The Phillies’ bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster in 2012.
Just look at these numbers:
|HR per 9 IP
The unit is better with the addition of Josh Lindblom, but the ‘pen still lacks a true eighth-inning reliever or a specialist from either side.
Hopes were high for Antonio Bastardo, but the pitcher we saw for the first five months of 2011 is gone, probably never to return. Bastardo since Sept. 1, 2011 has a 6.39 ERA, a 1.51 WHIP and 28 walks in 43.2 innings. He can’t throw strike one… he’s done it to just 83 of the 158 batters he’s faced this year.
What is the Phillies’ answer here? Do they sign a reliever or two this winter? Do they stick with the young guns?
Solving bullpen problems isn’t easy. Teams throw money around every winter at relievers coming off good and sometimes lucky seasons. Other clubs hope their homegrown parts develop. The Phillies took both approaches this season, paying a ton of money to one man (Jonathan Papelbon) and keeping the rest of the pen inexpensive with youngsters.
It hasn’t worked.
Both are free agents this winter. Madson is recovering from Tommy John surgery that will prevent him from making a single appearance this season for the Reds. Adams hasn’t been completely untouchable in Texas as he was in San Diego, but he still has a 2.97 ERA and decent strikeout and walk numbers.
The Phillies have money to spend this off-season, thanks to the deadline trade of Hunter Pence. They can afford to give Adams a three-year deal in the $18-21 million range, and that just might be the best option.
Before the new-wavy baseball community jumps down my throat for the mere suggestion that actual money should be spent on an actual reliever, consider the following points…
An 8th-9th inning combination of Adams and Papelbon would instantly be one of three-best back ends of a bullpen in either league. Adams from 2009-11 had a 1.42 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP and 192 strikeouts to 45 walks in 177.2 innings.
If you sign Adams to that type of deal, you’d have $19-20 million committed to two relievers, but you wouldn’t need to spend money anywhere else in the ‘pen. You could move forward with Papelbon and Adams, then piece together the rest of the relief corps with Lindblom, Bastardo and choices from the Diekman-De Fratus-Schwimer-Stutes-Herndon group. Sign a lefty specialist for about $1 million and you’re set.
Yes, Adams is 34 years old. But he’s a relief pitcher. These guys age differently. The best years of Darren Oliver’s career came in his age 36-40 seasons. And Adams has significantly less wear-and-tear than most elite relievers – he made only 61 major-league appearances before turning 29.
You also have to look at this winter’s free-agent class. You can spend money on an upgrade in center field, but there is practically nothing to choose from at third base and nothing worth splurging on in a corner outfield position. Considering that the only real way to upgrade third base is through a trade, would you complain if the Phillies’ two biggest signings this winter were Michael Bourn and Adams?
As far as interest goes, we know the Phillies have wanted Adams in the past. They pursued him at the 2011 trade deadline before unloading four prospects for Pence.
After what we’ve seen this season, you simply cannot overlook the need to vastly improve this bullpen. And Ruben Amaro has to be proactive… you can’t waste another year with this core hoping that young, unproven relievers pitch well. Ordinarily, I would never condone spending $19-20 million on two relievers. But the Papelbon hole has already been dug, and the Phils still need more help.
If you don’t want to commit that much money to Adams, there’s still Madson. He’ll have to take a lesser deal coming off Tommy John surgery and is really in no position to demand a closing job. The problem is that the Phillies have bad blood with Madson’s camp, most notably Scott Boras, after their reported handshake agreement for a four-year, $44 million contract fell through last winter. Unless the Phillies’ offer far exceeds what he can find anywhere else, it’s hard to imagine a scorned Madson coming back.
The top of the Phillies’ roster is still excellent, and it puts them in position to compete in 2013 if certain holes are filled and bad luck turns back to middling or good luck.
But the market dictates which holes can be filled, and Amaro won’t be able to solve every problem this off-season.
You can solve center field and the bullpen, so those should be the two priorities. And if you’re going to bring in outside help, you might as well pay for the best option.
I’d commit that money to Mike Adams to hold all the leads the Phillies lost this year in the eighth inning. Would you?