Thanks to Anon who replied to my post the other night suggesting that I was James Middlebrook's agent, that he was too long in the tooth and that a better option might be Gareth Breese of Durham.
I can't argue that Breese is a decent cricketer who has a British passport and isn't getting anywhere near the cricket that he should do with Durham, for whom Ian Blackwell is having an excellent season, especially with the ball.
However, there's little between them as cricketers. Breese averages 27 with the bat to Middlebrook's 26, Middlebrook has 300-plus first class wickets at 38, Breese has 280 at 30. Both are very good Twenty/20 bowlers, Breese proving especially effective in this form of the game.
Breese is still very much engaged by Durham though and is also a year older than Middlebrook at 33. That wouldn't worry me one bit if he was available as the best spinner in the country, Robert Croft, is considerably older. Breese would be a good asset to Derbyshire, but he's not available to my knowledge. Middlebrook would too, and he is a free agent. That's the crucial difference.
There's also comments on the In Morris We Trust site as to other players who may go. Tom Lungley, John Sadler, Ian Hunter and Nantie Hayward are all cited to join Dom Telo, Steve Stubbings and Dan Birch through the exit door.
For me, the answer is clear cut. Lungley has a year's offer on the table and may or may not choose to sign it, while Sadler looks set to get another deal and probably has been unlucky not to get more chances this summer, when he's scored heavily in the Seconds and in club cricket. Hunter still has a year on his contract to the best of my knowledge, while Hayward was always a gamble and one that hasn't come off. The latter will go and for me should be joined by Mark Lawson, who hasn't proved himself at all this year.
Peakview sums it up succinctly by saying that if Morris could get better, he would chop them. Can he get better?
If we assume that Stubbings, Telo, Birch, Lawson and Hayward are all out, that would leave a reasonable "pot" of money. Most fans would want to see Steffan Jones re-signed on a permanent basis, but what is not clear is if Wayne Madsen and Nantie Hayward are signed from existing resources - i.e. Charl Langeveldt's salary - or the club have spent extra.
I'm sure that interest in Kabir Ali and Stephen Moore of Worcestershire would be welcomed, but neither will lack for suitors and will want a division one club. That is especially the case with Moore, who has invoked a clause in his contract that granted him release if Worcestershire were relegated. I'd be surprised if Morris were not in for them both, but suspect we'll be more realistically looking elsewhere, for another Park, Groenewald or Madsen, an unpolished diamond or undiscovered talent.
How successful he is will determine the direction we go for an overseas player should Chris Rogers be unable to return. Sign a batsman and we could get a bowler or all rounder and vice versa.
It will be an interesting winter.