Citing concerns with his shoulder, the Phillies stepped away from a multi-year deal with free agent closer Joe Borowski, according to a report on ESPN.com.
Team doctors reportedly advised against a multi-year deal after a routine physical. The 35-year-old right-hander has had shoulder problems as recently as 2004. Pitching last season with the Marlins, Borowski went 3-3 with a 3.75 ERA and 36 saves in 72 appearances. Borowski’s people are now listening to one-year offers and have not ruled out renegotiating with the Phillies, the story says.
Beerleaguer: When it comes to free agent relievers, there’s an unusually high level of rubbish this winter. The Phillies are right; they are better off staying away from this guy, even for a year. If he goes elsewhere and becomes Mariano Rivera, blame the doctors. That's better than signing him against doctors' orders, only to be strapped with a busted arm. Pat Gillick doesn't need that headache, and neither do we.
Along with Cincinnati’s David Weathers, Borowski was considered a leading option for the bullpen-deprived Phillies. The consensus is they need to add two relievers.
Since the Phillies are in the mood to step back and reconsider, this observer wishes to back off an earlier hot-stove yearning for Weathers. He’s still a nice pitcher, but not for the money the current market is commanding, and not after assuming top billing now that Borowski was red-lighted.
Several posters, including newcomer Maverick and regular reader/blogger Dajafi, offered a list of alternatives and a different strategy yesterday in the Adam Eaton thread. Now that the entire free agent reliever pool is tainted, let’s review some of the other names. Here’s Maverick’s list from yesterday, and his thoughts ...
J.C. Romero (30) - Last year he was bad. Three of the four previous years he was quite good, including a 2002 that was spectacular. Classic value pickup.
Alan Embree (35) – 53 Ks in 52 IP last year, and only 15 walks. What’s not to like?
LaTroy Hawkins (33) – Headcase or talent? I’d pay 1 million to find out. Terrific in 2002-2004, his walks really only spiked in 2005, and he’s been quite good, despite his reputation. Pay no attention to last year’s plummeting K rate.
Eric Gagne (30) – Boras still thinks he can get him a one-year, 10-million dollar deal. Once reality moves in, so should the Phillies. Even during his injury-plagued 2005, he was spectacular – 22 K’s in 13 IP.
Darren Oliver (35) –He threw 81 good innings for the Mutts last year. Won’t kill us, and as a setup option he makes as much sense as Arthur Rhodes did.
Rudy Seanez (36) – Even in his much-maligned 2006 he had 54 Ks in 53 IP. His 2005 was brilliant, with 80 Ks in 60-some IP. Not a bad gamble.
Dajafi’s comments: "Overall, you've got it exactly right: don't go the Ed Wade route of overpaying for guys who put up one 30-save season and whose names you recognize, because dumpster-diving for rehab types with talent is 100 percent as likely to give you a decent bullpen. Relief might be the area where Gillick's old-timey scouting-oriented ways help most." Dajafi did even more dumpster diving, revealing these options:
Joey Eischen: vet lefty who pitched for years with Montreal/Washington. He was pig-ugly awful in 2006, but effective as recently as 2005 (3.22 ERA in a strict LOOGY role). NRI, vet minimum, and if he's finished, cut him next March.
Dustin Hermanson: White Sox closer in 2005 until he got hurt and was replaced by the superior Bobby Jenks (himself a castoff!). Out for almost all of '06, but came back in September and pitched decently. Good setup option and won't cost more than a couple million at the outside.
Cliff Politte: another Sox reliever who was great in '05 and injured last year, DFA'd in July and evidently never caught on anywhere else. Is he healthy? I dunno. But why not give him a shot and find out?
David Riske: and yet another guy who last suited up for the ChiSox. Not a world-beater, but he hasn't had an ERA north of 4 since 2002, and if I had to bet on either him or Borowski putting up a good year in 2007, I'd probably take the Riske.
Tyler Walker: okay, not a great name for a pitcher. And he was cut by the Devil Rays. But he strikes guys out and has closing experience (though I wouldn't want to see him in high-leverage situations until he proved himself in a less key role first).
A list of free agent relievers can be found here.