that -- "it's probably better to set the market as opposed to follow it."
Or, in the case of the Astros and Roy Oswalt, or the Cardinals and Chris Carpenter, it's probably better to make sure your pitchers never get to market in the first place. The Cards re-worked Carpenter's contract Monday, giving him $65 million to stay with the team through 2011. The Astros nailed down Oswalt to a whopping five-year, $73 million extension back in August.
"A lot of people," Purpura said, "thought we were nuts at the time."
In this winter of wild spending, of course, that contract doesn't look nearly as out of whack now. Still, the Astros, like almost every other team here, have a lot of starting pitching questions yet to answer. Purpura is waiting on Andy Pettitte to decide whether he wants to pitch in 2007. The GM is keeping tabs on what Roger Clemens wants to do, and he also has feelers out to Schmidt and others.
It won't be easy signing any starting pitcher for the rest of this winter, and it certainly won't be cheap. Right now, we still have a standoff between those throwing the pitches and those throwing the money, at least for the most part.
But, in the end, the ones with the checkbook will crack first. It always works that way.