–In Jayson Stark’s Rumblings column on ESPN.com, a baseball source tells him that there is a “zero” percent chance of Jayson Werth returning to the team in 2011. That’s a fairly low number, no? Stark opines that it might not even be the money in this situation that severs the ties between the Phillies and Werth – it could be the years he wants in the deal.
Let’s think about it. Many of us want Werth back in Philadelphia, but at what price? Is it worth it to hamstring the team even more with a five year, $90 million contract to a guy who turns 32 next season? Sure, it’s a young 32 because he missed several seasons in his 20′s with injuries, but it’s 32 nonetheless. Count me in with the school of thought that the Phillies must get younger, as much as we don’t want to see them break up this pseudo-dynasty. Spending $90 million on one man, albeit a strength of their club, shouldn’t be the way to go here. Use that $90 million wisely in other parts such as the rotation, the bullpen, and finding ways to bolster an offense that was anemic in 2010. Come on Rube, you can do it!
–Also according to Stark, the Phillies have moved aggressively toward signing free-agent reliever Jose Contreras. “Big Truck” made $1.5 million in 2010, meaning a raise is likely. Contreras was outstanding in his first full season out of the bullpen and may have carved a niche for himself as a seventh or eighth inning guy. In 67 appearances, Contreras was 6-4 with a 3.34 ERA over 56 2/3 innings. Not bad for a “38-year old.”
My early estimate is a two-year deal similar to that of good friend Danys Baez. No way Baez should be making more than Contreras who was a savior of sorts for the Phillies in the bullpen last season. When guys like Lidge, Madson, Romero, and Durbin were out, Contreras was the rock that helped keep the relief corps in order. I’d say he’s looking at a two-year, $5.5 million deal to stick around with the Phillies if he wants it. His relationship with fellow Cuban Baez could help in bringing back the Biggest Truck.
–As for the rest of the bullpen, Amaro says the Phillies have touched base with 40 free agents, many of them relief pitchers. Who are some of the best out there?
Hisanori Takahashi is a name that has been linked to the Phillies early in the offseason. He’s a soft-tossing lefty that would team up wonderfully with hard-throwing Antonio Bastardo. He’s also 35 and in lefty years, he’s got about 35 more to go.
Jon Rauch is a back-end type reliever who played for the Twins a year ago. The 6’11″, 290-pound 32-year old has been one of the better setup men in baseball the past few seasons. Rauch made over $2 million last season.
Grant Balfour is the kind of high-energy arm Phillies fans would adore. The Australian – formerly with the Rays – is also 32 and is coming off his best season as a professional, meaning he’ll cost quite a bit more than the $2.05 million he received in ’10. In 57 appearances, he had a 2.28 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. A multi-year deal at more than $3 million will be likely.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of spending a ton of money on multi-year contracts on bullpen arms. Year-to-year – hell, day-to-day – you just don’t know what you’ll get from the guys out there. As I’ve stated before, the Phillies should look internally first with the youngsters they have, then try to steal someone out of the bargain bin after the new year. As we all know, however, Ruben Amaro likes to move swiftly and if he can find someone he likes at the price he loves, he’ll do just that.
–One name who keeps popping up on the Phils radar is Pedro Feliciano, formerly of the Mets. This one worries me. Feliciano has been a stalwart out of the Mets ‘pen, but that might not be a good thing. The 34-year old has appeared in 334 games in the last four seasons. Let that sink in for a second. He has thrown in more than half of the Mets games in the last four seasons, an incredible figure. That could also mean wear and tear down the road. Last season, Feliciano’s 92 appearances were by far the most in baseball – only five other guys even reached 80 games as a reliever. My thought: stay away.
UPDATE, 10:30 AM: Jim Bowden says the Phillies are going hard after former Ranger Joaquin Benoit. He made $3.75 million last year and posted fantastic numbers: 66 games, 60 1/3 innings, 1.33 ERA, 0.68 WHIP.
UPDATE, 4:15 pm: Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com says that former White Sox rightfielder/DH Jermaine Dye wants to play again and has been contacted by the Phillies, among other teams. The 36-year old Dye (37 in January) would replace Jayson Werth in right field and last was seen in 2009 hitting 27 home runs and knocking in 81 runs.