Camden Courier Post - December 10, 1980

Anxious Blue Jays covet Phils’ talent

 

By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post

 

If nothing else, the Phillies have to admire the Toronto Blue Jays' delegation to these winter baseball meetings. They've got guts.

 

One day, they're giving the Phils a hotfoot by abducting one of the finest prospects in the world champions' organization. And the next, they're knocking on the door and asking if the Phils would like to give up people like Keith Moreland, Marty Bystrom and Luis Aguayo.

 

“I’m beginning to get the feeling that Toronto knows our organization as well as we do," said General Manager Paul Owens, who is waiting to hear from the Milwaukee Brewers about the trade involving Randy Lerch and Dickie Noles in exchange for rightfielder Sixto Lezcano.

 

“We don't make the other deal (Greg Luzinski for a starting pitcher) until the Brewers finish listening to other teams and decide," he said.

 

In the meantime, the Blue Jays provided some interesting diversions. They have a pair of front-line pitchers who interest the Phils. There are righthanders Jim Clancy (13-16) and Dave Stieb (12-15), both of , whom are desired as power-pitchers who could win consistently with the Phils.

 

Toronto has embarked on a total youth movement and is well aware of which team is loaded with prospects. Naturally, they wanted to talk about the Phillies' best.

 

It was not exactly music to the ears of Manager Dallas Green. When asked if a trade might be in the making, he just shook his head and said, "Not so far, not with the people they're mentioning."

 

Owens just smiles. He knows what it's like to be ambitious and hustling for an edge in the player market. Which is why he was both upset and ready to tip his cap to the Blue Jays following what can best be described as the Jorge Bell caper.

 

Bell is a young outfield sensation who hit over .300 for three years running before straining his back in the middle of Oklahoma City's 1980 season. With no room to hide him on their 40-man roster, the Phils decided to do the next best thing. They would try to make the 21-year-old invisible.

 

He was sent to his native Dominican Republic to rest, with strict orders being issued to the scout running a baseball team down there that under no circumstance was Jorge to play baseball in public.

 

As an added thought, word was leaked into the grapevine just prior to the minor league draft (held at these meetings) that the kid was going to have to return to Philly for further medical examination and possible treatment.

 

Phils breathed a sigh of relief when a certain National League club stopped its threatening inquiries about Bell and filled its 40-man roster prior to the draft. But, Toronto was sneaking around to the back door.

 

They sent a scout to find Jorge, but all they wanted to know was how healthy he looked. Well, he looked fine.

 

The rest became history, Monday afternoon. The stunned and hurting Phils came away from the draft admitting the Blue Jays certainly didn't lack initiative.

 

They obviously aren't lacking for gall, either. At a meeting yesterday, they threw out several names: Bystrom, the best young arm in the Phils' system; Julio Franco, the kid expected to replace Larry Bowa in 1982 and perhaps surpass him as a shortstop; outfielder Wil Culmer, a 6-4 powerhouse with world-class speed who is converting from softball to baseball; and infielder Jay Loviglio and outfielder Bob Dernier, both speedy blue chippers as well as established future stars like Moreland and Aguayo.

 

The Phils, of course, aren't buying any of it. Although you can almost guess the satisfaction Owens would get out of eventually hustling the Blue Jays or another club out of a solid, starting pitcher in exchange for some of the prospects who don't figure in Jhe future plans of the Phillies.

 

"We talked to three or four other clubs today... preliminary stuff," said Owens, who expects the San Francisco Giants to renew their interest in Greg Luzinski.

 

So much at this point, however, centers on whether other teams outbid the Phils in their negotiations with Milwaukee. For example, Houston is after Lezcano and the Mets are after the other Brewer outfielder, Gorman Thomas.

 

"In the meantime, Toronto keeps asking about young infielders and Moreland. They want Keith badly. A lot of clubs do, including the Reds. But, it's difficult to think of giving him up."

 

What it's all coming down to, however, is the realization by the Phillies that a steady influx of young talent is the key to being a pennant contender in the future. A logjam at the top cannot be allowed.

 

An overflow of youngsters was allowed to take place while the Phillies system was producing the current crop of quality rookies. One of the reasons Howie Bedell, an assistant to Green, was fired after the World Series is that system had become bloated with almost 50 extra players. Some ' screening, judging of talent and eventual trimming should have been done.

 

"You've got to skim the cream off the top for yourself," explained Owens. "And, you've got to keep making room for that cream."