It isn’t a secret that the Phillies need help in their bullpen. But, its tough to sift through the entire bullpen, and figure out where exactly they should spend their money.
Jonathan Papelbon has had decreasing velocity on his fastball over the past two seasons, which he worked through to still have a successful season in 2012, but struggled in 2013, blowing seven saves. Still, Papelbon is due 26 million dollars over the next two seasons, so either he will sink or swim, and their isn’t a ton the Phillies can do about it.
There really isn’t a ton of certainty throughout the rest of the bullpen.
Ethan Martin could be the Phillies long reliever, but depending on what the Phillies do in free-agency, Martin could also end up in the starting rotation. The Phillies could also use Joe Savery in that position.
So the long reliever is just kind of a wait and see. In most cases, long relief is just that, because teams figure out who their long reliever is in spring training, or in some cases, during the seasons. Beyond that, the Phillies need to find more certainty.
Jake Diekman is a lefty and had a strong second half to finish the season with a 2.58 ERA in 45 total games. Both of those things, should all but guarantee Diekman a spot in the bullpen to begin the season.
Righties like Justin De Fratus, Luis Garcia, and B.J. Rosenberg all will compete for jobs in spring training. De Fratus seems likely to make the team, and Garcia showed off fireball arm after the Phillies brought him in the second half of the season, which would be enough for me to give him a roster spot over B.J. Rosenberg. Rosenberg posted a 4.52 ERA last season, so if their is an odd-man out between the three, it will likely be Rosenberg.
The set-up man is where things get interesting. De Fratus filled that role late last season, and could this year, but you would think the Phillies will at least give Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo a look to begin 2014.
Adams, who had shoulder surgery in August, is a complete unknown. The Phillies gave him a three-year 18 million dollar deal coming into 2013, but Adams struggled posting a 3.96 ERA in 28 games, before his season ended with a shoulder injury.
After his surgery, Adams committed to being ready for Spring traning, but wasn’t sure what he was going to be capable of in 2014 and beyond.
“I plan on it,” he said. “Whether or not I’ll be the pitcher I was a couple years ago, I don’t know. I don’t know if that velocity will ever come back, but as far as how I’ll feel, [Dodgers physician Neal ElAttrache] said I should feel the best I’ve felt in a couple years. But I went into it more pessimistic and expecting the worst and I came out of it pretty well.”
So Adams is due 12 million over the next two seasons. He could have a bounce back year and produce like the Phillies thought he would when they signed him, giving the Phillies bullpen stability. If not, the Phillies are hampered with another bad contract, which they still have to pay. And they still don’t have a setup man.
Antonio Bastardo is coming off of a 50 game PED suspension to end his season, and despite his numbers saying otherwise, he really didn’t have that great of a season. He wasn’t as bad as his disastrous 2012, but his ERA was low because he seemed to give up inherited runs, rather than beginning innings, and allowing runs. So take both of those factors, and there isn’t a lot of certainty with Bastardo.
The Phillies also have a few other candidates with good stuff, but not MLB consistency, in Michael Stutes and Phillippe Amount, who could step up. Could isn’t something that the Phillies can afford to count on in 2014, especially in the bullpen.
So the Phillies need a sure-fire setup man, and according to Yahoo! Sports Jeff Passen, they have their eyes on a man.
Source: Phillies strongly pursuing eighth-inning relievers, including Edward Mujica. Believed to be willing to go three years for setup man.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 15, 2013
Mujica is a name that I like, because he won’t turn 30 until the early next season, and has playoff experience. He pitched in 65 games last season for the Cardinals (splitting time between setup man and closer), saving 37 games in 42 opportunities. He seems like a perfect fit because he is an eighth inning guy that will get the ball to Papelbon, and if Pap needs a day off, Mujica can close.
You could also make an argument that former Tigers pitcher Joaquin Benoit, currently a free-agent, also fits that mold. Benoit also split time between set-up man and closer, pitching 66 games, while racking up 24 saves in 26 chances, and posting a superb 2.01 ERA. The thing that makes Benoit less attractive than Mujica is that he is 36 years old, compared to Mujica only being 29. I also don’t love that my lasting memory of Benoit’s career thus far was him hanging a pitching right over the middle of the plate and David Ortiz slamming it into the Red Sox bullpen to swing momentum in the ALCS.
Still, either would make sense for the Phillies. The real issue is that they are both likely to get deals between two and three years, for six to eight million a year. That sounds a lot like Mike Adam’s deal. So, if the Phillies sign either Benoit or Mujica, they better be sure that they are going to pan out better in Philadelphia than Adams has so far.