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PHILADELPHIA -- The news that had been expected, though unwanted in Phillies
circles, arrived Wednesday afternoon via an e-mail from San Francisco.
"Giants sign Gold Glove center fielder Aaron Rowand to five-year pact" the
headline read in all capital letters, leaving the Phillies and their fans to do what
they always anticipated they would.
"Five years wasn't something we were prepared to do," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We were certainly prepared to do a three-year deal, but our assessment was that five years was going to be too long. We wish Aaron well. He played extremely well for us and was an integral part of our club."
The Giants didn't feel five years was too much, and inked Rowand to a contract believed to be worth $60 million, or an average of $12 million per season. The Phillies were reportedly in with a $39 million proposal -- $13 million a year -- but topped out at three years. They were believed to have included a vesting option for a fourth year, but the Giants made that a moot point.
Rowand said from the beginning of this process that he wanted security and was seeking a deal for at least five years.
"It was very important in my decision process," said Rowand, who added that he considered "four or five" similar offers before choosing the Giants. "I didn't have another [comparable] contract offered to me in the two places I played. Getting the five years for me is getting security for myself and my family. The bottom line was I wanted to get into a situation that wasn't short-term. I think that's the goal for every player."
Rowand is coming off a career year, batting .309 with 27 homers and career highs with 89 RBIs and 105 runs scored in 161 games. He also earned his first Gold Glove and made the National League All-Star team.
Rowand came to the Phillies from the White Sox in a trade for Jim Thome before the 2006 season and quickly became a fan favorite. He cemented his reputation as an all-out player on May 11, 2006, when he plunged into the center-field wall at Citizens Bank Park, robbing Xavier Nady.
He's been making similar catches, albeit without the broken nose, for all the pitchers. Kyle Kendrick recalled such a grab against Washington's Dmitri Young.
"It was hit to left-center and Aaron fell down," Kendrick said. Anytime the ball is hit to him, even if it's hit hard, Aaron's going to get it. That's a great feeling for a pitcher. I'm sorry to see him go."
And in the clubhouse?
"He'll have your back to the death," Kendrick said.
Last week, Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said keeping Rowand was a
"long shot," and on Wednesday said he was "surprised" Rowand received a five-year deal.
Rowand's departure intensifies Philadelphia's quest for an outfielder,
particularly a lefty to platoon with Jayson Werth in right field. Shane Victorino,
last season's right fielder, becomes the center fielder, with Pat Burrell playing in
The Phillies would also like to upgrade third base -- in order to help
cushion the loss of their No. 5 hitter -- and, of course, their pitching.
Philadelphia had inquired about Houston's Luke Scott, but he was dealt to
Baltimore on Wednesday in a deal for Miguel Tejada. The Phillies have no interest in Kevin Mench,
designated for assignment on Monday by Milwaukee, and little interest in free agents
Shawn Green, Cliff Floyd or Brad Wilkerson. Keep an eye on switch-hitter Bobby
At third, the Phillies missed out on free agent Tadahito Iguchi when he signed with San
Diego and doesn't appear interested in the $19.1 million left on Brandon
Inge's contract with Detroit. Pedro Feliz, also a free agent, remains an option, but if he's willing to accept less
than the three years and $20 million he is believed to be seeking.
The pitching may come down to Kris Benson, assuming he throws fine in his
Monday audition for teams. Philadelphia has offered Glendon Rusch a Minor League deal.
"We are working on both third base and the outfield, but our priority is still
pitching," Amaro said. "If we can improve on all three, that would be great."
That remains the challenge. The Phillies confirmed at last week's Winter
Meetings what they'd known all along, that pitching is in high demand, raising the
asking price. Gillick said he wasn't sure if the team could fill its needs before
the season started.
"We don't have anything imminent right now," Amaro added. "There's only so
many chairs and so many players. At some point, we're hoping to improve the club.
It's only Dec. 12. The improvement process can continue from now until Sept. 1 [when
a player's playoff eligibility is determined], really."