Baseball America’s assertion that Freddy García came at a higher personnel price than the Maddux and Glavine signings ignores the fact that he is better than those two, and the two prospects given up had their problems as incredulous Windy City pundits attest to. Gio González could be a quality SP despite struggling at AA at a young age but is more likely to be a journeyman middle reliever at this point. Gavin Floyd’s head problems, perhaps brought on by bizarre and autocratic development tactics by the Phils (not letting him use his curve ball for a while in the minors to learn other pitches) have brought on major mechanical problems that may take years to fix after which he could hit his stride as a top of the rotation starter in three or four years.
As it is, the Phils have a three year commitment to the oft-injured Adam Eaton and a two year commitment to the aging Jamie Moyer, and overpaying for a three year deal to get a top of the rotation starter after losing Randy Wolf became a less attractive option. Lieber strained under the pressure of being a no. 1 starter, and turning the distinction over to Cole Hamels, Eaton, or Beater Myers would work against their development.
Acquiring Eaton has the earmarks of the self-referential closure of publicized transactions that has troubled the Phils thinking. When Eaton was done high school, the Phils had a high pick and their PR machine started hyping the possible availability of college star Eric Chavez even though they didn’t have the top pick, and as fate would have it the A’s took Chavez higher up, leading to the wise Eaton selection and a long, contentious holdout. Then Eaton, despite being their top prospect, was traded for veteran Andy Ashby which would be a worthy offseason deal were they a competing team, but they weren’t. Ashby himself was a top pitching prospect of the Phils who was relinquished when the organization decided to protect both shortstops Steve Jeltz and Kim Batiste in the expansion draft, a move puzzling to anyone outside the Phils incest pool since neither was ever deemed a major league player to an objective outside scout. So getting Eaton reverses a domino feeling of inward shame of a stale partnership which may or may not relate to whether this is a sound decision based on his injury history, but the move is a cut above many starting pitching signings and outbidding for Soriano’s declining years and it is better to hoard starting pitching than to have too many corner outfielders, especially if the surplus is manipulated adroitly with a well-timed trade.
This phenomenon and others suggest circumstantially the degree to which Gillick is getting marching orders, and it is for this reason that it is better the club has an experienced GM that can assert some boardroom authority rather than a malleable young stathead (which works for other organizations).
The similarities between Wes Helms and David Bell are counteracted by retaining the lefty hitting 3B Abraham Núñez, and there is the possibility that Helms will continue to hit for a high average and power in line with his small sampling of last year. Chris Coste has done nothing to lose the catching job and so far has not lost it to a higher paid newcomer. Taking a flyer on a defensive catcher and two middle relievers in the Rule V draft is vintage Gillick (vintage being a more hopeful expression than the folly of self-imitation), and suggests he has overcome the pressure from above to counterintuitively hoard veteran relievers.
Gillick with 80% of the budget of Minaya and Daddy’s Boy Duquette should come out ahead, and now he is coming out of the constraints of Ed Wade’s long term contracts to easily replacable veterans (sooo un-Moneyball). He is giving Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Hamels the chance to beat Carlos Beltrán, David Wright, and José Reyes, which is all you can really ask of him based on the cards he’s been dealt.