I just got off the phone with a friend who asked me what, exactly, the signing of Kris Benson means for this Phillies pitching staff. And I'll tell you what I told him - I have no idea. Benson's camp has said that the pitcher is healthy, that he's exactly where he needs to be for this time of year, that he fully intends on competing for a spot in the rotation, and that he is more than capable of being in that rotation once opening day rolls around.
The Phillies? Well, they sound a little more cautious. The guy who scouted Benson is a guy by the name of Chuck Lamar. He's the former GM of the (Devil) Rays and is now the Phils' Pro Scouting Director. Lamar saw Benson throw twice in January, and he estimates that the veteran is only throwing at 60 or 70 percent velocity. Of everyone I've talked to about Benson over the past couple days, Lamar was the most cautious (Granted, it probably also behooves him from a personal standpoint to lower expectations a tad).
Lamar said today that Benson could reach full strength any time between opening day and June 1. Which, of course, leaves open the possibility that Benson won't be ready for opening day. What happens then? Who knows. The deal is a minor league one. No one will comment yet on the terms, but it's a safe guess that the Phils aren't on the hook for a lot of guaranteed money. Assitant GM Ruben Amaro Jr. did say that there is an out clause, meaning Benson may have a clause that allows him to get out of the deal if he isn't on the team's roster by a certain point in time.
Theoretically, the team could start him in the minor leagues. But it remains to be seen if that is a palatable option to Benson.
Regardless, he's an interesting name to throw into the mix. He'll be battling for the job Adam Eaton currently holds. And Benson's career numbers aren't much better then Eaton's numbers. But Benson's 2006 (his last season before rotator cuff surgery) was much better than Eaton's 2007 (An ERA that starts with a 6 = not good). But Eaton is in the second year of a three-year, 24.5 million dollar deal. So if the competition ends up being a push, you have to think the Phils will try to get some mileage out of their pricey toy.
So, yeah, I'm not sure what to make of this thing. Amaro called it low-risk, high-reward. I think I'd tend to agree. Though I'm sure some of you won't.