How does it feel to know that for the next five years, Roy Halladay will be toeing the rubber for the Phillies every fifth day?
Let’s forget about the Cliff Lee trade. Erase it from your mind completely. From this point forward, let’s shift the focus to the splendor that is “Doc” Halladay in red pinstripes.
You deserve to feel good about that. You deserve to embrace the fact that the Phils just acquired a guy who had a 2.97 ERA in 112 innings last year against the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays, three of the top six offenses in baseball during that time.
In his career, Halladay is 18-6 against the Yankees with a 2.84 ERA and one complete game for every five starts. I wonder how he’ll fare against the Nationals.
For what it’s worth, Halladay is 17-8 with a 3.02 ERA against the National League in his career. I could throw any number at you and you’d love it. This is the kind of pitcher Harry Leroy Halladay is.
But, with the dust settled on this insane three-day stretch, the fact remains that Ruben Amaro still has some tinkering to do. Let’s take a look at who the Phillies have locked up (or have tendered a contract to and will either re-sign or go to arbitration with.)
Now, Polanco and Victorino could very well switch positions in the order. The switch that would make the most sense (based on last year’s production) would be to lead Victorino off, bat Polanco second, and move Rollins down to the seven-hole. But if Jimmy gets off to a hot start, that obviously wouldn’t make the most sense. We’ll see what happens in April.
Greg Dobbs: LHB, 3B/1B/LF/RF
Ross Gload: LHB, 1B/LF/RF
Ben Francisco: RHB, LF/CF/RF
Brian Schneider: LHB, C
Juan Castro: RHB, SS/2B/3B/1B/LF/RF
The opening day bench will probably look like this. The Phillies won’t carry more than five bench bats, and the only one who isn’t a shoe-in to make the 25-man roster is Castro. If Wilson Valdez or Cody Ransom vastly outplay Castro in Spring Training, they could make the squad over him. But, given the fact that Castro signed a $750,000 with a team option for a second year while Ransom and Valdez were merely Spring Training invitees, the job is his to lose.
Roy Halladay: RHP (feels so cool to be able write that)
Cole Hamels: LHP
Joe Blanton: RHP
J.A. Happ: LHP
Jamie Moyer: LHP or Kyle Kendrick: RHP
If no starter is signed, Moyer and Kendrick will enter the 2010 season as the two candidates for the fifth starter’s job. One would have to imagine that Moyer has the advantage based on the fact that he is getting paid a hefty salary and he makes less sense out of the bullpen, despite a few good performances in relief last year.
Brad Lidge: RHP
Ryan Madson: RHP
J.C. Romero: LHP
Chad Durbin: RHP
These five will definitely be in the bullpen to start the season. Durbin was tendered a contract last week and will likely receive a $2-2.5M contract any day now.
If you’ve done the math, you know that the names listed make up 23 of the 25 spots on the major league roster. If the Phils don’t make another move from now until April 5, the last two spots in the ‘pen would probably go to left-hander Antonio Bastardo and right-hander Scott Mathieson, an intriguing young reliever who has had two Tommy John surgeries that have derailed his promising career.
Mathieson went 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA in 2009, splitting time between Rookie League, High-A, and Double-A Reading. He struck out 34 batters in 32 innings and his WHIP was under 0.90.
Thus far in the Arizona Fall League, Mathieson has compiled a 2.84 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings. His eight walks are too many.
I highly doubt the Phillies enter the season with Kendrick/Moyer, Bastardo, and Mathieson making up the final three bullpen spots. They will sign a reliever or two before then.
Todd Zolecki reports that the team’s top targets are former Tigers closer Fernando Rodney and future Hall-of-Famer John Smoltz.
Smoltz would be a very good one-year signing, but Rodney is a bad multi-year deal waiting to happen. Rodney saved 37 games for Detroit last year, but his walk rate (4.9/9 IP) was too high and his strikeout rate (7.3/9) was too low for a late-inning reliever. His WHIPs over the last two seasons have been below average, at 1.59 and 1.47.
Rodney’s most redeeming trait is that he’s an extreme ground ball pitcher. 58% of the balls hit in play against Rodney in 2009 were on the ground. In his career, the Dominican native has a 1.43 GB/FB ratio.
The ground balls would be nice, but Rodney is basically Chad Durbin in terms of strikeouts and J.C. Romero with walks (Romero’s career BB rate is 5.0/9, Rodney is 4.6/9.
I won’t be jumping for joy if the Phillies sign him to a two-year, $12M or a three-year/$15-16M contract. That is likely what he’ll command, since Mike Gonzalez, a similarly valued reliever, just signed for 2 years/$12M with the Orioles.
This would be a very good signing because Smoltz could start or relieve. He can be had for an incentive-laden one-year deal, and the Phillies could do exactly what they did with Chan Ho Park a season ago – offer Smoltz the chance to compete for the fifth starter’s job, and if he doesn’t pitch well from that role, move him to the bullpen.
At 43, Smoltz still has a powerful fastball that hovers around 91-92. He hit his spots well last year after returning to the NL, getting swings-and-misses on 31% of his pitches outside the strike zone (league average is 25%.)
His 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings were more than Rodney and his 2.1 BB/9 were significantly less.
Best Case Scenario
In my opinion, the best case scenario for the Phillies would be to sign Smoltz to a one-year deal, re-sign Chan Ho Park, and miss out on Rodney. A bullpen with Park, Smoltz, Madson, and Lidge as late-inning options and Romero as the situational lefty would be dynamic, as all four righties are strikeout pitchers.
There is no word on how much, if any, progress the Phils are making with Park, but it was made clear several weeks ago that he, once again, believes he can start. If this is so, expect teams to do exactly what the Phils did last year – promise him a job starting and move him to the pen if he is ineffective.
You’d think that at this point in his career it would be pretty evident to Park that relieving is the best option for him, but he obviously doesn’t agree with that sentiment.
(Since I’m figuring some of you will ask about Matt Capps and/or Scott Eyre in the comments section, I can tell you that many other teams are more interested in Capps than the Phillies appear to be, and the last time Ruben Amaro mentioned Eyre, it was to say that he was “pricing himself out of the Phillies range.)
Financially, the Phillies are in the same position they were in before the Halladay deal. By trading Lee and his $9M salary, and receiving $6M along with Halladay, the $15.75M Doc is due in 2010 didn’t hamper the Phillies at all. The deals were a wash, financially.
So, how about they invest a little bit of money in a low-risk, high-reward deal for Smoltz, and do whatever they can to re-sign Park?
What do you think?