2010-11 Free Agency

PN Writer's Roundtable: Phillies Biggest Need

Question: What should be the Phillies main focus heading into free agency – bullpen, offense, or more starting pitching?

Amanda Orr: The Bullpen. The Phillies have Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge — that’s it. Danys Baez will return, but I’d rather keep the ball as far away from him as possible. Chad Durbin, Jose Contreras, and J.C Romero are all free agents. Durbin’s average. Bringing him back at a decent price would be solid, but losing him isn’t going to be the end of the world. Contreras had a good year, but he’s old. J.C Romero is too erratic and probably will demand a lot of money.

After Madson and Lidge, there is nobody. Antonio Bastardo? He hasn’t done a thing in the big leagues. Scott Matheison could be a possible option, but he’s had trouble getting out big league hitters, and even if he does well he is not going to solve the bullpen issues.

Michael Baumann: Amazing that I get less succinct the hazier my opinions are.

I honestly have no idea. The Phillies seem set on starting pitching, and the offense, even with the probable loss of Jayson Werth, ought not to be too bad. The only thing I’m sure of is that it would be a mistake to spend any money whatsoever on the bullpen. Reliever performance is so volatile that spending any money on bullpen arms (not named Rivera or Nathan) is a crapshoot. Case in point: the Phillies paid Danys Baez $2.5 million this year to post a 1.64 WHIP in 51 appearances and not make the postseason roster, while the Blue Jays, between 2009 and 2010, got a 6.53 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP in 20 2/3 IP out of B.J. Ryan (who was a “proven closer” when they signed him) at the cost of $22 million. Meanwhile, the 2010 Padres put together one of the best bullpens in major league history for about 2/3 of what the Phillies paid Brad Lidge alone.

I’d like three things out of the Phillies this offseason: 1) Don’t give a reliever multiple years or multiple millions of dollars. Reading and Lehigh Valley are teeming with cheap live young arms–let’s give them a shot. 2) Get younger. The Phillies, in 2010, were the oldest team in the NL by a huge margin. If they’re going to contend going forward, bringing in Dom Brown and Vance Worley full-time is a start, but it’s not enough. 3) Somehow convince people to stop talking about Jayson Werth and Cliff Lee as potential free-agent targets. The Phillies have tied up their resources elsewhere, and I’m pretty sure we’re only days away from Dash Treyhorn over at The Fightins leaving a Jon Favreau-in-Swingers message on Werth’s voicemail. They’re gone, folks. Let’s move on.

Nick “The Beerman” Staskin: In my opinion, the main focus should be on filling the need for a right-handed bat. Whether that is by resigning Jayson Werth or looking outside the organization, the overhaul of lefties has been exposed by this year’s letdown. When Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt comprise the majority of your rotation, the need for middle relief is not as great.

Pat Gallen: In this order, the Phillies need to work their magic in free agency: 1. Offense, 2. Starting Pitching.

For them to make steps forward offensively, it would have to include keeping Jayson Werth, which seems like a long shot at this point. He’s attracting a lot of attention meaning he won’t be an easy keep. Ruben Amaro has surprised us before so perhaps he’ll surprise us again by coming out of left field with a trade. No matter, the Phillies have to find someone to fill in for Werth should he leave. I also do not think anyone is safe right now. Amaro will be looking to move Victorino, Ibanez, and others if he has the opportunity. And his main focus should be getting this team back to it where was offensively in 2009.

If that proves to be too difficult, then they have to go out try to make a splash by trading for or signing a top notch starting pitcher. Cliff Lee is on the market, but again, trades and pop up at any time. If he’s able to move the contract of Joe Blanton, then so be it. He was a fine acquisition and might be a fine fourth starter; however, if you’re not able to get a big bat to rebuild the lineup, then they have to load up on pitching to beat other teams.

Relief arms are too feeble to be a main target through free agency, although they will need to likely go out and sign one fairly big arm to fill the void left by Romero, Durbin, or Contreras – that is if none of them come back. We’ve seen too many big contracts handed out to bullpen arms only to watch them fail miserably. Leave that until later in the winter and see if you can get bargain basement deals.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. brooks

    November 9, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Although I think the need for middle/closing relief is huge, I do agree that these guys are a ‘special’ bunch and that there are only a slight few that will year in and year out perform to expectations. Paying top dollar for an older relief arm just seems pretty risky.

    I’m all for RH hitter, boost the offense as top priority.

  2. NJ

    November 9, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I’ll say it as I have for quite a while now. The Phillies don’t need to go shopping, they need the core players to perform better and to start developing young cheap pitching in the bullpen.

    Retaining Werth is the priority but this team cannot keep shopping to improve itself so much as it has to do it from within.

