Analysis

Phillies Smart to Stay Away from Expensive Relievers

Joaquin Benoit had a great year for the Rays in 2010. Through 63 appearances, he posted a miniscule 0.68 WHIP while striking out 75 and walking 11. Solid numbers. The previous season, his ERA was 5.00. He turned that into $16.5 million over three years.

Matt Guerrier pitched for the Twins last season and did a fine job, as well. He was a type-A free agent who has posted solid numbers during his career. But not only did he cost the Dodgers a top draft pick, he also made them open their wallet up for $12 million over three seasons.

Some others:

  • JJ Putz: 2/$10MM, Arizona
  • Bobby Jenks: 2/$12MM, Boston
  • Jesse Crain: 3/$13MM, Chicago White Sox

A lot of money was tossed around to relief pitchers this offseason. Hell, even 41-year-old Arthur Rhodes got $4.1 million guaranteed from the Rangers.

The moral of the story is that Ruben Amaro did good, kid, did real good. None of those teams was able to wrangle in the top starting pitcher on the market; a guy who makes the bullpen less of a necessity through expensive means like free agency. Amaro was assuredly being pulled in by the powers of pitching – there is always room for more, they say. Wisely, he stepped back, re-upped his lefty reliever from a year ago at a bargain bin price, and went on his merry way.

In doing so, he’ll give his stable of young relievers within the farm system the ability to mature. There is likely a spot or two open in the bullpen this year which could very well be filled by a name like De Fratus, Matheison, Herndon, or Zagurski. And that’s perfect.

Many were hoping to see another splash made for the back-end, however, with Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, and Lee (in no particular order), was/is there any need?

Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, JC Romero, Jose Contreras are all locked in to their spots in the late innings. Antonio Bastardo is awfully close to being penciled in as another lefty specialist. Then comes the fun part.

Spring Training will allow the organization to hand pick their final relief pitcher out of that group. Included will likely be Vance Worley or Kyle Kendrick, depending on how arbitration goes for the latter. Either one can be the long man capable of starting, especially with Joe Blanton currently the fifth starter.

Saving the money now will allow Amaro to lock Ryan Madson into a long-term deal once his contract expires at the end of 2011. By that point, we’ll know which minor league prospect has the cojones for relieving. We’ll also likely be saying bye-bye to Brad Lidge, which will open up even more room for the Phillies to maneuver in the future.

Good job Rube, you did good, kid.

(photo: blueclaws.com)

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