With Myers on the shelf, Philly's in search of starting pitching
Peavy appears to top Philly's list, perhaps followed by Oswalt, Lee and Bedard
Clint Hurdle didn't appear to be inspiring his young troops, signaling the end
It's very hard to believe Joe Torre would seriously consider retirement after 2010
The Phillies were scouring the trade market for starting pitching help even before Brett Myers became the latest big-name casualty with the increasingly fashionable torn hip labrum. Teammate Chase Utley beat the four-month prediction for him to return from the same injury, but Phillies people understandably worry it may be more difficult for a pitcher to come back as quickly. In any case, the world champions are aiming high now in their quest for a starter, with Jake Peavy appearing to top their list of desirable aces, perhaps followed by Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard.
Ruben Amaro, the Phillies' aggressive new GM, understands better than anyone that this is a win-now team, one that can get back to the World Series if it has enough pitching. "We'd like to add depth at the top of the rotation if we can," Amaro said by phone, making it clear they aren't merely hoping to patch things up in Myers' absence. The Phillies appear to have payroll flexibility and a clear intention not to waste what's likely the best lineup in the National League. Rookie Antonio Bastardo will temporarily take Myers' spot, but Amaro said they wouldn't mind adding a pitcher who's "more established" to their pitching mix.
Amaro made what may be the best winter pickup by signing Raul Ibanez to a $31.5 million, three-year deal. But as he admitted, swinging a deal for a top pitcher is "easier said than done," especially with complications such as existing contracts, no-trade clauses and the whims of outside ownership. "There's no question it's tough to do," Amaro conceded.
The Phillies do have enough decent, young players and prospects to make a trade work. Multitalented outfielder John Mayberry Jr. has been impressive in a cameo this year. Also, Philadelphia's farm system contains respectable talent, such as shortstop Jason Donald, catcher Lou Marson, pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Drabek and outfielders Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor. The vaunted trio of Donald, Marson and Carrasco are struggling, at least statistically, so far this year, and one competing GM said they see Marson and Carrasco as more valuable pieces than Donald at this point.
Peavy is the logical fit for the Phillies. However, he has full no-trade veto power. To this point, there's no indication Peavy has any interest in coming to the East Coast, especially to a team in a clear hitters' park. (While agent Barry Axelrod publicly said the Phils would fulfill Peavy's goal to play in the National League for a winner, he wasn't as certain about the geographic concern). Plus, in terms of fan passion, Philly is about as opposite from San Diego as he'd find. Amaro declined to discuss Peavy (or anyone currently playing elsewhere), though it's no surprise someone familiar with their thinking said Peavy is at or near the top of their list.
Beyond Peavy, some other possibilities include Oswalt (though the Astros historically don't like to sell their stars), Lee if he hits the market (the Indians are still a ways from that call, but they continue to look star-crossed, with Grady Sizemore joining Travis Hafner on the disabled list Sunday) and Bedard. Bedard is back to performing up to his talent level, and his $7.75 million salary shouldn't scare anyone off. But one person familiar with the Phillies' situation suggested Bedard's known personality quirks might be a red flag for them. Of course, they'd be interested in Roy Halladay, but there's no evidence he'll be available. No matter how many teams come clamoring for Halladay, and no matter what the Jays do, there's no reason to think they're going to trade him. Just spoke to yet another Jays person who repeated that it isn't happening. Toronto likes its chances next year, too, once Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan return. San Diego's Chris Young could also be a possibility for Philly, as well as Aaron Harang (depending on whether the Reds remain in contention).
While some might assume the Phillies would prefer a right-hander to go with ace Cole Hamels, Amaro said that's not an issue. He wants to acquire "the best I can get." So it certainly appears for now that the Phillies will not be settling for a Brad Penny-type patch job.
Final hurdle can't be cleared
Fired Rockies manager Clint Hurdle was sufficiently respectful and thankful at his going-away press conference, as he's a smart fellow and has to understand that eight years is ample opportunity. (Though, it would have been preferable for the naturally cooperative Hurdle to take questions one more time.)
Hurdle's a great guy, but the stark reality is that in those eight years, Hurdle posted only one winning season. In one especially harsh assessment, one competing executive said, "[Hurdle] had 22 great games, and that was the only highlight," referring to the 21 victories in 22 games that took the Rockies on their improbable ride to the World Series in 2007. That's a little unfair, as Hurdle was handicapped by low payrolls in recent years (the Monfort brothers have scaled back considerably).
But Hurdle, never a great strategist, didn't appear to be inspiring his young troops this year, signaling the end. The Rockies have to be better than this. Troy Tulowitzki isn't a .227 hitter, nor is Garrett Atkins a .195 hitter.
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