The Phillies have squeezed in another move to fortify the bullpen, adding 33-year-old right-hander Chad Qualls on a one-year, $1.15 million guaranteed deal, including performance bonuses, the club announced.
Beerleaguer: The good news is that Qualls can absorb innings, appearing in 77 games for the Padres last season, including a 1.96 ERA over his final 19 games. That's why the Phils went this direction over Lidge, for example, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing considering the mixed dynamic in the bullpen. In fact, over the past seven seasons, he has appeared in more games than any Major League pitcher, according to the Phillies' release, and that includes time missed to repair a dislocated left patella that knocked him out of the 2009 season. Qualls has a career record of 38-34 with 51 saves and a 3.78 ERA in 537 games for the Astros, Diamondbacks, Rays and Pads.
Nevertheless, he's five years past his prime, pitching to a 3.51 ERA (102 ERA+) and career-low 5.2 K/9 in pitcher-friendly Petco; he had over a 5 ERA on the road. He's at that same point in his career as Danys Baez when the Phillies signed him to a two-year commitment two seasons ago: a former closer on bad teams who appears to be on his way out. The advanced metrics support that; since 2008, his WAR has streadily falled from a 2.1 to -0.3. That's why the Phils got him at this price.
My concern: Charlie Manuel succumbs to the temptation of handing him the eighth inning right out of the chute based on name alone, ignoring what Antonio Bastardo achieved in five of the first six months of the season. The added performance bonuses could also add to that temptation. Qualls belongs in the middle innings and should toggle between low and high-leverage frames.
His value is in his ability to pitch back-to-back days. If he stinks early, it's a good sign that he's done - and the Phils need to recognize that.
The move also sets up a spring training battle royale in the bullpen, where even a guy like Michael Stutes will be forced to earn his keep.