PN Writer's Roundtable: Which Reliever to Sign – Phillies Nation
2010-11 Free Agency

PN Writer's Roundtable: Which Reliever to Sign

Question: Of the currently available free agent relief pitchers, who should the Phillies attempt to sign ?

Paul Boye: Scott Downs.

He holds righties down as well as lefties, he’s arguably the best reliever in a relatively weak free agent market, and he’s an upgrade at a position of sore need for the Phillies. Of course, all of that won’t come cheap; Downs (right) will likely cost around $7M or so per year over two or three years and is a Type A free agent. If the deal is three guaranteed years, I balk. But two years – Type A and all – at that price should be well worth it. It’s also worth remembering that, because Jayson Werth is likely to depart, the Phils would be trading their first round pick with a team further up in the first round (unless the Angels grab him).

It’s a risk, but a risk the Phils should probably take to shore up a bullpen whose lefties consist of Antonio Bastardo and…no one else. He can’t do it all himself, and Downs would be a big addition worth his price tag.

Jay Floyd: NONE OF THEM. Free agent relievers are too hit or miss, as the Phillies and their phans saw last season when Jose Contreras and his statistics were a pleasant surprise, while Danys Baez and his weak production proved to be money virtually wasted. With the Phillies’ current crop of solid pitching prospects, I don’t feel it is necessary to sign a potentially costly free agent.

Sure, there seems to be a need for an additional lefty reliever, but is Scott Downs and the draft pick he could cost the Phillies, as a type A free agent acquisition, absolutely worth the big money he is poised to draw from a potential suitor? Maybe…maybe not. Relievers’ numbers go up and down from year to year and while Downs has posted great stats in recent years, his career ERA is 3.79, which means his output prior to his recent 1.78 and 2.64 ERA seasons was considerably far off.

And what sort of contribution would Chad Durbin offer, if the Phillies re-signed the righty veteran? It’s hard to tell, as he has posted ERA’s of 4.72, 2.87, 4.39 and 3.80 in his most recent four seasons.

The Phillies have several up and coming prospects as well as some familiar big league types that could make a considerable impact out of the bullpen in 2011. Among those pitchers are Scott Mathieson, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Stutes, Eddie Bonine, Justin De Fratus, Sergio Escalona, Ryan Feierabend and Mike Zagurski. In addition to those guys are a few more young hurlers who might be just a step behind, like Michael Schwimer, JC Ramirez and Austin Hyatt.

With such a full crop of relief talent waiting to step up and contribute behind the core of Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras, as well as the other members of the big league pitching staff (Baez, David Herndon and the “loser” of the proposed 5th starter duel between Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley) already in place, I don’t think the Phillies need to spend money on more risky bullpen arms.

Jeff Nelson: The Phillies definitely need a lefty. They can’t afford to have Bastardo as the lone LHP in the pen all by himself, especially when the manager doesn’t fully trust him yet. Although the price tag on Downs is very high – he’d come at the expense of the Phils 2011 first rounder plus a multi-year deal – there aren’t many other good options on the market. And let’s be honest, good left handed pitching doesn’t exactly fall off trees these days.

If this team was looking to get by for a season and plug someone in to complement Bastardo, then I could see them plucking someone from the farm. But this organization needs to win now and Downs or to a lesser extent, Hisanori Takahashi, are probably the best options out there. I’m not sure if Takahashi is looking to start in 2011 though, but I’m assuming he’s still a BP option as of right now. Basically I agree with Paul, but to a certain extent.

Kieran Carobine: Antonio Bastardo has been cutting up the Winter League thus far. Bastardo looks to be a lock as one of the lefty pieces coming out of the bullpen for Charlie Manuel next season. But who will the other pieces be?

Now while I agree with Paul, Scott Downs would be a good addition to the pen but I am not sure if it is worth spending that type of money and losing the draft picks. In the past two seasons Ruben Amaro Jr has sent a handful of prospects packing in acquiring Cliff Lee and then Roy Halladay. It would be nice to save as many picks as possible.

Now, the market for reliable relievers may not be as small as some people think. I think there are still a couple good options out there.

I feel Pedro Feliciano should be tops on the Phillies radar. He is a guy who was very dependable for the Mets last season despite his 3-6 record. In 62.2 innings pitched he had a 3.30 ERA and only allowed one home run. Also, he had almost a 2:1 strikeouts to walks ratio in 92 appearances. The only thing with Feliciano is whether or not he will accept arbitration from the Mets. He is in line for a raise this season and may want to test the waters after earning $2.9 million last season.

