It is shaping up to be an anti-climactic week here in Clearwater. Throughout spring, the only two roster decisions hanging over the Phillies' lay in the front of the bullpen and the back of the rotation. And, over the past week, the club has answered most of the bullpen issue, optioning lefties Mike Zagurski and Sergio Escalona to minor league camp. As we outlined in the paper today, that leaves seven healthy relievers for seven bullpen spots, which would seem to indicate that the seven healthy relievers will be the ones filling those seven roster spots.
Still, don't carve your Opening Day rosters into stone yet. There is still a chance that a quality arm becomes available over the next few weeks as teams across the majors pare down their rosters. Many players who are out of options are competing for spots, which means they could end up on the wavier wire if they lose those battles.
We've highlighted several of those players here below. As you'll see, there aren't many obvious upgrades to the Phillies' current situation. And for good reason -- teams take into consideration a players' option when making roster decisions. All things being equal, a guy who can be optioned back to the minors without hitting the waiver wire will lose out to a guy who is out of options. Take, for instance, the Phillies: if they did sign another reliever, there is a chance they'd opt to send Antonio Bastardo to the minors, at least for the time being, so they could hold on to Rule 5 pick David Herndon, who must be offered back to the Angels if he is removed from the active roster.
The two most intriguing names that could be on the market are Yankees righthanders Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin, who are competing for spots in the rotation and bullpen. There is a good chance that at least one of them is released or traded. But the Phillies already have a plethora of righties, most of whom can pitch multiple innings, so those two players are unlikely options.
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Brewers lefties Manny Parra and Chris Narveson are competing for roster spots, but folks in Milwaukee expect the club to find a way to hang on to both.
Other lefties who are out of options, but who are unlikely to hit the waiver wire, include the Cubs' Tom Gorzelanny, the Dodgers' Eric Stults, and the Blue Jays' Brian Tallet.
The Marlins have three lefties competing for two spots, but Dan Meyer and Renyel Pinto are coming off strong seasons, and Andrew Miller can be sent back to the minors. Righthander Leo Rosales also has a spot on the team.
Here is a break down of some of the players who are out of options:
LHP Dana Eveland (Blue Jays): Acquried in the offseaon for cash considerations, the 26-year-old lefty is competing for a spot in the Blue Jays rotation, but could conceivably stick in the team's bullpen. Eveland went 2-3 with a 7.65 ERA in nine starts for the A's last season, and allowed one earned run in four innings of relief. In 29 starts in 2008, he held lefties to a .248 average while going 9-8 with a 4.34 ERA.
RHP Merkin Valdez (Blue Jays): A solid candidate for a spot in the Blue Jays' pen, he could nevertheless find himself a victim of numbers. Valdez struck posted a 5.66 ERA, 1.723 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9 in 48 relief appearances for the Giants last year. He is 28 years old.
LHP Dan Meyer (Marlins): A likely piece of the Marlins bullpen, the 28-year-old posted a 3.09 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 1.166 WHIP and 3.2 BB/9 in 71 relief appearances for Florida last year. Lefties hit .228 against the Kingsway High grad. Would be a surprise if he was released.
RHP Hayden Penn (Marlins): He struck out 27 in 22 innings last year, but walked 20 and posted a 7.77 ERA in 15 relief appearances and one start. Penn is 25 years old.
LHP Renyel Pinto (Marlins): Like Meyer, he's coming off a strong 2009, and like Meyer, he will likely get a spot in Florida's bullpen.
RHP Tyler Walker (Nationals): Walker was a solid contributor during the second half and could have a hard time making Washington's Opening Day roster.
RHP Luis Mendoza (Rangers): Primarily a starter, he likely would not be an ideal fit for the Phillies.
RHP Robinson Tejeda (Royals): The former Phillie might lose his battle for No. 5 starter, but there is a good chance he winds up in Kansas City's bullpen.
LHP Brad Thomas (Tigers): Last pitched in the majors in 2004, he is battling a deep field of lefties in Tigers camp. Thomas has pitched in Japan and Korea in recent years. He's allowed three earned runs on nine hits with six strikeouts and five walks in seven spring training innings.
Given Bastardo's and Herndon's relatively strong performances this season, the most logical move would seem to involve throwing the young players into the fire for the first couple weeks of the season, then re-evaluating once Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero return.