The Baseball Desert

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Setting the ball rolling

Trades - whether they be during the season or during the offseason - are like a complex game of chess, but instead of there being two players, there are up to thirty different players playing the game at any one time.

After a few days of rumours and speculation the current game got under way yesterday, with the Phillies trading Brandon Duckworth and two minor-league players to the Astros in exchange for closer Billy Wagner. The trade itself shows that the Phillies are willing to do what they have to do to shore up their very weak bullpen, which blew 18 save opportunities last year. Had they been able to prevent just 50% of those blown saves, the Phillies would have been playing in the postseason instead of the Florida Marlins. Wagner converted 44 of 47 save opportunities last year, so you can be sure that Larry Bowa is going to be happier going to him in save situations than he was with any of Philadelphia's closers last year.

However, just like in any game of chess, the trade is not a stand-alone move - it opens up other possibilities and shuts down other options all over the place. For example, the Astros - having shed a chunk of payroll - might now be interested in trying to entice the Yankees' Andy Pettitte to Houston. Pettitte is expected to file for free agency in the coming days, and although it would be in the Yankees' best interests to keep him in New York, he might be interested in playing closer to his Deer Park (TX) home. It's by no means a done deal, but it's one of the possibilities that the Wagner deal opens up...

On a similar theme - but this time in-house - you have the game of musical coaches currently being played at Yankee Stadium. After Don Zimmer quit his job as Yankees' bench coach (and hitting coach Rick Down was fired) right after the World Series, a number of names started to be bandied around, notably Grady Little (for the bench coach job). As it turns out, the Yankees are staying more or less within their organisation on this one - third-base coach Willie Randolph will be Joe Torre's bench coach next year, first-base coach Lee Mazzilli will be promoted to third-base coach (if he's not offered the managerial position with the Orioles), Luis Sojo - having been released by the Yankees as a player - will become the first-base coach. And who's going to be making a welcome return to Yankee Stadium as the club's next hitting coach? Donnie Baseball...