Pickings are slim, but shoring up the pitching staff with a short-term deal to a remaining veteran could go a long way in providing the Phillies with better stability.
The names you’re about to read may depress you, but somewhere among the list of remaining free agent starters and relievers are pitchers who will outperform Adam Eaton and Tom Gordon next season.
The Phillies need to focus in on two problem areas between now and Spring Training. The first is set-up spot, where Gordon, age 40, holds the key after two seasons cut short with shoulder problems. The Phillies will be asking him to pitch 70-80 innings of high-pressure relief through a torn labrum. Good luck with that. The second is the fifth starter spot, where the Phillies have demonstrated a vote of no confidence in Eaton, coming off a dismal season and phantom arm trouble to boot. Chad Durbin and Rule 5 selection Travis Blackley could challenge Eaton for the job.
Here’s the list of remaining arms (The list may be incomplete):
Starting pitchers: Tony Armas, Kris Benson, Roger Clemens, Matt Clement, Bartolo Colon, Matt DeSalvo, Elmer Dessens, Josh Fogg, Casey Fossum, Freddy Garcia, Jose Garcia, Mark Hendrickson, Livan Hernandez, Jason Jennings, Byung-Hyun Kim, Brian Lawrence, Jon Lieber, Kyle Lohse, Rodrigo Lopez, Eric Milton, Mike O’Connor, Russ Ortiz, Odalis Perez, Darrell Rasner, John Thomson, Brett Tomko, Josh Towers, Steve Trachsel, Jeff Weaver, David Wells, Jamey Wright, Jaret Wright
Relief pitchers: Jeremy Affeldt, Antonio Alfonseca, T.J. Beam, Armando Benitez, Shawn Camp, Shawn Chacon, Darren Clarke, Brendan Donnelly, Octavio Dotel, Keith Foulke, Eddie Guardado, Jorge Julio, Yukinaga Maeda, Jose Mesa, Trever Miller, Brian Moehler, Scott Munter, Mike Myers, Akinori Otsuka, Juan Padilla, Heath Phillips, Chris Reitsma, Arthur Rhodes, Brian Rogers, Brad Salmon, Rudy Seanez, Aaron Sele, Ron Villone, Bob Wickman.
Many of these pitchers fall into three categories: too expensive; too injured; too old. We’ve tracked a number of them this off-season. Many haven’t been mentioned at all. I’m interested in some of them. Rudy Seanez is always dependable. He’s not a setup man, but he’ll give them a full season. Steve Trachsel is painfully dull, but won 15 games two seasons ago and pitched 158 servicable, bottom-rotation frames in '07. Readers have talked a lot about Akinori Otsuka, who’s elbow sounds shot. Along those lines, how about an incentive-laden deal to Chris Reitsma, who had elbow surgery in early August? His surgery reportedly went well and he could be ready to pitch in spring training. A full recovery would give the Phillies a 30-year-old reliever who could pitch the late innings and keep the ball in the park.
Last winter, the Phillies short-changed their pen and it cost them immediately. If they’re serious about starting hot, they can’t allow history to repeat itself.