  3. JAY-AKA-PHILLYBOY

    November 9, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    #1 TRY AND RE-SIGN WERTH!! #2 IF NOT,FIND A POWER RH HITTER TO REPLACE HIM! #3 SEE #1 AND#2…………..

  4. Bacardipr05

    November 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    They will eventually have to start improving within. However do you really just want to go with Madson/Lidge and a core of rookies as a bullpen. Madson cant possibly come in and pitch every game where is there a 1 run lead or tie like he did this year. I would like to have another veteran in there(besides Baez). We need more offense help as well. We might be targeting Lee but who knows what RAJ has up his sleeve. Definetly wouldnt mind trading Joe B to make room for Lee. Very doubtful that will happen. I dont see the Phils makin any huge acquistions (other than the possible resigning of Werth). They will likely look for basement deals or mid-caliber type of players. Unless RAJ does some major shuffling of current players.

  5. NJ

    November 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Bacardipr05- I’d expect to see Durbin test the market but return to the Phils if he doesn’t get significantly more elsewhere. I think the Phils have been scouting bullpen arms for a while so I think low-risk guys acquisitions like Eddie Bonine will be best and I’d like to see us add a long in the tooth veteran LOOGY to mentor Bastardo.

    When it comes to a bullpen I think it’s easy to chase established set-up men, but they will all be well into their 30s, expensive and might not fit so I think you try and offer a fair deal in the Baez range of money to a couple of guys like Wood and if not you look to guys on minor league deals and see who sticks.

  6. Manny

    November 9, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    I do think they need to go get a “premium” relief pitcher… why? Because a) we need one, and b) there are PLENTY out there in FA.. you name it: Rauch, Francisco, FUENTES (lefty!), Wood, and at least 5 more I’m forgetting. With supply so high, some of those “premium” relievers might have to settle for a 2 year contract. Baez can’t touch what some of these guys have done…

    There are plenty of relief arms in the FA this season, let’s get one at least.

    RH bat… no idea how we’re going to go about that. If Shane can leadoff and we could move Jimmy to 5th.. then we might be just fine. Ibanez/Brown hitting 6th/7th. Maybe even Ibanez/Chooch/Brown (6th, 7th, 8th) to split up the lefties in the bottom of the lineup.

  7. Scotch Man

    November 9, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    A right handed bat would be best. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Phillies swap Raul for a righty outfied bat. No, not Aaron Rowand! Keep hearing Magglio Ordonez popping up.

    I agree with Pat, go for a starter. I have never liked going in big for a relief pitcher unless they are a proven closer or set up guy. Even they can dissapoint. If the Kerry Woods of the world come cheap, sure. But don’t waste more capital than you have to. Build the bullpen best you can from within and take a few fliers. None of these Type A relief pitchers like Arthur Rhodes though!

  8. Manny

    November 9, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Why a starter? I don’t get it.

    In the 2009 WS, we lost because we had no reliable starters after Lee.
    In the 2010 NLCS, we lost because our middle relief blew it in Game 4 (pivotal game of the series; left us down 3-1 in the series). I think it was Durbin… correct me if I’m wrong.

    Bullpen is our biggest weakness… and it’s also the cheapest one to fix.. So go for it, RAJ. Maybe people don’t trust Blanton anymore, but his 2010 was way worse than the norm.. he’s an excellent 4th starter. As for the 5th starter: who cares? Kendrick, Worley.. we should be fine.

  9. Manny

    November 9, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Also, what if Lidge blows up (bad outings/injuries)? You’d move Madson to close, but who’s gonna set up??? Who could pitch the 7th and the 8th? Scary thought.

  10. Kate

    November 9, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    @Manny: We lost Game 4 because of Durbin. We got eliminated because Chase Utley forgot how to field.

    I know this is going against the young trend I’m seeing, but we need to get Contreras back.

    If Blanton doesn’t start 2011 with injuries like he started 2010, he’ll be fine. We don’t need another starter.

    We need hitters and relievers.

  11. The Dipsy

    November 9, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    I would like to see Contreras back. Somewhat effective and should be cheap because of his age, whatever it is. The biggest need is getting more right handed on offense. Time and time again (Yankees in ’09, Giants ’10) LHP has been the Phils’ kryptonite. When the Giants rolled out four straight LH relief pitchers when Sanchez got knocked out, the Phils had no answer. Ryan Howard, unlike Bonds and Pujols and some of the other great power hitters, MUST have a guy (RH) to protect him. If he doesn’t, his pitch selectivity will get even worse when the pitchers give him even less than usual to swing at because there is no one to worry about hitting after him. Howard won’t take the walk. In fact, I would like to see Ryan sandwiched somehow between righties. Rollins and Victorino don’t count.

