The first player that Paul Owens acquired as a GM for the Phils was John Bateman. He became their starting catcher, and after 82 miserable games (.222/.246/.294) was released the next January, never to play another major-league game (though he did score a major comeback with his role in the offbeat comedy series "Arrested Development").
Bateman cost the team one Tim McCarver who would play another 7+ seasons, mostly as a backup catcher, and would return to the team to be a valuable role player and caddy to Steve Carlton on the division-winning clubs of the late Seventies.
Owens would improve.
And so the Pat Gillick era begins in Philadelphia. At least his first move seems a bit more favorable.
Tonight the Phils have reportedly traded their one-time team leader, Jim Thome, to the White Sox for center fielder Aaron Rowand. For good or ill Gillick has now put his mark on the team.
Thome came to Philly as the cornerstone to their now-failed rebuilding project started a year before the team moved into their new stadium in 2004. The Phils signed the 32-year-old first baseman for $85 M over six years. He had two great seasons, each with 40+ homers (including a league-leading 47 in 2003) and .950+ OPSs. But then the inevitable happened.
No one thought when the Phils signed Thome that he could be effective for all six seasons of his contract, but no one expected his fall to be so precipitous. Amid various injuries, Thome played an abysmal 59 games in 2005 and was replaced by future NL Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard.
All of which created a problem and as Einstein saidor was it Dick Van Pattonthe mind that creates a problem (Ed Wade) cannot undo it or words to that effect. Thome could again become a dangerous player, but given his age, injury history, and contract situation ($48.5 M remaining over three years) the minuses far outweigh the pluses. Add in Howard's youth, inexpensive price tag, and inability to play another position, and Thome's leaving is the logical choice.
But, possibly due to the low expectations after years of Bill Giles, Ed Wade, and Lee Thomas in the general manager role, it seemed highly unlikely that they could divest themselves of Thome. But in walked the White Sox, who must be quite desperate with Paul Konerko a free agent.
The Sox have always seemed sour on Rowand, who is a fine all-around center fielder and is just 28. Frankly, Rowand recreating his monster 2004 season seems much more likely than Thome's return to prominence.
If Pat Gillick can pull off the deal, it resolves two major issues for the Phils (first base and center field) and points the team in the right direction as the hot stove warms up (and it would shut up Bill Conlin, which is always a good thing). They still have to figure out what is to be done with Mike Lieberthal's 2006 option, see if another patsy will bite on David Bell, oh and rebuild the majority of their pitching staff.
But that's two down andwhat?eight issues to go. Gillick is at least solving problems where Ed Wade would have been chasing after B.J. Ryan.