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The Candidates for Lefty Relief

Posted by Paul Boye, Sun, November 21, 2010 10:00 AM | Comments: 27
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Much is being and will be made of Ruben Amaro’s need to organize his team’s outfield – and, subsequently, his team’s lineup – this winter. The departure of a high-profile player like Jayson Werth (imagine saying that in 2007) only makes this issue even more prevalent.

What’s being pushed to the back burner as a consequence, however, is perhaps an even greater hole left to be filled: left-handed relief. J.C. Romero, whose $4.5M club option for 2011 was bought out for $250k, is unlikely to return. Cole Hamels doesn’t pitch in relief, Jamie Moyer’s long career may finally be coming to an end, and J.A. Happ was traded to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal. Antonio Bastardo, then, is the only lefty in the organization returning to the Major League club. While Bastardo is still young (he turned 25 in September), he’s yet to see enough time in the Bigs to really be considered “proven,” and the Phillies will certainly need a fellow southpaw for backup.

So, who’s the best left-handed relief option out there? The list of lefties available in free agency is far from impressive, but there are a few pitchers would still be fine additions to the Philly relief corps. The best/most-bandied among them – Scott Downs, Pedro Feliciano, Brian Fuentes and Hisanori Takahashi – all represent varying degrees of upgrade, and each carries different baggage.


Scott Downs

2010 Overall: 61.1 IP, 48 K, 14 BB, 0.995 WHIP
2010 vs. LHB: .152/.247/.241, 20 K, 7 BB, 89 PA

Downs, who will be 35 on Opening Day, is the only Type A free agent in this group. Every Type A signing represents a fair deal of risk, as it requires the forfeiture of the signing team’s first unprotected draft pick. The Phils, who pick at 33 this coming June, would have to surrender that pick to the Toronto Blue Jays if they sign Downs.

The value of a first-round pick, especially in a draft class being widely touted as one of the deepest in years, is significant. Signing a relief pitcher at the cost of such a pick is often risky business, but Downs provides a bit of assurance with his track record. Not only was Downs extremely efficient against left-handed batters in 2010, he was also able to retire right-handed batters with relative ease, too, holding righties to a collective .243/.283/.354 line in 152 PA. A lefty reliever who faced more than half-again as many righties as lefties and was quite effective in the process is a fairly rare commodity.

Downs would likely be the most expensive to sign of these four relievers, even before his Type A status is factored in, but he appears to be worth the marginal wins he would be expected to provide. Remember, too, that Jayson Werth’s departure is all but assured, and he will net the Phillies a draft pick, as well. The Angels’ first-round pick is protected, but major suitors like the Tigers and Red Sox have first-round picks before the Phillies. Something to consider.

Pedro Feliciano

2010 Overall: 62.2 IP, 56 K, 30 BB, 1.532 WHIP
2010 vs. LHB: .211/.297/.276, 35 K, 10 BB, 139 PA

What an ironic twist a signing like this would represent. Feliciano, the perpetual, omnipresent Mets lefty who so regularly faced Chase Utley and held Ryan Howard in check for years, signing on to pitch for the Phillies? It would almost seem extra beneficial to sign him, just so Howard (.194/.237/.306 with 14 K in 38 PA vs. Feliciano) wouldn’t have to face him again.

Feliciano’s Type B status does not affect the Phillies’ draft situation – nor any other team’s – and so he may appear to be a more appetizing option than a pitcher like Downs, especially at a (likely) lower price, thereby raising competition for his services. Feliciano has proved to be very durable, leading the Majors in appearances for three straight seasons with at least 86 entrances in each. He’ll turn 36 in August, and his control may present some concern, but unless he’s signed for more than two years, he should provide plenty of value, too.

Brian Fuentes

2010 Overall: 48 IP, 47 K, 20 BB, 1.063 WHIP
2010 vs. LHB: .128/.222/.149, 18 K, 4 BB, 55 PA

Fuentes, also a member of the mid-30s crowd, split time last season between Anaheim and Minnesota. The 35-year-old has more of a power approach than either Downs or Feliciano, and his career 9.8 K/9 easily outpaces Feliciano’s 8.2 and Downs’s 7.0 marks while not being exceptionally wild (career 3.8 BB/9).

Fuentes, like Feliciano, earned Type B status, but the market for his services may prove more limited. Dating back to 2005 with the Rockies, Fuentes has often been placed in the “closer’s” role, limiting his action to the ninth inning. As such, he’ll probably only be courted by teams looking for someone to accumulate numbers in the save statistic category, not those looking for general relief (like the Phillies). This could be one such instance where the limitation of the “closer” role could diminish a player’s marketability, and the Phillies will not be players unless Fuentes opens up to the possibility of utility relief.

