The Phillies are expected to direct their remaining offseason efforts toward the bullpen. But with resources stretched, there’s a chance not every hole will be filled by an established reliever.
Ruben Amaro got his third baseman. Now comes the hard part: untangling the web in middle relief. Free agents Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre were not offered arbitration, even though they filled very important roles in the 'pen last season. Meanwhile, Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey are due raises through arbitration. Neither one is a given to be tendered considering the Phillies’ financial constraints. Dec. 12 is the deadline to make an offer. And now this: There’s a report from Jayson Stark today suggesting late-inning option Brandon Lyon is now the Phillies’ top free agent priority. Competition for the right-hander’s services will be stiff. The Yankees and others are in on him, too, so his price tag immediately goes up. If the Phillies can somehow get him, will there be room for anyone else? It's doubtful.
The Phils have had the good fortune to maintain a cohesive, mostly veteran bullpen these last two seasons, but there’s a chance 2010 could resemble 2006-07 as a time of youthful experimentation. The Phillies have 18 slots on the 40-man roster devoted to pitching and nearly half are for pitchers who spent time in the minors last season. Some of them, like Drew Naylor, for example, will be non-factors, but others, like left-hander Antonio Bastardo, who stayed on the active roster the entire postseason, appear to be part of the Phillies’ plans. Others include Sergio Escalona, who bounced back-and-forth between the minors, and Kyle Kendrick, who may be forced to embrace a relief role. It’s also sounding like dart-thrower Scott Mathieson could factor into the mix if there’s room. And just as Escalona came out of nowhere to earn a call-up last season, the same could happen to Yohan Flande or Jesus Sanchez, depending on the timing of it. The Phillies tend to go with the hottest hand when the need arises. Both prospects are included on the 40-man.