Sometimes trades leaked to the newspapers are what baseball people call saber rattling. Of course, sometimes they're not. One never knows except the rattler himself, in this case Pat Gillick. For example, let's say you are a GM and you have a strong middle reliever who Gillick wants for starting pitcher Jon Lieber. You think you can get more for your reliever than Lieber, so you play stubborn and hold out. Then you read in the papers that Gillick is shopping Aaron Rowand for another middle reliever. Might make you nervous.
Rowand is a good player, the kind of outfielder that makes a team go from pretender to contender. Problem is at the end of the 2007 season he can waltz into free agency. And if you suspect he wants to go back to the White Sox, or to the highest bidder (see Billy Wagner), that might make Gillick a little nervous. Right now, he could get prime rib for Rowand, if he waits until mid-August, it'll be cube steak.
So is Gillick saber rattling or is he nervous about Rowand walking? If I had Pat's email address I'd send him one and ask. But I'm sure he wouldn't tell me anything. One thing for sure is that Gillick is a pro from the old school, the gunslingers school, where one big shootout can make your team that contender.
Signing free agents? That's easy. Ed Wade did that, and look where that got the Phillies. (But then again, see Pete Rose). When you get in the position the Phillies are in now, or when your shirt collar is a little tight and sweaty in mid-June, approaching the trading deadline five games behind, making a meaningful deal is for grown-up general managers who buckle on the holster, tie the rawhide around mid-thigh, and get ready to shoot it out.
I saw Gillick heading toward the Broad Street subway the other day. But I couldn't tell if had his holster on or not.