So the Phillies need a big-time pitcher.
Who would sell and has valuable pitching?
The Indians, Orioles and Mariners figure to be sellers in the American League. The National League is harder to gauge, but I’ll predict Ed Wade’s Astros will at least think about it. As will the Rockies, Padres, Pirates and Reds. The Nationals, obviously, will be in selling mode, but have no pitching to sell. The Marlins do have pitching to sell, but likely want to hold onto their young staff.
Add the already-known quotients of Roy Halladay and Brad Penny, and we have some names with which to work. They are:
Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy, Roy Oswalt, Erik Bedard, Cliff Lee, Aaron Harang, Jarrod Washburn, Jeremy Guthrie, Wandy Rodriguez, Chris Young, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Aaron Cook, Jason Marquis, Bronson Arroyo and Brad Penny.
Let’s look at this list quickly. If I’m general manager of the Phillies, I need an arm that can pitch at the expected level of Cole Hamels. As we know, Ruben Amaro Jr. even said that — he wants a top-level arm. So say goodbye to Penny, Arroyo, Marquis, Cook, Maholm, Duke and Young. The latter three were a tough elimination, but to me, Maholm is comparable to Joe Blanton, Duke’s success is of a short sample and Young hasn’t been very effective in a few years.
To be short, the Phillies need a big-time performer. Here’s who remains:
Age: 30 / Under contract: 2009-11 (arb. 2)
Rodriguez is a strikeout left-hander who’s carrying a 3:1 K:BB ratio this season. He strikes batters out with a devastating curveball; that means he’s quite susceptible to fly balls (nearing 40 percent fly balls this season). He also has two years of arbitration remaining, so the Astros have some leverage if they wanted to deal him; Ed Wade has been said to want to hold him, too.
Verdict: Might cost too much for a guy who could see his ERA rise at the fly-friendly Bank. Pass.
Age: 30 / Under contract: 2009-12 (arb. 3)
A fastball-slider righty who had a few strong years, but has crashed to Earth this season with the Orioles, Guthrie’s ERA is over 5.00. Why? He’s giving up almost two home runs per nine innings with his over-40 percent fly ball rate. Moreover, he’s a control pitcher and isn’t getting ground balls like he could in the past.
Verdict: Another one with arbitration years, Guthrie isn’t worth the trouble. There might be something much more wrong with him, anyway. Pass.
Age: 34 / Under contract: 2009
Washburn is having a good season after a few league-average years in Seattle, but he’s struggled as the season has wore on. Moreover, he’s bad in the fifth and sixth innings, and against the following teams: Colorado, Texas, Anaheim, while he’s great against inexperienced offenses (Baltimore, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, Minnesota). Small sample, sure, but in a way, reminiscent of Jamie Moyer.
Verdict: He’s only worth a half season, but the Phils need more than a second Moyer. Pass.
Age: 31 / Under contract: 2009-11 (opt.)
Harang is having a better ERA season than last, but his numbers are deceiving. His fly ball percentage is near 42, while he’s giving up a nice share of hits. That might be due to his defense — his opponents BABIP is a very high .327. He might improve, but it’s possible he’s just fooling everyone right now. He has a long contract still, too.
Verdict: The Reds would want a good chunk for Harang, who is practically Brett Myers V2. There’s better ahead, pass.
Age: 30 / Under contract: 2009-10 (opt.)
The lefty and former Cy Young award winner is sizzling again: A 2.88 ERA in the American League. He has strong ground ball rates (43 percent), while his .337 BABIP says he’s not getting great luck. That might improve with the Phillies infield behind him. One downfall this season — he’s been bad against Texas, Toronto and Cincinnati, all strong offenses.
Verdict: Cleveland would want a small bounty, but Lee is affordable and very good. He is a lefty, but he would still look good with Hamels. Consider.
Age: 30 / Under contract: 2009
Another left-handed pitcher, Bedard is having a good season with the Mariners. He’s still a big strikeout pitcher (8.91 per nine), though keeping fly ball rates high (40 percent). But he’s also throwing a lot of grounders. He’s been very good at Safeco and in two starts at Networks Associates Coliseum, two huge pitchers’ parks. He is a free agent after 2009, though, so he wouldn’t be worth much.
Verdict: Compare him to Lee, and I’d rather go with the Indian. Bedard still strikes me as dangerous in hitters’ parks, especially with his penchant for fly balls. Consider, but be cautious.
Age: 31 / Under contract: 2009-12 (opt.)
First off, Oswalt is only 31. That’s true. That said, Oswalt is having a weird season. His ERA is at 4.37 and he’s throwing far too few ground balls, coming in at about 39 percent. He averages near 50 percent per season. But even if Oswalt is struggling, he’s a very good pitcher capable of dominance. And it looks as if he’s improving as the season continues. He has a big contract, however, and word is the Astros want to keep him. But Oswalt would move, and only to the National League, very likely.
Verdict: Keep an eye on him. I’d take him over Lee and Bedard, but he’d be worth a ton.
Age: 28 / Under contract: 2009-13
Though Peavy has a higher ERA than usual (3.97), he’s averaging better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s allowing 40 percent fly balls this season, but he remains a solid ground ball guy. He rejected a deal to the White Sox, and most believe he wants to remain in the National League and close to San Diego. There have been rumors to Chicago and Atlanta, though. Moreover, there is talk he wouldn’t want to come to an East Coast pressure cooker.
Verdict: Can’t say Peavy would love to come to Philadelphia. I see him in Los Angeles or Atlanta, really. I’d still rather go with Oswalt.
Age: 32 / Under contract: 2009-10
Doc Halladay is clearly the best pitcher in baseball. He has struck out 88 and walked 12. He’s a ground ball master and rarely gives up fly balls, even in the home-run hitter’s haven in which he plays. Of course, JP Ricciardi has said the Blue Jays won’t win and can’t win without Halladay, so prying him loose would be tough. But, really, if the Jays want to compete in the tough AL East, it might be worth it to finally deal their most prized possession.
Verdict: Go. Go. Go.
Look, there is one goal: Win another championship. Nothing else will suffice, and at this point, there’s no looking back. To do such, the Phillies need a starting pitcher capable of dominating every outing he works. There are few out there capable, but the Phillies have some tools with which to work.
Halladay is the interesting case. The Blue Jays are trapped in the AL East and will not contend unless they overhaul their roster. They’re a good team, sure, but not good enough for even third place there. They must rebuild, and they must start by dealing Halladay. Not to their own division. Not to the American League, even. That leaves — to me — three teams with sufficient young talent and buyer’s mentality for Halladay: San Francisco, Los Angeles and the Phillies.
Halladay should be the goal, even if it takes a few top prospects. If he’s really untouchable, the Phils should look at Oswalt, then Peavy, Lee and Bedard, in that order. I could definitely see the Phils ending up with Bedard, honestly, but they should shoot higher. There’s no reason not to go for Halladay.