Pop quiz: Which lefty reliever would you rather have? (2012 stats listed, 2013 aged season listed)
- Player A: 52 IP, 14.02 K/9 IP, 4.50 BB/9 IP, 3.18 xFIP. Age 27
- Player B: 50.1 IP, 7.51 K/9 IP, 3.93 BB/9 IP, 4.17 xFIP. Age 30
- Player C: 27.1 IP, 11.52 K/9 IP, 6.59 BB/9 IP, 3.92 xFIP. Age 26
- Player D: 31.1 IP, 11.49 K/9 IP, 4.02 BB/9 IP, 3.24 xFIP. Age 27
- Player E: 31.0 IP, 10.16 K/9 IP, 1.45 BB/9 IP, 3.03 xFIP. Age 35
- Player F: 25.0 IP, 5.76 K/9 IP, 2.88 BB/9 IP, 4.48 xFIP. Age 27
There are a lot of players on that list – of the six, five are currently on the Phillies 40-man roster and one was reportedly a free agent target. Player F is the only player whose stats indicate that he is probably not as good as the other five. Player F is Joe Savery – let’s assume everyone is OK with moving on from Savery for the sake of this exercise and move on to exhibit B.
Knowing that four of the five are already available on the Phillies 40-man, and that the Phillies have limited salary available headed into 2013, here are the estimated commitments for each of the players above:
- Player A: ~$1 million, three years of team control available
- Player B: $4-5 million per year, two to three year commitment
- Player C: ~$480-500 thousand per year, five years of team control available
- Player D: ~$480-500 thousand per year, five years of team control available
- Player E: ~$480-500 thousand per year, four years of team control available
As you can probably tell, I am intentionally leading the witnesses here. One of these players’ costs is between four and ten times higher than the other four and I have made statements already indicating which direction I would go. Player A is Antonio Bastardo, Player B is J.P. Howell, Player C is Jake Diekman, Player D is Jeremy Horst, and Player E is Raul Valdes. Late last evening, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reported the Phillies were one of five teams that had interest in Howell. Howell has history in Philadelphia – Howell took the loss in both Games 4 and 5 of the 2008 World Series, memorably giving up a double to Pat Burrell and then a single to Pedro Feliz in Game 5. Unfortunately, that was about the last year Howell provided positive statistic value to his team.
The Phillies bullpen shined last year in getting strike outs (highest K/9 IP in the Majors) and had a nice xFIP (fifth in NL, eight in MLB) but struggled avoiding walks (fifth in NL/MLB), getting ground balls (worst in NL, 29th in MLB), and gave up a lot of home runs (fourth worst in NL in HR/9 IP, seventh worst in MLB). A lot of the struggles came early on and the team improved by cutting loose the deadweight (Chad Qualls, Savery) and finding quality arms from within their system (Horst, Diekman, Phillippe Aumont).
In the areas where the Phillies should seek improvement, Howell is not an improvement. His BB/9 IP (3.93) and his HR/9 IP (1.25) are downgrades while his 48.9% GB% is a minor improvement. Bastardo, Horst, Diekman, and Valdes are all cheaper options with years of team control with the potential to get better. The Phillies would be foolish to waste precious resources on Howell who does not present himself as an obvious upgrade to what they currently have that throws left-handed. What they have that throws right-handed has been addressed with the acquisition of Mike Adams and may have been the best opportunity to score the most bang for their buck.