Building upon last week’s article outlining uncertainty in the starting rotation, today we will offer some players the Phils could potentially sign this off-season. While there is no doubt the club has talent and potential in its current rotation, what remains to be seen is how they will develop that talent and who might they add to the mix.
Before the start of this season, the Phils signed veteran Jeremy Hellickson and traded for another veteran in Charlie Morton to bolster the staff as well as give the young pitchers some mentoring. Although Morton will miss the remainder of 2016 due to a torn left hamstring, he does have a club option for 2017. Hellickson is on a one-year deal and will be a free agent after the season, but there is a good chance he will be traded before the July 31st deadline. Minor league prodigies Jake Thompson and Ben Lively are also on the ballot to make the rotation next season if they have impressive Springs, although Thompson looks to be next in line to get the call. Still, a lot could happen between now and then for these young arms. Combine this with the recent struggles of Aaron Nola along with Vincent Velasquez‘s injury concerns, and there could be a spot or two open in the rotation for the start of next season. Therefore, it is almost certain that the Phils will sign a free agent pitcher or two in the off-season.
Here are some players that will be available during that the Phillies should consider:
Edinson Volquez, 33 – Volquez started his career with the Texas Rangers in 2005 and then bounced around the National League for a while (making stops in Cincinnati, San Diego, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh) before landing in Kansas City in 2015. In 2014 for Pittsburgh and 2015 for Kansas City – Volquez posted a 3.04 ERA and a 3.55 ERA, respectively. He hasn’t had the same success this season as he sports a 4.80 ERA in 17 starts. What should catch the Phillies’ eye, however, is Volquez’s experience – he has seven postseason starts under his belt. You may recall the right-hander’s first career postseason start was in 2010 against the Phils, while the majority came during last season’s run with the Royals. He started the World Series clincher against the Mets and registered a quality outing. Volquez’s postseason experience should make him a prime candidate for the Phillies in the off-season.
Bud Norris, 31 – Norris is another journeyman who has been in the league since 2009, starting in Houston. His career ERA this season is a mediocre 4.40. Norris has spent time pitching in both leagues as both a starter and a reliever, and has postseason experience as well. This came in 2014 while he was on the Orioles roster. In fact, his 2014 campaign is his best thus far, posting a 15-8 record with a 3.65 ERA. He made two starts in the postseason – one in the ALDS and another in the ALCS. Again, this postseason experience could mean a lot to the Phillies young staff.
Scott Feldman, 33 – Feldman has similar career numbers to Bud Norris. He came up in 2005 with the Texas Rangers and has resided in the American League for all but one season. Like Norris, Feldman has had some of his best years recently. Since joining Houston in 2014, he sports a 3.65 ERA, about a run lower than his career ERA. Feldman also has experience as a bullpen arm. Feldman’s versatility could be just what the Phils need: starting the year in the rotation and once Lively and/or Thompson are ready, transition to the bullpen.
Jeremy Hellickson, 29 – As stated earlier, Jeremy Hellickson is a free agent after the season. Although there’s a good possibility he could be traded in late July, that doesn’t have to stop the Phillies from re-signing him in the off-season. Hellickson has been very streaky this season, but nonetheless, more than serviceable. He’s held potent offenses in check this year, Washington a couple of times, San Francisco, Kansas City, and also Detroit. When Hellickson is on his game, his devastating changeup is nearly unhittable. Plus Hellickson is no stranger to the postseason, with experience from Tampa Bay in 2011 and 2013.
One or more of these pitchers will likely be stop-gaps in 2017 until the prospects are ready for the show. If you were looking for more of a splash, you’ll have to wait until after next year.