Hisanori Takahashi

2010 Overall: 122 IP, 114 K, 43 BB, 1.303 WHIP
2010 vs. LHB: .217/.274/.270, 37 K, 9 BB, 126 PA

Takahashi will turn 36 on the second day of the season (sensing a pattern?), and he may just be the most intriguing prospect among this group. As a 35-year-old rookie with the Mets, Takahashi started 12 games, finished 21 more and appeared in utility relief in 20 others. He comes with no Type A or B distinction, and is rumored to be seeking a three-year contract.

The 2010 season is the only book anyone has on Takahashi in the Major Leagues, though his career with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan shows some back-and-forth between effectiveness and mediocrity. In all, there isn’t much defense for a man of Takahashi’s age asking for a contract of that length. How would he be used? Can he handle the workload of being a full-time starter, or is he destined to repeat the pure utility role like the one he had with the Mets in 2010? At the same time, if he can be talked down from his three-year demands, Takahashi would appear to be a valuable asset in relief.

It seems a little early to make a declaration about Takahashi, and that alone is a reason to be a bit wary. He’s a bit of an enigma, and in the face of three other players who have had proven success in the Majors, Takahashi seems to be the fourth-best option.

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About Paul Boye

Paul Boye has written 58 articles on Phillies Nation.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Feliciano.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 0 Mark

    Mitch Williams looks pretty good.

     
  • Posts: 0 jonnyboy

    fuentes. hands down

     
  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    For the right $ amount, Fuentes at his age might accept “utility” status on a team with a chance to win it all. It would also give us a lefty closer option if needed.

     
  • Posts: 0 bsizzle

    how bout none of them?

    Am I the only one who feels comfortable with lil’ bastard? he’s already better than romero, and apparently we didn’t have any issues becoming WFC with Romero being the only lefty specialist in the pen.

     
  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    bsizzle- I have no problem with Bastardo, but we need more than one. Think about the waves of Lefties the Giants threw at us. They are now WFC, times change, we have to change with them.

     
  • Posts: 0 bsizzle

    @lefty, yeah I agree there. you want at least 2 lefties in the BP, but I’d be ok with putting Bastardo at #1 lefty and taking a chance with a cheaper guy (Meyer? Zagurski?) at #2. You just never know with relievers, one year they suck. The next, they’re Javier Lopez. But all those guys in the list above are going to make at least $4mm/yr.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    I sort of agree with bsizzle. The Phils’ pen was not as bad as it sometimes seemed last year, and relief pitchers are always risky investments. The Phils have a lot of internal help available, even if there is only one real lefty option. Let Bastardo be first on the LOOGY depth chart, and take some fliers on some minor league guys and ineffective starters and see if any stick. That’s how they found Contreras; it’s a good method for not overspending on your pen. That being said, if they must sign one of these guys, I think Takahashi is the best investment if he can be talked down from that three year stuff.

    And for the love of god, cut Danys Baez, he’s a sunk cost.

     
  • Posts: 0 Pat Gallen

    I’m not a fan of Feliciano, although he’s been a model of consistency. Something worries me about all those games and innings for 5 straight years.

    Don’t mind Fuentes, but I’m also not a fan of spending $4mil-plus on relievers, especially less-than-one inning guys.

     
  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Agreed. Dan Meyer isn’t that bad actually. I’d feel comfortable with him and Bastardo going into the season. I don’t want to surrender draft picks for a lefty reliever, even if its late inning. I would wait to see if one of those guys is not offered arbitration. I would think out of Downs, Fuentes, and Feliciano, one of them will not be offered arbitration. I would suspect actually that it will be Downs. Feliciano is due to get injured and miss a whole season anytime now – it could even be playing catch in the backyard with his children, if he has any. However, if he didn’t have all that workload on his arm that would be our guy. He was meant to be a Phillie actually, since he knows us so well and is kryptonite to our lefties and has been his whole career in New York. I love his sweeping slider.

    Otherwise, I would keep Bastardo, Meyer, and bring in another guy similar to Meyer who can compete with those two in ST. Thats a position where you can find a guy on the scrap heap and he will bounce back and be great for you – much like Romero’s first two seasons here and much like the ever-missed Scott Eyre.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    Feliciano and Fuentes are Type B, not A, so they wouldn’t cost the Phillies picks even if they are offered arb — the former team just gets a compensation pick in the supplemental round.