A right hander on the market coming off a very good year is 34 year-old Kyle Farnsworth. The Phillies got to see him first hand towards the end of the season last year when the Braves acquired him from Kansas City. He did struggle a bit pitching in the NL posting a 5.40 ERA in just 20 innings but overall boasted an ERA of 3.34 and a WHIP of 1.14 in 64.2 total innings with the Royals and Braves.

Pat Gallen: While I’m not a fan of signing free agent relievers to extended contracts, there are a few intriguing names available this year. Scott Downs has been mentioned and as great as he’s been, he might be a little too expensive. Rafael Soriano is out of the Phillies’ league contractually and Jason Frasor and Grant Balfour are solid options, but maybe not solid enough to suck a top draft pick from the Phils due to their type-A status.

I’m a fan of Jesse Crain (left) on the right side. The ex-Twins relief pitcher has a fine resume and is only 28-years old (he’ll be 29 in July). His career WHIP is 1.26 over parts of seven seasons and he does a great job of keeping people off the basepaths via the walk. Crain would be a solid choice and is a type-B free agent. He’s declined his free-agent arbitration today and is getting a hard look from the Blue Jays. J.J. Putz would be a fine choice as well, provided it’s to a one-or-two year contract.

As for the crop of lefties, Downs certainly stands out. Other than Downs, I think taking a flier on a guy like Will Ohman or Dennys Reyes is more beneficial. Of all the lefties available (with the exception of Downs and Pedro Feliciano) their stat sheets are littered with up and down seasons. It’s too hard to tell which will sink and which will swim and that to me says buy low with relievers.



  1. Dan

    November 30, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I’m suprised no one has mentioned the lefty Dan Meyer. This guy was a 1st-round draft pick who had a great year for the Marlins in 2009. He has been injury-plagued and I agree that you cannot count on him or Bastardo to be the go-to guys in the bullpen, but I think he could put things together for the team he grew up rooting for. This is guy worth watching.

  2. Bob D.

    November 30, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Dan, I was thinking the same about Meyer, last year he was hurt so he never got on track. A healthy 2011 could do wonders for him. The other thing I thought about was to trade a John Mayberry or some other player/prospect for a reliever. Then fill the last 1 or 2 spots with a prospect.

  3. Geoff

    November 30, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Downs is tempting. I’d go with Farnsworth from the right side. Should check in on Downs for sure, but Id choose to go with Feliciano instead at the lower cost in picks and potentially both years and money, but also still wary of his overuse in the past few seasons.

  4. Geoff

    November 30, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    The other slot should go to DeFratus with a good Spring, Baez should just stay in AAA and take the youngsters and journeyman vets out to dinner everynight with his big contract.

  5. Lefty

    November 30, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I agree with Jay Floyd. It may be baptism by fire for some of these guys, but it’s the only way they can learn, and we can find out if they have what it takes.

  6. Scotch Man

    November 30, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    I’m never for going too crazy when it comes to ‘pen arms. On paper, I’d love Scott Downs but for the contract and the draft picks, I’m not sure I’d do it. A Matt Thorton trade would be more my speed if Amaro can swing it. I’d take a flier on J.J. Putz or Dennys Reyes for the right side if we can’t re-sign Durbin.

  7. The Dipsy

    November 30, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Lidge, Madson, Contreras, Bastardo, Mathieson (he’s gotta be there), and we’ll cherry pick a lefty somewhere along the line. Not a biggie. 7m for Scott Downs is just lunacy. Is Brian Fuentes still out there. I guess the only way I would pay for a reliever is if the guy was a lefty and could close if needed. I would just wait and see.

    The Dipsy

  8. psujoe

    November 30, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    How about Randall Doyle Choate? .212 lifetime Ave against lefties with only 4 hrs given up in 565 PA. No pick and cheaper than someother options.

  9. Paul Boye

    November 30, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Randy Choate is a good, under-the-radar type guy that would also be a nice addition.

    And I’m not sure how $7M for Downs is “lunacy” when Brad Lidge is making $12M. From 2007-10:

    Lidge: 240.2 IP, 293 K (11.0 K/9), 123 BB (4.6 BB/9), 3.81 ERA, 1.6 WAR
    Downs: 236.2 IP, 205 K (7.8 K/9), 78 BB (3.0 BB/9), 2.36 ERA, 6.1 WAR

    You lose a fair punch of Ks, yeah, but you also get better control, fewer hits, and fewer homers (0.5 HR/9 to Lidge’s 1.0 HR/9 in that time) allowed. Considering that going rate – though we’re comparing a lefty and righty – he seems well worth it.

