The Philadelphia Phillies are now the biggest players in this off-season's free agent market. On the first day that offers may be made to free agents (yesterday), they offered a total of $100 million in contracts to three players (Jim Thome, Tom Glavine, and David Bell). They have been courting Thome like a booty-crazed Ben Affleck chases J-Lo.
As a Phillies' fan, I am cautiously optimistic. I know that this is all to kick off the promotions for the Phils' new stadium in 2004. I just can't shake the feeling of dread that I get whenever I hear the Phils making offers to free agents. Their recent history in this arena is deplorable.
I have made a compendium of their free agent futility over the last ten seasons (hopefully I did not miss anybody). Many point to Gregg Jefferies, but a true Phillies fan knows that a player that at least plays during his contract isn't all bad-Witness Mike Jackson, Norm Charlton, and Danny Tartabull:
Pete Incaviglia (2 years, $2.1M): one good year, one bad
Jim Eisenreich (1 yrs, $675 K): played 4 very good years as valuable fourth OF
Larry Andersen (1 yr, $700 K): one very good year as short reliever, one average one; now Phillies broadcaster
Milt Thompson (2 yrs, $2.85): 2 subpar years, traded to Houston in '94 (by the way, he sucked in his first tour of duty with the Phils, too)
Randy Ready (2 years, $300K ?): limited service for two years
Fernando Valenzuela (1 yr, $275K): pitched well in short stint
Norm Charlton (1 yr, $850K): missed entire season after Tommy John surgery, inexplicably re-signed for '95 ($525K), pitched extremely poorly and was released, resurfaced with the M's and pitched brilliantly the rest of the season and in the playoffs with them.
Gregg Jefferies (4 yrs, $20 M): 4 mostly subpar years for a corner OF-lb, mercifully traded to Angels in 4th year
Dave Gallagher (1 yr, $250 K): played well in limited role, traded to Angels.
Jim Deshaies (1 yr, N/A): pitched horrendously in 2 starts.
Benito Santiago (1yr, $1.7 M): one great 30-HR season. Probably the best signee in this period.
Todd Zeile (1 yr, $2.7 M): played well (20 HR) but traded to the Orioles to bolster them for playoff run.
Pete Incaviglia (1 yr, $550K): played '95 with Chiba Lotte in Japan, played alright, traded with Zeile.
Terry Mulholland (1 yr, $700K): pitched acceptably, traded to Seattle for Phillies' SS of future (that year) Desi Relaford.
Danny Tartabull (1 yr, $2M): Phils fooled by career year in 1996, breaks his foot on opening day, plays only three games, then retires.
Rex Hudler (2 yrs, $2.3 M): expensive team mascot, career year in '96 for Angels fooled the Phils into signing this 35-year-old dreck.
Mark Leiter (2 yrs, $3.9): pitched very poorly first year, pitched well as closer in second year, signs with Seattle as a closer for $3 M in '99 and is a bust.
Mark Portugal (2 yr, $4,7 M): average pitcher for parts of two seasons (29 starts in total)
Mark Parent (2 yrs, $800K): no-hit backup catcher at this stage of his career, retired after stint with Phils
Mark Lewis (1 yr, $1.72 M): high price for one-year rental of no-hit second baseman while then-hot prospect Marlon Anderson is primed for '99
Tom Prince (2 yrs, $600K): hurt in '99, at least he was cheaper than Parent
Jim Poole (1 yr, $500K): average lefty short-reliever, traded to Cleveland
Rob Ducey (1 yr, $400K): hit well as a backup OF, Phils mistakenly resigned him (2 yrs, $1M)
Mickey Morandini (1 yr, $750K): poor hitting stop-gap 2b man (signed by Montreal and then sold to Phils), traded to Blue Jays 6 games short of Phils' all-time record for games at 2B.
Mike Jackson (1 yr, $3 M): developed arm problems and never pitched for Phils
Jose Mesa (2 yrs, $6.8 M): surprising success, resurrects career as closer, still a bit pricey though.
Rheal Cormier (3 yrs, $8,75 M): a lot of money for an (at best) average left-handed short-reliever.
Ricky Bottalico (1 yr., $1.5 M): acceptable setup job, re-signed for same price for a poor 2002 season, option declined after season.
Terry Adams (1 yr, $2.7 M): only started 19 games, was 7-9 with 4.35 ERA, option not picked up for 2003.
Ricky Ledee (1 yr, $750K): did acceptable job in largely backup role.
My top 10 worst signings:
1) Mike Jackson, 2000
2) Danny Tartabull, 1997
3) Norm Charlton, 1994
4) Rex Hudler, 1997
5) Gregg Jefferies, 1995
6) Rheal Cormier, 2001
7) Mark Portugal, 1997
8) Mark Lewis, 1998
9) Terry Adams, 2002
10) Milt Thompson, 1993
Do you notice that 1997 was an especially poor off-season for the Phils (3 in the top 10 worst and Mark Leiter and Mark Parent just missed the list-the Phils should never pursue another player named Mark again)? It's taken them since 1997 to pursue a high-profile position player. They also had very poor turf for a number of years, which scared away the talent for some time in the '90s.
Anyway, I don't know if any or all of the high-profile free agents will sign with the Phils, but recent history is not exactly in their favor if they do.