1. Jonathon Broxton
2. Ramon Troncoso
3. Ronald Belisario
4. Hong-Chih Kuo
5. George Sherrill
Good morning. We'll start with a brain teaser. Above is a list of five names. All of them share three major commonalities. Actually, they share four major commonalities if you count the fact that they are all men. But we'll stick with the three baseball-related characteristic.
The first is easy: All five are relief pitchers. The second is pretty simple as well: All five were crucial members of the Dodgers' playoff bullpen, arguably the best in the National League, last season.
The third characteristic, while a tad more obscure, directly relates to the situation in which the Phillies find themselves with just over a month to go before pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Fla.
None of the five names, all of them key contributors to one of the best bullpens in the National League, were signed as major league free agents. Broxton, Troncoso, Kuo and Belisario all broke into the majors with the Dodgers. Sherrill, meanwhile, was acquired by L.A. at the trading deadline last season in a deal with the Orioles. Which brings us to the Phillies, who appear to have wrapped up the bulk of their offseason shopping, despite having at least two vacancies in the bullpen to fill.
Now, this would seem to be a precarious position for a team that is already counting on its one battle-tested lefty to come back from elbow surgery, and its one closer to come back from a season in which he blew 11 saves and posted a 7.21 ERA. And, if you were to evaluate the Phillies by the criteria they laid out for themselves at the beginning of the offseason, you'd have to say that their current situation is not an ideal one. After all, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. labelled the acquisition of pitching depth as his No. 1 priority back in November, yet the offseason to date has resulted in a Net Loss:
1) While the Phillies added long-time muse Roy Halladay, they parted with Cliff Lee and their most major-league ready pitching prospect in Kyle Drabek.
2) At the beginning of the offseason, the Phillies expressed public confidence that veteran lefty Jamie Moyer would be at full strength by the start of spring training. Now, after a set-back from sports hernia surgery that has postponed previously-scheduled arthroscopic knee surgery until Jan. 11, they are saying he is unlikely to be healthy enough to join the rotation on Opening Day.
3) The Phillies added right-handed reliever Danys Baez, but will likely part with veteran lefty Scott Eyre, veteran righty Chan Ho Park, and righthander Clay Condrey.
4) Veteran right-handed starter Pedro Martinez is unlikely to return.
5) So the Phillies have added Halladay and Baez, and they have parted with Lee, Drabek, Eyre, Park, Condrey and Martinez.
Even if Lidge and Romero do bounce back from their 2009 campaigns, the Phillies still seem to be thin on pitching depth at the major league level. But as the Dodgers showed last season, this could end up being a blessing in disguise. While the Phillies will continue to look for bullpen pieces on the open market -- they'd like a veteran lefty, but the pool of available players is mostly unimpressive -- free agency isn't always the answer for finding relievers. Troncoso and Belisario both made their major league debuts last season at the age of 26. Troncoso led the Dodgers in innings (82.2) and was tied for first in appearances (73) while posting a 2.72 ERA. Belisario was even more impressive, posting a 2.04 ERA and 1.146 WHIP while striking out 8.2 batters per nine innings in 69 appearances.
The Phillies have some talented-yet-unproven options in the minors. And their current bullpen situation will likely give one or two of those players a chance to prove themselves, much in the same way Troncoso and Belisario did early last season. Lefty Antonio Bastardo is a fireballer with an improving slider who will likely be called on to fill in for Romero as he finishes his recovery from elbow surgery (Romero should be good to go by May, but will likely miss at least a week or two of the season). Righthander Scott Mathieson, another hard thrower, is attmepting to overcome long odds (he has undergone two elbow surgeries) but was impressive in both the minors and the Arizona Fall League last year. Lefthander Sergio Escalona saw a couple stints with the Phillies last season.
While the Phillies certainly would like to have more stability in the bullpen at this point, they are talented enough in other aspects of the game to ride out the early part of the season with the cards in their hand. And rather than burning money on an iffy veteran free agent, they could be in a position to add salary at the trade deadline, as the Dodgers did in acquiring Sherrill and the Rockies did in trading for Rafael Betancourt and Jose Contreras.
The Payroll (Updated with .Eaton, Jenkins contracts)
Here's an updated look at the Phillies' 2010 payroll. According to our records, they currently have $115.75 million committed to 17 players. Factoring in the 2009 salaries of the six players who are either arbitration eligible or under club control, and that number climbs to $127.2819 million for 23 players. Factoring in raises and major-league-minimum salaries for the two open roster spots, along with $1.25 million due Geoff Jenkins for a buyout of a mutual options and $500,000 due Adam Eaton for a buyout of the player option he exercised for 2010, and the Phillies' Opening Day payroll currently projects at right around $138 million:
Roy Halladay - 9.75
Cole Hamels - 6.65
Jamie Moyer - 8
Joe Blanton - Arb/7
J.A. Happ - .500
GUARANTEED: 3 players, 24.40
PROJECTED: 2 players, 7.50
Ryan Howard - 19
Chase Utley - 15
Jimmy Rollins - 7.5
Placido Polanco - 5.5
Shane Victorino - Arb/6.5
Jayson Werth - 7
Raul Ibanez - 11.5
Carlos Ruiz - Arb/1.5
GUARANTEED: 6 players, 65.5
PROJECTED: 2 players, 8.0
Brad Lidge - 11.5
J.C. Romero - 4
Ryan Madson - 4.5
Danys Baez - 2.5
Chad Durbin - Arb/2
GUARANTEED: 5 players, 22.5
PROJECTED: 1 player, 2
Greg Dobbs - 1.35
Ross Gload - 1
Brian Schneider - 1
Juan Castro - .750
Ben Francisco - .750
GUARANTEED: 4 players, 4.1
PROJECTED: 1 player, .750
OVERALL GUARANTEED: 17 players, $116.50
OVERALL CLUB CONTROL: 2 players, $0.8219
OVERALL ARB ELIGIBLE: 4 players, $10.71
OVERALL TOTAL: 23 players, $128.0319
TOTAL WITH PROJECTED RAISES: 23 players, 134.895