    The Dipsy

  12. Chuck

    November 9, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    No. We got eliminated because we forgot how to hit with RISP and advance runners. Utley’s fielding sure didn’t help either.

    I would NOT go after Cliff Lee.

    Bullpen. Bullpen. Bullpen. (I kike the idea of signing Contreras!)

    Also…..and I know this has almost ZERO chance of happening….but I really like that McCutcheon-Brown idea that was thrown out there.

    Realizing that Raul can’t be moved…this is Chuck’s outfield for 2011 (and I know it’s purely wishful thinking on so many fronts):

    Raul/Ben Fran platoon
    McCutcheon
    Werth

  13. Bart Shart

    November 9, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    We do need right-handed bats. We need to platoon better and use our bench better. We do need a better bullpen and how to get one is very controversial as a lot of teams have blown wads of money on relievers that just did not come through. Here are some players that Amaro might want to consider:

    Jeff Francoeur — He hits left-handed pitchers well, is a gold-glove right fielder and is only 26. Also, we could get him cheap. He has had decent years, as well. He would be a good platoon player for both Ibanez and/or Dom Brown.

    Jose Lopez — Age 27 next year. Has played third, second, short and first base. Had a poor 2009, but has hit as many as 27 homers and drove in as many as 96 runs. He is a right handed hitter, does not boast a good OBP. He would be an inexpensive gamble and may love Citizens Bank Park. He is young, experienced and eager to play for a winner. He has played for Seattle throughout his career. He could relieve all infield positions with some power and a right-handed bat.

    Keep Valdez, Gload, Francisco and Schneider. Add Donier Navarro from Tampa Bay as a back-up catcher as he is young and a switch hitter. He may agree to a minor league contract.

    RELIEF PITCHING — we need improvement. I have not researched possible answers but I will.

    Just some ideas. I am thinking about budget and getting some players who may bounce back from some tough seasons and come to life in Philly.

  14. psujoe

    November 9, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Ok, you guys made me crazy by mentioning trading for McCutcheon. Not willing to part with Brown, but would package Singleton and other prospects preferably obtained by dealing Victorino. Sign Werth. Sign M. Diaz to platoon with Brown if necessary. Sign Downs or Fuentes. This is the year to get a replacement for Lidge since there’s a lot of quality set-up/closers out there. You keep Lidge, unless you get a great offer. I wouldn’t be oppossed to a quality LH specialist to augment Downs/Fuentes and Bastardo. Starters are fine. I’d take a flyers on a Justing Duchscherer or similar reclamation project on an incentive laden contract.

    Love me a Werth, McCutheon, Brown OF now and in the long run.

  15. psujoe

    November 9, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Chuck, I’d do it, but would love to keep Brown and move Victorino. What did you do with Shane in your scenario?

  16. Chuck

    November 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    See I don’t think we can move Raul. We’re stuck with him…or really it’s his contract that’s the issue. I think with some days off against certain lefties, Raul can have a reasonably productive year. Platoon him with Francisco.

    Trade Victorino in an affort to free up money for Werth. He’s got value now and an affordable contract to move.

    Trade Brown and a few prospects for McCutcheon.

    psujoe, with your sceanrio I would imagine that you see Brown in left?? That, along with McCutcheon and Werth would be ridiculously good!

  17. Chuck

    November 9, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    I’d listen to offers for Lidge. His value is probably as high as it’s gonna get. Time to sell.

  18. Bart Shart

    November 9, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    McCuthcen would be a great addition. A rising star. I do not think we have a chance to get him thought. What else do Pirates fans have to root for. Maybe Brown, Rizzilli and Victorino for him ?? However, I do not think so.

  19. adam

    November 9, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Priority #1 needs to be retaining Werth. He is just so much better than any other available RHB and he plays the only spot we have open – corner outfield – pretty well. If we don’t get Werth, there isn’t another really good FA that fits us.

    #2 needs to be the bullpen, with the rotation being a distant 3. We have H2O, Blanton, Kendrick/Worley. Who are we going to get to bolster that? The pen needs a makeover, and that needs to begin with the young guys. Get Mathieson throwing against big-league hitters. Give DeFratus a shot. Schwimmer? We need to get one or two reliable guys. One of the upper-end FAs could slip due to quantity. If not, Contreras plus an equivalent.

  20. psujoe

    November 9, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I don’t know how the OF of Brown, Werth and MCutcheon would shake out defensively, but it would be one fast, young OF.

  21. George

    November 9, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    Francoeur has been going downhill (including his fielding) every year since his one good one. Jose Lopez can hit, but has played so many positions simply because they’ve yet to find one that he can play decently. Navarro might work, but then what do you do with Schneider?

