As Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. introduced his latest acquisition on Tuesday, reliever Danys Baez, the biggest news was what else Amaro said. Some of it was expected: Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre are likely finished as Phillies. And some of it was (a bit) unexpected: Jamie Moyer will likely not be ready for Opening Day.
The current pitching staff is thin.
So with 44 days until pitchers and catchers report, the Phillies are left with two lingering questions before the offseason ends:
1. Who is the fifth starter?
2. Who will replace Park's and Eyre's innings in the bullpen?
Right now, Kyle Kendrick is the fifth starter. And when it's all said and done, Kendrick might be the best person for the job. But at this point, the Phillies can assume nothing about Moyer's health and Kendrick's performance and need to bring in some competition for spring training.
Amaro said on Tuesday that Andrew Carpenter and Ryan Vogelsong are also potential No. 5 candidates. Yikes. Vogelsong, a Kutztown University grad, has spent the last three seasons in Japan before the Phillies signed him this offseason for depth.
So Amaro will be looking to add depth in the next 44 days. Injury reclamation projects like Ben Sheets, Chien-Ming Wang and Erik Bedard are a) too pricey and b) too much of a question mark. Former Phillie Brett Myers is apparently out of the question, according to Amaro.
Who does that leave? A few options: John Smoltz is one that the Phillies have been tied to earlier in the offseason. But interest from other teams could drive up the price. Ditto with Pedro Martinez. So how about Livan Hernandez, Braden Looper, Tim Redding or Eric Milton? No, we're not talking about Cy Young, but if the goal is to add depth and competition for the fifth starter's spot, this is the way Amaro could do it for relatively cheap.
Remember, the Phillies won't need a fifth starter until April 24 because of the usual plethora of off days early in the season.
As for the bullpen, obviously Baez will have a key role. The Phillies will pay him $5.25 million over two years to be a set-up man. Coming off of shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2008 season, Baez struggled at times with his control for Baltimore last year. But he posted the lowest WHIP of his career (1.13) since his rookie season in 2001 with Cleveland, when none other than Charlie Manuel was his manager. Interestingly enough, Baez's most comparable pitcher through age 31 is Ricky Bottalico.
But Manuel developed an affinity for Park and by the end of the season he was one of the manager's most trusted options in the bullpen. Park pitched 83.1 innings in 2009 and Baez has never pitched that many in a single season out of the bullpen. (He did throw 165.1 innings in 2002 when he started 26 games for the Indians.) So those innings will be divided. The Phillies would probably greatly appreciate it if 2008 Chad Durbin showed up instead of the 2009 version.
And remember, J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge could also miss Opening Day, leaving a few more holes. In this instance, the Phillies will turn internally to fill out the bullpen, which could be a smart move. Relief pitchers are the most fickle baseball players season to season. With the in-house options the Phillies have, there is no need to shell out more money for a reliever who has a decent track record only to see them regress in 2010. As far as right-handed relievers go, expect the now-healthy Scott Mathieson to be on the Opening Day roster, barring a disastrous spring. If Kendrick is not the fifth starter, he could become a swing man in the bullpen. And David Herndon, a Rule 5 pick from the Angels, could also have a shot.
With Romero possibly on the shelf and Eyre out of the picture, the Phillies need a lefty. One of Antonio Bastardo or Sergio Escalona will make the team. Both have put up decent minor-league numbers and showed some flashes at the major-league level. Bastardo made a huge impression in Game 2 of the NLDS by striking out Jason Giambi with the bases loaded. Mike Zagurski, with a good spring, could also move up the depth chart.
But Amaro said on Tuesday that he would like to bring in another lefty, which is understandable. Romero is behind Lidge in recovery, Amaro said, and that increases the need for another lefty. Joe Biemel and Will Ohman are probably the best options out there, but other teams might be in a better position to offer more. A guy like Scott Schoeneweis could be a decent flier as a non-roster invitee.
No, this is not Andy. He's on a well-deserved vacation, so for the next month I'll be taking you up to spring training. If there are topics you want to see discussed here on Phillies Zone, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.