It’s amazing how much a couple weeks of good play can change a team’s outlook. Especially in the mediocre National League.
It was a mere month ago that Phillies GM Pat Gillick was telling fans they should give up on this season AND NEXT SEASON. Now the Phillies are fighting for the wildcard and look like they could be only a couple of players away from challenging for the NL East title in 2007.
So what has changed? The Phillies traded 3B David Bell and RF Bobby Abreu and gave the starting 3B job to Abraham Nunez, who is finally starting to hit after months of sub-.200 crap, and the starting RF job to Shane Victorino, who is batting .300 and has added speed to the top of the Phillies’ lineup and has allowed Chase Utley to move to third in the batting order and Ryan Howard to hit cleanup where, clearly, he has flourished.
And Cole Hamels has shown himself to be the top of the rotation starter that Gillick tried so hard to trade for all season long. Together with Brett Myers, the Hamels is anchoring a starting rotation that is suddenly among the best in baseball.
In case you hadn’t guessed, Pat Burrell is playing his last season with the Phils, unless the team finds no takers for him in the off-season (a real possibility). Burrell is making $9.75 million this season and has a no-trade clause in his contract, but unless something dramatically changes, expect the Phils to make him an offer to waive the clause, perhaps moving him to the American League, where he would be better suited as a designated hitter. The Phillies probably won’t ask for much in exchange. Cap relief would be sufficient.
Meanwhile, Mike Lieberthal is said to be pretty pissed at general manager Pat Gillick, after the catcher heard Gillick say on the radio recently that Lieberthal was not part of the team’s future plans. Guess what, Mike? You’re not part of the team’s plans for next year. I could have told you that much. Thanks for the great 12 years. You’re done now.
Look for the Phillies to give Chris Coste, who is hitting an insane .330 this season, a chance to win the starting catching job next year. And look for the team to bring in an outfielder to replace Burrell and play alongside Victorino and Aaron Rowand. Who will the Phils sign? Alphonso Soriano would look great in red and white, but let’s get real. Tori Hunter is a more realistic choice. But even Hunter might be a little pricey for a team that is clearly looking to keep it’s payroll at bay. Here’s name Gillick might want to consider: Moises Alou. If Felipe Alou doesn’t return as Giants manager, Moises probably won’t return to the Giants line-up. And Alou would be a reasonably priced option and a guy who could morph the Phillies line-up from potent to downright scary.
Got other ideas for who the Phils should acquire to replace Burrell? Check out this list of potential 2006-2007 free agents to see the possibilities.
Of course, the Phils could always trade for a new left fielder.