    The Phils do need to get younger, though. They’re still not all that old, but this year the cracks were starting to show. Some of the injuries were flukes, but Rollins’ weren’t, and Utley certainly looked sluggish at times. I’d start by trying to get something (anything) for Ibanez, a younger replacement for Werth (if he leaves) and use any draft picks on middle infield help. For this year, and maybe next, the team will still be fairly solid, but should definitely look into some cheap bullpen arms. Anything might happen with Lidge or Madson, but neither is replaceable right now because of their salaries. Just have to hope for healthy seasons from both.

    Even though Contreras is old, I’d still try to sign him. There have been a lot of ancient relievers who’ve pitched like kids. Just so long as they’re not signed to lenthy contracts a team can do well. Bullpen arms don’t seem to figure into the age factor as do everyday players.

  22. George

    November 9, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    The real problem with a young bullpen is inexperience. Most kids just throw and don’t really pitch. A team needs at least one veteran arm to smooth out the pen.

    Bastardo is gaining experience, but the Phils simply can’t just go with all minor leaguers beyond Lidge and Madson.

  23. bacardipr05

    November 9, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    George i basically said same thing besides Baez do the Phils really want to go with all minor leaguers. Can it work yes but we need another veteran reliever in there. I liked Contreras give him 2MIL for 1 year he might take it. Worley was impressive however he had all the what 3 starts last year. I really was pulling or a guy like Mathieson however he seems to have trouble getting MLB hitters out.

  24. Matt Kwasiborski

    November 9, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Our bullpen is a big priority if we don’t resign Werth or add a prominent bat to the lineup. I just don’t feel that this team has time to watch rookies or veterans on the cheap go out there and implode. This team is getting older and the time to win is now. I love what Halladay and Oswalt gave us but I don’t think you can count on them to throw that many innings again. They too will need to be monitored. I think they should resign Contreras and go after a LHR which you can pair with Bastardo. We need more than one LHR in that pen. That could be Downs.

    We are stuck with Ibanez. What team out there would take a chance on him? He makes too much money and his bat has slowed down alot. I would definitely make the Pirates a competitive offer for McCutchen for sure. I do think Brown is a helluva prospect but McCutchen is a proven MLBer and again, we need to win now with our core getting older.

  25. betasigmashag

    November 10, 2010 at 9:35 am

    I would not spend a ton of money on bull pen arms but I agree that the big three in the rotation should pitch less innings. I just think you can try out some of the kids in the minors because mid relievers are reall y a dime a dozen and can usually be picked up during the season.
    And does anyone think that JRoll could be a number five hitter or would he not give Howard any protection
    I also do not think you not have to get rid of Raul, he seemed to pick up the pace with his bat when he was not playing every day. I do not think you have to have a strict platoon with Ben Fran or Mayberry in left, but for the most part rest him against most lefties, and when hewas batting third in the line up he did pretty well with howad batting behind him, so could you deal with a 2 3 4 as all being lefties in the line up and put Chase second in the order.

  26. brooks

    November 10, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Any thoughts to trying Eric Berdard from the M’s? Injured in 08, he started 15 games, same in 09, started only 15 games, out the entire 2010 season and the M’s just gave up on him. He’s 32 (?), had his best seasons with the Orioles winning 28 games in 06 and 07 (total now). He struck out 221 batters in 182 innings in 07 and showed some promise. His contract with the M’s was laden with incentives to stay healthy. I would imagine he might consider more of the same if the Phils can muster an offer.

  27. Geoff

    November 10, 2010 at 11:56 am

    You guys must not watch the Pirates at all. McKuteon (sp?) is FAR more valuable than Brown. Brown has all the potential in the world, and so does McKuteon, but he has produced consistently at the big league level now. And he is a leadoff hitter, and he is fast, and a great center fielder. In 5 years maybe Brown will be worth more, maybe he wont, but we dont know enough about him yet. The other guy is a known factor – which makes him exceedingly more valuable right now.

    Also, McKuteon is the only player who is really special on that Pirates team right now. They would permanently lose their fan base if they traded him now while he is still cheap. There is a zero chance of it happening.

    It would take something like Brown, Jarrod Cosart, Jon Singleton, & Justin DeFratus to get the Pirates’ GM to even pick up the phone. And I am not kidding abouit that. This is fairly unrealistic.

    Now…I do think Pedro Feliciano will be brought in. He knows us well, perfect fit really.

    As for the RH bat. If we cannot trade for or somehow land a big name to replace Werth, I would go with a Matt Diaz/Dom Brown platoon and a Ibanez/Francisco platoon at the corners. Try and trade Victorino and Blanton’s bad contracts, as well as Lidge’s…

    This trade is pure fantasy baseball.

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