Camden Courier Post - December 9, 1980

Phils’ trades may shake up outfield

 

By Ray W. Kelly of the Courier-Post

 

PHILADELPHIA – Phillies General Manager Paul Owens is doing his Christmas shopping early. And, before he's finished, a new look for the Phils' outfield may be coming down the chimney.

 

Two separate trades are on the fire. If the first one, which is "close," is made, it would trigger a second deal that would probably send left fielder Greg Luzinski to the American League.

 

After shopping around here yesterday at the winter meetings, Owens, Manager Dallas Green and Phillies super-scout Hugh Alexander came away from a session with the Milwaukee Brewers with a look of expectation in their eyes.

 

The Brewers have two outfielders, Sixto Lezcano and Gorman Thomas, both of whom would fit into current speculation that the Phils want to add throwing power to right field.

 

Lezcano is the man the Phils like better. And, if he's obtained in a swap that would send Randy Lerch and Dickie Noles to the bullpen-hungry Brewers, the Phils would shift Bake McBride to left, there to be platooned with young Lonnie Smith.

 

Some additional names are dropping into the conversation between the two clubs. But, the bottom line is that it would ultimately leave Luzinski out in the cold with no position to play.

 

Luzinski causes mixed emotions among the Phillies' hierarchy. Some folks think it would be a mistake to let his powerful bat get out of town, while others feel additional speed and defense will continue the successful trend the team demonstrated last season.

 

One thing is certain. A trade with the Brewers would add the offensive punch the Phils hoped to find when they came here. Plus, the market value of The Bull would enable the Phils to pick up the extra starting pitcher they have been seeking.

 

One National League club and three teams in the American League have made tempting offers of pitching help in exchange for Luzinski.

 

"I'm picking and choosing for the first time in my life," said the much-sought-after Owens. "It's like I'm hand-picking my Christmas gifts.”

 

Winning the world championship does wonders for the value of players, a fact that gives Owens the air of a man convinced that he's going to do something big. And it's going to be on his terms.

 

The Brewers would probably prefer to include Thomas rather than Lezcano even though Thomas' 1980 season of a .239 batting average with 38 homers and 105 RBIs surpassed Lezcano's disappointing season of a .229 average with 55 RBIs and 18 homers.

 

Thomas, you see, is a big swinger who struck out 170 times last season. Lezcano is a more consistent hitter, who simply got into trouble last year by trying to swing for the fences.

 

Both are outstanding outfielders, one of whom, if the Phils have their way, would be combined in a package deal with either outfielder Dick Davis or infielder Jim Gantner, a lefty swinger. The Phils feel either player would help their bench offensively and may be willing to throw infielder Jay Loviglio into the deal to make it complete.

 

The Brewers, who are determined to get help for their staggering relief corps, are also getting some interesting inquiries from the Houston Astros, who also want Lezcano and are willing to give up pitcher Bob Forsch to get him.

 

It is expected the Phils will move on the deal within the next two days, if they are to do it at all. And part of the delay is the realization that the added competition in the outfield will cause Manager Green added headaches.

 

Neither McBride. nor Smith will be thrilled with the prospects of being platooned, but they would have to learn to live with it, because Owens made it clear that Bake isn't going anywhere.

 

"We never even talked about Bake, and we won't," said the Pope, "Bake may be longer with the Phillies than me."

 

The idea of sharing the left field duties becomes even more complicated when you realize that if Luzinski ends up with the club next year, there was an understanding that catcher Keith Moreland was going to see some action in the outfield.

 

Moreland, who doesn't want to , leave the Phils but is having trouble with the prospect of another year backing up Bob Boone, was hoping to get into about 120 games simply by spotting both Boone and Luzinski.

 

If we get an abundance of outfielders, I'm right, back where I started with Keith's problems,.'' Owens said. "Sure, I could move (trade) him, but I don't want to do that. Dallas is going to have a problem keeping people happy."

 

One person the Phils are worried about keeping happy is lefthander Lerch, whose 97 mph fastball still interests a number of clubs.

 

"I'm not surprised by that," said Green. "He's got the physical talent. And, people (in baseball) realize that he has worn out his welcome in Philadelphia.

 

"A trade involving Lerch would : not be contingent upon any trade for Bull, but it would allow us to do it."

 

In other words, the entire outfield realignment will come in two parts and be made separately, even though they are Interwoven.

 

The interest in Philly players was a much needed lift for the Phillies' , brass, which was upset by losing four minor leaguers earlier in the day during the draft.

 

The loss of top outfield prospect - Jorge Bell to the Toronto Blue Jays hurt the most. In 1979, before hurting his back, the 21-year-old led the Western League in triples (15) and RBIs (102), while he finished third in the league with a .305 batting average.

 

Righthander Jim Wright will be continuing his comeback as a member of the Kansas City organization. The 6-6, 220-pounder is about a year away from returning to his dazzling form on the mound.

 

'The St Louis Cardinals plucked catcher Orlando Sanchez out Of the draft. And, the Chicago White Sox took pitcher Carlo Arroyo to complete the four-player, first-round plunder of the Oklahoma City team.

 

"That hurt all of us," said Green. "But we all felt better when the Pope stood up and said, "Boys, I can make a deal right now, just by picking up the phone."

 

He can. And chances are, he will.