Daily News: League sources indicated that the Phillies are intrigued by Miguel Batista, the 35-year-old righthander who went 11-8 in 33 (4.58 ERA, 206 IP) starts with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season after pitching exclusively in relief for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2005.
Beerleaguer take: There’s something hypocritical in my initial negative reaction to this rumor, after a solid endorsement of last week’s contract extension to Jamie Moyer, who's nine years older.
At first, this sounds like another futile patch-up job, another multi-purpose veteran without any upside. That’s probably true. Batista wouldn’t be special, or surprising. The right-hander mixed in a number of bad starts with the D-backs, but also threw in a fair number of good ones, including three complete-game victories. He’s been a durable pitcher, tossing a career-high 206 innings last season.
Unlike Moyer, he’s very good with his homers, allowing just 18 in 2006, maybe the best ratio of his career. He can hit 93-95 MPH with his four-seam fastball, but his sinking fastball and cutter are his best pitches, making him suitable for Citizens Bank Park. His offspeed pitch makes him an ideal candidate for the back end of the bullpen, which is how he was used two seasons ago in Toronto.
The problem is he allows too many free passes, and there’s no room for that in the Phillies' bullpen. The team is reportedly serious about resigning Randy Wolf, which would shore up all five spots in the starting rotation. If the Phillies were to go ahead with this, they would likely move Batista to the back end of the bullpen to replace the hole vacated by Arthur Rhodes ... and replace he would. The two have very comparable strikeout/walk ratios.
In 71 relief appearances in 2005, he went 5-8 with a 4.10 ERA. That’s a problem for me; it’s far from exceptional. It’s not production you pony up $4.5 million to get. In fact, Batista ranked as only the 35th best reliever in the American League that season, according to Hardball Times Win Shares.
In comparison, he was the 31st best starting pitcher in the National League this season by the same measurement, only five places behind Brett Myers. Honestly, if Batista was given a spot in the rotation, it would make a nice wager whether Jon Lieber or Batista finish with the better season.
If the Phillies were to get both Batista and Wolf, I’d scratch my head for months on how best to use him. On a great team, with a great pitching staff, he would be a fine sixth starter and long man. There are plenty of opportunities for pitchers like Darren Oliver of the Mets, but are the Phillies willing to pay roughly $4.5 million for the luxury?
As a starter, I’d be hesitant of decline. Baseball Think Factory’s ZIPs projection has him at a 5.14 ERA with a 97/88 strikeout/walk ratio. That’s not very good, but I'd still lean closer toward a starting role than a late-inning stopper.
Additional discussion topic
The Phillies could convert Fabio Casto into a starter and begin his season in Class-AA Reading, according to a report on Phillies.com (Beerleaguer: Kind of a curious move. He had good success in limited chances out of the bullpen, which is an area of need, but the plan is to start anew in Double-A, and pursue more expensive veterans to fill spots in the bullpen. Philadelphia Phillies: Setting new standards for ingenuity and risk taking.)