Monday, December 08, 2003

A Final Pitch for Millwood?

The Phillies' recent trade for Eric Milton led Shallow Center to proclaim publicly that "Kevin Millwood's tenure in Philadelphia will be a one-year hiccup in his career." Uh, not so fast. The team reportedly offered Millwood arbitration shortly before last night's midnight deadline, and the big righthander might just be headed back to Philadelphia.

Evil-agent poster boy Scott Boras -- think Jay Mohr's character in Jerry Maguire -- has been shopping Millwood for $75 million over five years, and interest apparently is scant. The pitcher has until December 19 to decide whether to accept arbitration. If so, he's back for another year -- at $11 million to $13 million, most observers believe -- and if not, the Phils at least receive compensatory draft picks from whatever team signs him.

This is, in other words, a gutsy, aggressive move -- something real teams do. If Millwood returns, then the Phillies will enter 2004 with one of the deepest rotations in baseball -- surely Brett Myers would be the game's best No. 5 starter. And if Millwood signs elsewhere, the Phils don't walk away empty-handed, and they still should have enough to contend until the trading deadline approaches, at which time Ed Wade can assess the situation and deal accordingly.

While I laud Wade's boldness, the Philling Station takes a clear-eyed approach, writing:

Chances are Millwood will be looking for a multiyear deal and move on, leaving the Phils with the picks. I think that's what management is hoping. Personally, I'd rather have him sign here. Because as the old saying goes, "It's not my money."

Todd Zolecki had the story in today's Inquirer, though not in the edition delivered to my house. Likewise, the Daily News's Marcus Hayes apparently didn't have his story in time for an earlier edition. Beating them both was's Ken Mandel, the beat reporter, whose story ran at 12:54 this morning.

Indeed, Major League Baseball has done plenty to shoot itself in the foot, but it deserves to be commended for the independence it grants to and the initiative it fosters among the reporters who file stories on official team Web sites. On Saturday, for example, Mandel posted a story on the Phillies' site noting that, unlike last off-season, players eligible for salary arbitration -- Vicente Padilla, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Valerio De Los Santos, and Amaury Telemaco -- will be offered one-year deals.

It was hardly a stop-the-presses kind of piece, but it was well reported and newsworthy. Flush with Army-Navy coverage and salivating with anticipation over yesterday's Eagles-Cowboys matchup, the city dailies had no Phillies stories Saturday, so Mandel's story even counted as a scoop. And with such sentences as "Burrell responded with the worst season of his professional life," it clearly was not a team whitewash.

Indeed, each article on includes an italicized line reading, "This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs." Wow -- uncensored, newsworthy stories, published as they're written. Wasn't that supposed to be a promise of the Web in the first place?

UPDATE: Wade says the Phillies' arbitration offer to Millwood is a legitimate attempt to retain Millwood's services for another year, and not to land compensatory draft picks. From the AP story:

If he accepts arbitration, Wade said the Phillies would be "significantly over budget." However, Wade said the team is prepared to take on the additional salary.

"We have the ability to fill our needs," Wade said. "Kevin accepting arbitration is a separate bonus to the organization. It creates an opportunity for us to evaluate a number of pitchers going forward and allows us to have some flexibility next offseason."


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