Barring a trade or change of heart, the Phillies will be bringing John Mayberry Jr., Kevin Frandsen, Ben Revere, Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo back for 2014.
Four of those players were tendered contracts before Monday’s midnight deadline for arbitration-eligible players. The fifth, Frandsen, was signed to a one-year, $900,000 deal to avoid arbitration altogether.
While the Phils chose to tender contracts to their players, many other major league teams went the other route with some of their own players. Players who were not tendered a contract on Monday became free agents.
The Phillies have no shortage of needs, namely pitching an outfield depth.
While the Phils will almost certainly add a starter, they’d also like to find a reliever (or two) capable of pitching in late innings. Those types of pitchers aren’t likely to come cheap in the current, player-friendly free agent market
Here are a few of the nontendered players-turned free agents who could make some sense for the Phillies bullpen.
John Axford – One of the best examples in the last five years, along with just about every ninth inning guy of each World Series winner in the same time frame, of why teams shouldn’t overpay for closers. Axford went from undrafted free agent to Milwaukee Brewers closer just three years ago, saving 105 games from 2010-12. Like many a major league reliever, he fell on hard times in the last two seasons but showed some promise in 13 games at the end of last season with St. Louis, earning a spot on the Cardinals pitching-rich postseason roster. Axford, who turns 31 in April, would seem to be an ideal eighth-inning arm and backup closer for the Phillies.
Andrew Bailey – A local kid who grew up rooting for the Phillies (Haddon Heights, N.J native and Paul VI High School grad), Bailey would probably welcome a chance to make Citizens Bank Park his new home. The 29-year-old was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2009 and an All-Star in each of his first two big league seasons (‘09, ’10) as Oakland’s closer. But Bailey, who was brought into Boston to replace Jonathan Papelbon, has battled injuries in each of the last two seasons and underwent shoulder surgery in July and is expected to miss most of 2014. Still might be worth taking a flier on given his age and previous track record. Take a chance on him in 2014 and you could have a closer-type reliever in 2015.
Ryan Webb – A native of Clearwater, Fla., the Phillies spring training home, Webb was once one of two pitchers the Marlins got back for outfielder Cameron Maybin in a trade with the San Diego Padres. The other pitcher? Edward Mujica, also a free agent this winter. While Mujica is likely to strike it rich (fellow reliever Joe Smith got 3 years and $15.75 million from the Angels), Webb will come a lot cheaper. Given the tenuous prospect of signing veteran relievers to lucrative contracts, taking a chance on a guy like Webb may be smarter than overpaying for a Mujica. Webb isn’t an eighth inning guy, but he is durable: he became just the eighth Marlins pitcher to throw at least 80 innings of relief in a season in 2013. Webb has a 3.29 ERA in 266 major league games with the Padres and Marlins; he’s allowed 13 home runs while striking out 192 and walking 97 in 276 innings. He turns 28 in February.
Daniel Bard – A former first-round pick and top prospect of the Boston Red Sox, Bard was once viewed as a can’t-miss-future closer. In his first three big league seasons, Bard struck out 213 batters, while walking 76, in 197 innings and sported a 1.05 WHIP. He fell on hard times in the last 2 years, however. In 2012, Bard had more walks (43) than strikeouts (38) in 59 1/3 innings. He was claimed off waivers by the Cubs in September, but then nontendered three months later. Just 28 years old, Bard could resurrect his career. Clearly not the answer for a Phillies team looking for reliability in their relief corps, but it’s difficult not to take a chance on his talent either.
Mitchell Boggs – With a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and success in the not-so-distant past, Boggs will find a job in a big league bullpen in 2014. Boggs began the 2013 season as the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals. But his season went ugly quick and the pitching-rich Cardinals first optioned him to Triple-A and then sold him off to the Rockies. But prior to last season, Boggs was 8-7 with a 3.08 ERA from 2010-2012, averaging 63 appearances per season with the Cardinals. Boggs, who turns 30 in February, is probably worth a gamble.