    For another advanced stat, Downs also has Lidge beat in xFIP in three if the last four seasons, with ’08 being the only exception.

  10. Greg

    December 1, 2010 at 2:19 am

    I’d presume The Dipsy isn’t too pleased with Lidge’s contract, either.

  11. jonnyboy

    December 1, 2010 at 3:49 am

    crain has always been solid and consistent. however, lets remember-theoretically we have our 7,8,9 already filled out with contreras, madson, and lidge. i really think that mathieson, bastardo, and worley are gonna catch fire this year. lets not make too many large moves…..and who knows, maybe baez will get his head back in the game

  12. Pat Gallen

    December 1, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Lidge’s contract was signed after he went 48 for 48 and won them a World Championship. The contract was a bit hefty at the time but top notch closers go for about $10 mil per season and Lidge was one of those when he signed it. It hasn’t been pretty since, but at the time it wasn’t an awful contract.

    Jonnyboy, you can never have too many solid arms. Plus, this is likely Lidge’s last season, so if you sign a guy for two years, you’re compensating for that.

  13. The Dipsy

    December 1, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Pat – Lidge is not such a good closer anymore. I would rather have Downs as my closer. But if Downs is gonna be a set up guy, then I wouldn’t pay him 7m, for three years, which is what I thought you guys meant. 7m for one year doesn’t bother me so much. I could see that.

    The Dipsy

  14. The Dipsy

    December 1, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Is there a good reason why nobody is talking about Brian Fuentes as an option for this team?

    The Dipsy

  15. Marc H

    December 1, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I would wait to see who is on the non-tendered list before making a move. There might be cheaper alternatives who are just as good as the currently available free agents.

  16. Marc H

    December 1, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Downs would help but he’s not worth giving up a #1 pick in a deep draft. The only option that I would pursue with him is a sign and trade deal with the Blue Jays

  17. George

    December 1, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Wait and see is definitely the best strategy.

    Lidge had a bad 2009 so everyone is down on him, but actually his 2010 numbers were as good as most closers’ and better than some. Downs won’t be replacing him. I don’t even think he’s had much experience other than set-up, so $7 million and a top draft pick is WAY too much to pay, even for one season.

    Fuentes will probably also be looking for closer type money, so he’s out.

    Remember, basically the Phils need a lefty specialist and maybe a righty middle reliever. You can’t be paying more than about $2 million for either, and you should prefer to pay less.

  18. Andrew R.

    December 1, 2010 at 11:56 am

    $7M and a draft pick from what is supposed to be a strong draft is pretty stupid/crazy. That’s a lot of money for a middle-reliever. Contreras, Madson and Lidge will be just fine. With Roy, Roy, and Hamels going deep into games, a lot of our relieft corps. should be well rested.

    I’m not totally sold on Worley. From what we saw last year was that he tends to pitch up in the zone with 89-90 mph heat. He makes me a little nervous. I just think we’re overly excited to see somebody push Kendrick out the door (or to the bullpen).

    If we need another lefty, we can pick one up along the way like we did with Eyre, Romero, Rheal Cormier, and Dan Plesac. Relievers are highly volatile and the more we acquire, somebody’s about to stand out (Dan Meyer??).

    No need to drop $7M on a one-inning guy. Our relief wasn’t our biggest problem last year. Health and hitting with runners on was.

  19. jonnyboy

    December 1, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    pat-i can agree that there are never too many solid arms. i think that a weak bullpen is more of a series-changer in playoffs than a weak offense even. and i guess im not totally against a “big” move, but it should be for a proven reliever for a contract that suits us. now, i cant say much about downs because i havent followed him a lot. but if people think he is legitimate closer material then yea a 7 mil/yr contract for 2 yrs with an option for a 3rd wouldnt be a bad deal. however for the first year we would have over 17 million locked up in 2 relievers with lidges contract there.

  20. Bob in Bucks

    December 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Pat –

    That is a little bit of revisionist history on the Lidge contract. The contract was signed in July 2008 NOT after the 48-48 year but in the middle when we did not know how it would end up.

    They wanted to keep him off the market as he would turn free agent at the end of 2008.

    As we know he was horrible in 2009 and fine in 2010. Unfortunately we are heading into an odd year!

  21. psujoe

    December 1, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    As much as I like Downs, I think this would be a wise decision.

    •The Phillies are more likely to pursue free agent left-handers who don’t cost a draft pick, according to’s Buster Olney (on Twitter). In other words, they’d rather not give up a pick to sign Scott Downs.

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