Phillips, fighting for a bench spot in New York, would replace David Ross in Los Angeles. Ishii, who could have been out of a job when Odalis Perez and Brad Penny returned from injuries, could fit into the Met rotation in place of Steve Trachsel, who is set for back surgery today.
Dodger General Manager Paul DePodesta, reached Friday night, declined to comment. A trade could be announced as soon as today.
Phillips, 28, hit .218 with seven home runs in 362 at-bats last season, striking out in one of eight at-bats. In 2003, he hit .298 with 11 home runs in 403 at-bats. He is hitting .550 this spring, but Mike Piazza’s return from first base to catcher made Phillips expendable.
Ishii’s departure could open a rotation spot for spot starter Wilson Alvarez, at least until Penny’s expected return in mid-April. With two days off in the first two weeks, the Dodgers might not need more than one start from Alvarez.
The deal also would lighten the Dodger payroll. Ishii is due $3.2 million in salary this season and at least $2.2 million in buyouts if options for 2005 and 2006 are not exercised.
By acquiring Phillips, the Dodgers could cut Ross without rushing prospect Dioner Navarro. With Paul Bako signed to be the Dodgers’ backup catcher, Navarro expected to play at triple-A Las Vegas and fellow prospect Russell Martin ticketed for double-A Jacksonville, Ross may become expendable.
For their $18-million investment in Ishii, including an $11-million payment to his Japanese team for negotiating rights, the Dodgers have received 36 victories in three seasons. He pitched the Dodgers’ only complete games last season, both shutouts, but his erratic control so frustrated the team that Manager Jim Tracy twice banished him to the bullpen. He never did pitch in relief, given a reprieve by injuries to other starters.
Ishii’s performance in Friday’s simulated game was typical of his Dodger career. In five innings ” against a five-man lineup of Ross and four minor leaguers ” Ishii gave up one run and two hits, five walks, two wild pitches and a hit batter, and had eight strikeouts.