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Look Low-Risk For Starting Pitching Options

Ruben Amaro Jr. told both Comcast SportsNet’s “Daily News Live” and the Inquirer that he hopes Carlos Carrasco and JA Happ find jobs in the pitching staff in 2009.

Continuing, Amaro said he’s favors the rotation right now:

“I like the way our rotation sets up right now, at the top of our rotation, especially with the emergence of Brett. Brett made it turn the corner for us. You can’t have enough pitching. But I have a feeling what CC’s asking for may be a little north of where we want to go. We have to keep our core intact. Bringing a guy like CC in may be difficult, putting that percentage of his salary on our payroll.”

He’s talking, obviously, about CC Sabathia, the free agent hurler who might command a $100M deal. I agree with Amaro that a Sabathia contract is one you don’t want on your books, especially with a slew of young marquee names wanting to be paid.

So as it stands, the Phils are walking into 2009 with Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Joe Blanton at the top of the rotation. Jamie Moyer is about an 80 percent affirmative, as the Phils are seeking to lock him up soon. The fifth starter could be Carrasco or Happ, while there’s lingering possibility that Kyle Kendrick reclaims his spot in the rotation (Amaro wasn’t too high on Kendrick when talking about the rotation). Adam Eaton remains an outside shot.

I’m not against a Hamels-Myers-Blanton-Moyer rotation to start the season, with one of the young kids trying to win the No. 5 spot. But I’d be careful — last season the Phillies were lucky to play an entire season without one starting pitching injury. That might not be the case this season. Moreover, I’m not completely confident Myers will continue his second-half success, and that Moyer will attain another 16-win, 3.71-ERA season.

Initial Options

Scott Lauber spoke to a major league scout who said the Phils should sign a Derek Lowe or Ryan Dempster:

“If I was him, I’d take the $14 million [Burrell’s 2008 salary] and sign a Derek Lowe or a Ryan Dempster. They need to get a front-line pitcher. Myers, for me, is a No. 3. They need a guy to go with Hamels and give them a combination like [Boston’s Josh] Beckett and Daisuke [Matsuzaka].”

I don’t disagree with that, either, but there are counter arguments. Lowe is 35 and likely seeking a multiyear deal, but would fair well as a low-ball pitcher at Citizens Bank Park. Dempster has said he’d like to stay with the Cubs. But here are two names on which I’d much rather focus: Randy Wolf and Brad Penny.

Finally healthy for the first time since Eric Milton was pitching alongside him, Wolf recorded a 4.30 ERA for San Diego and Houston. He’s low-risk and high-reward, as he’ll be seeking a deal around $7M per season and could slide into the middle of the rotation with ease. Meanwhile, Penny had a horrendous 2008 campaign (6-9, 6.27 ERA), but is a clear low-risk/high-reward guy. He’ll also be worth around $7M or $8M per season, and is absolutely still a Cy Young-caliber pitcher.

Maybe Penny would take a two-year deal. If he doesn’t pan out, he doesn’t pan out. But if he performs close to his expected level, he’s a bonafide top-line starter, and the Phils will be set for 2009.

So while it wouldn’t be horrible for the Phillies to start 2009 without an addition, they could make one that can potentially reap gigantic results.

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