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.

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