In today's Daily News, Paul Hagen takes a look at the unsettled situation in the Phillies bullpen, where over the past few days young lefthanders Antonio Bastardo and Sergio Escalona have each experienced Grapefruit League hiccups. Bastardo is the clear frontrunner for an Opening Day roster spot, but pitching coach Rich Dubee didn't exactly sound thrilled with the situation when Hagen talked to him yesterday. It is too early to start scrambling for alternatives -- I didn't think Bastardo pitched as bad as his numbers indicated on Saturday -- but the Phillies are certainly monitoring the situation closely. As we've pointed out several times this offseason, the free agent market isn't stocked with Rolaids Relief Man candidates. At this point, there are three lefties available on the market who could fit with the Phillies. Former Royals lefty Ron Mahay would be my leading candidate to join the team, if they decide to go that route, followed by former Rockies Alan Embree and Joe Beimel.
Mahay - The Phillies have expressed cursory interest in the 39-year-old veteran over the past couple of seasons. And after posting a 4.79 ERA and 1.790 WHIP for the Royals, who released him in August, he might be forced to settle for a minor league deal. Mahay has appeared in the playoffs just once in his 13-year-career -- this year with the Twins, who signed him after his release from KC.
Beimel - Solid ERA (3.17) and manageable WHIP (1.361) over last five seasons, but he has never been great against lefties, and just doesn't seem to fit with what the Phillies are looking for.
Embree - At 39 years old, he struggled for the Rockies last season. Has held lefties to a career .239 average.
The Phillies are in a tough situation. They have no idea how successful Romero will be with his comeback from elbow surgery. In an ideal world, they'd be able to evaluate Bastardo over the first month or so of the regular season. But if they decide Bastardo isn't ready even to make the Opening Day roster, it would be tough to expect him to be called up later in the season and thrust into a pivotal role.
On the other hand, it would be tough to keep both Bastardo (or Escalona or fellow prospect Mike Zagurski), and add a free agent like Mahay, or Beimel, or Embree for insurance, because the Phillies are already looking at a situation where they might want to have a bullpen spot for the loser of the Kyle Kendrick/Jamie Moyer competition. And they could also want to find a roster spot for Rule 5 pick David Herndon, who has thrived in the Grapefruit League and whose heavy sinker has drawn raves from just about everybody in the organization.
I've received several emails regarding a report on ESPN.com that says the Phillies have had "internal discussions" about proposing a Ryan Howard-for-Albert Pujols trade.
I'm not going to delve into the situation too much, because I think we can all agree that High Cheese readers are much smarter than your average sports fans, and thus can put two and two together and form their own conclusions. But, just for the record, here is how I envision the "internal discussion" that supposedly took place:
RUBEN AMARO JR. (Shouting over pulsing techno music): Hey - I just saw Mozeliak buy a whole tray of Jello shots.
PAT GILLICK: Let's go see if he'll trade Pujols.
Point is, discussions take place all the time in front offices. But it is pretty easy to see that a Howard-for-Pujols swap would make close to zero sense for the Cardinals. Both will be free agents after 2011, and Howard is actually due to make more money than Pujols over the next two years. If the Cardinals think Howard will be easier to sign to an extension, why not keep Pujols for the next two years, then try to sign Howard as a free agent? Basically, the only way such a deal would work is if Howard, for some reason, really wanted to play in his hometown of St. Louis, and negotiated a contract extension at a huge discount prior to a trade. But the logistics of that are nearly impossible.
But, anyway -- consider the matter addressed.
Update - 10:43 a.m.
Since there have been some questions about Scott Eyre in the comments section. . .Ever since he decided to retire, I've gotten the feeling from Scott Eyre that he would consider returning to the majors sometime this season. He was in Clearwater in late February and said he'd gone through his normal throwing program to get ready for spring, and said he hadn't completely ruled out the thought of returning. He re-iterated those points yesterday, as Hagen addressed in his story today. Keep in mind, though, that he is coming off elbow surgery, and hasn't pitched competitively since last October. Is it a realistic option? Probably not at this point. But it certainly is something to keep in the back of your minds as the season progresses.