Posted: Thursday July 6, 2006 11:34AM; Updated: Thursday July 6, 2006 6:26PM
Two-time All-Star Bobby Abreu could be on his way out of Philly if GM Pat Gillick decides to overhaul his roster.
Former Philly closer Billy Wagner, now with the Mets, says the Phillies' clubhouse lacks fire.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
People who have spoken to Phillies general manager Pat Gillick believe he will not stand pat this trading season. They say he desperately wants to improve the Phillies' current clubhouse atmosphere. Or at the very least, change it.
While one competing GM said Gillick isn't tipping his hand, it's believed he'll be looking to move Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu and Mike Lieberthal, among others.
Former Phillies closer Billy Wagner said if Gillick breaks up the team, he's doing the right thing. The problem is the team's "nucleus,'' according to Wagner. "That team has as much talent as this one,'' said Mets closer Wagner, whose new club leads the second-place Phillies by 11½ games. "But there's something lacking there.''
And Wagner knows just what it is. He said he admires Gillick and manager Charlie Manuel, and that the problem starts at the very top. Wagner contends it stems from upper management, which insists on coddling and pampering its star young players, the result being a sense of entitlement and a poor understanding of the team concept. "You don't have the leadership you need,'' Wagner said, adding that it isn't fair to expect it yet from relative youngsters such as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
Beyond newcomer Aaron Rowand, you don't have much fire, either. "Nobody ever gets upset,'' Wagner said. "If somebody does, he's a big mouth and nobody likes him. They take it as, 'I did my best. I'm going home.' There's nobody screaming, 'Hey, we're better than this!'"
When Wagner spoke up last year, he got shouted down. Now the quiet is deafening.
Even a proven trading savant like Gillick may struggle to get much for the high-priced Abreu ($23.5 million through '07), Burrell ($31.65 million through '08) and Lieberthal ($3.75 million through '06). Lieberthal misses a lot of action and is perceived as an offense-first catcher. Complicating matters, Abreu and Burrell have blanket no-trade clauses, and Burrell has suffered from a foot injury, a problem that concerns the Yankees and other potential suitors.
When his name was first floated on the trading block early last winter, Abreu told people he was hoping to go to either the Mets or the pre-fire-sale Marlins. But now Yankees officials think he'd accept a trade to the Bombers. Abreu loves New York and owns a condo in the same midtown Manhattan building where Johnny Damon lives. "I don't think he'd mind [going to the Yankees],'' Wagner said. "Bobby Abreu's a good guy, but he's not a vocal leader. The one thing you have to know here [in New York] is, you have to come every day. He's got a real laid-back attitude.''
While former Philly GM Ed Wade spent (overspent, really) to lock up homegrown position players, Wagner said Phillies ownership has never been willing to similarly overspend to get the No. 1 pitcher they've needed since Curt Schilling was traded to Arizona in 2000. However, they do have Brett Myers. "As far as stuff, he's a No. 1,'' Wagner said of Myers. "But mentally he's a No. 4.'' From what we've seen recently, even that estimate may be high.
Around the majors
San Diego's hiring of ex-Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta likely represents the "Moneyballing'' of the Padres. While GM Kevin Towers is being a team man, he has surely sensed that changes were afoot since before he interviewed for the Diamondbacks' GM job.
One baseball official said Padres president Sandy Alderson prefers the intellectual sort (such as DePodesta) and "Kevin just isn't his type of guy.'' However, Padres owner John Moores has told people he likes Towers and manager Bruce Bochy so much, they'll have jobs for life.