     
  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Ah yes I forgot thanks. Still, waiting may be a smart option. Fuentes and Downs are not worth the years and money they will ask for. feliciano would be if he wasnt so overworked. I am just not a fan of giving anyone but the closer and setup man in the pen anything more than a two year deal. Contreras’ deal is perfect. Baez was a bad deal, but its only two years so you can deal with it. Romero got three years and that had disaster written all over it.

    I’d offer Feliciano two years 5 million. Nothing more than that.

     
  • Posts: 0 Phanatic14

    how bout none of those and get cliff lee that way 4 outta 5 days we wont need a bullpen ha but in all seriousness bastardo is young an i think the club needs to determine his position from the beginning of spring training instead of having him go back an forth between the minors and majors. it’ll give him a sense of relief and comfort, plus spending more time around a lefty like hamels cant hurt

     
  • Posts: 0 Mike

    I concur with the sentiment that we should not overpay on years/dollars for an aging lefty, and that Bastardo is ready for the big time. Dude’s got nasty stuff. This should be the year that he puts it together, assuming he can stay healthy. Seriously, Bastardo’s got better stuff than any of these guys we’re talking about signing.

     
  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    I’d go after Fuentes. He’d be a nice replacement for Lidge in 2012 if need be. It all comes down to greenbacks though. Because of the Tigers 3/$16.5 deal I think relief pitching will take some time to shake out.

     
  • Posts: 0 Andrew from waldorf

    @ lefty

    they can win it all?

    you made my day :)

    sometimes I forget we are still the best team in the NL even with all the problems.

     
  • Posts: 0 Andrew from waldorf

    Feliciano is a definate pass for me.
    you can get a good lefty for almost nothing sometimes.

    See Scott Eyre trade

     
  • Posts: 0 Marc H

    Scott Downs would be a big upgrade over JC Romero, but I would hope that the Phillies would only be interested if the Jays don’t offer him arbitration and they don’t have to give up a #1 pick. With a #1 pick coming in for Werth as well as their own pick, this would be a goof time to replenish what they have traded form the farm.

    Zagurski is NOT an option; he stinks

     
  • Posts: 0 Phylan

    I wish, but I can’t think of a reason why the Jays wouldn’t offer him arbitration.

     
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Well Fuentes makes the most sense to me depending on contract…i think Bastardo needs some more time at the MLB level yet

     
  • Posts: 0 brooks

    How about Bedard?

     
  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    Brooks, Isn’t Bedard a Starter? Do you think he’ll convert to relief, or did you mean to replace Kendrick?

     
  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    Well I’m glad to see I could lift your spirits Andrew!

    You know “odds” better than anyone here. Pending a few off season moves, I’d bet we are in the top 3 to take back our WFC when the odds are posted this spring.

     
  • Posts: 0 brooks

    Lefty, Bedard has been an enigma – yes, a starter but he certainly has been hurt more than healthy. I think his value would be at an all time low and if he got here, put KK in the pen and insert Bedard as a #4 or #5 starter.

     
  • Posts: 0 George

    The front office has a good track record with waiver claims and last minute picks when it comes to relief. Romero and Eyre had both been released by their respective teams and Contreras was a last minute signing. I don’t expect much change in tactics this year, so I don’t think any of these guys will be Phils.

    I look for someone no other team has any confidence in; perhaps someone like Contreras, who had no previous track record as a reliever; or someone like Romero who was released when Boston thought they had better bullpen options.

    In any case, Bastardo is not the sole answer. He has the stuff, but lacks the ability to use it consistently. His numbers haven’t been all that good.

     
  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    Brooks- I’ve seen Bedard pitch, I’d be interested at the right price as a possible 5th starter. Not sure he’s a reliever, but maybe. There have been many better pitchers that have made the change so why not I guess.

    George- Knowing how the FO has done business in the past makes me think they need to change direction this year. Look at the Braves pen, Padres pen, Giants pen, even the Muts pen. Our way netted us Baez, Contreras, and Herndon last year.

    They’re okay, but don’t strike fear in anyone. If anything, teams just want to get our starters out as early as possible to get TO our pen. IMO It’s time to change the way they’ve done business in the past. I think we should spend a few dollars on a very important part of the team if we don’t have ML ready young talent.

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    I like Fuentes because it simultaneously gives us insurance for the closer spot (Lidge is never a sure thing)… Otherwise, Feliciano seems like a good fit –can’t believe I’m saying that, but it’s true.

    Downs is clearly the best one, but that Type A status is a no-no.

    I think we HAVE to get a lefty. I really like Bastardo, but one lefty isn’t enough. Also, you want someone reliable at the back end of the bullpen. Last thing we want is a guy like Madson blowing his arm off from overuse.

     
 
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