Inside the Phillies: Phils have options in search for 8th-inning reliever

The Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez , 30, was once an elite closer. AP
The Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez , 30, was once an elite closer. AP
Posted: November 03, 2012

Fourth in a series examining the Phillies' potential offseason moves.

Chad Qualls is a name that will live in Philadelphia infamy.

The righthander signed with the Phillies for $1.15 million last offseason, and the team decided he could serve as their eighth-inning bridge to newly acquired closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Oops. Not such a bright idea.

In fact, it was among the worst moves of Ruben Amaro Jr.'s four-season tenure as general manager. Qualls was traded July 1, but the Phillies' eighth-inning problems remained because Antonio Bastardo was unable to duplicate the eighth-inning success he had in 2011.

The result was a disaster. The Phillies' 4.89 ERA in the eighth inning was the second worst in baseball. Only Houston's was worse. The Phillies also allowed a major-league-worst 24 home runs in the eighth inning and a total of 80 walks, the second most in baseball.

That brings us to 2013 and the quest for a veteran reliever to solidify a bullpen that includes Papelbon and a cast of 20-somethings who figure to compete for relief jobs in spring training.

The Phillies like their young arms, but the only two relievers you can say for sure will be in the bullpen at the start of next season are Papelbon and Bastardo.

Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, Josh Lindblom, B.J. Rosenberg, Mike Stutes, Raul Valdes, and Michael Schwimer should also be in the mix, with some of them having a better shot than others to make the team.

Regardless, there is not only room there is a need for a reliable veteran, and it's going to cost more than the $1.15 million Amaro invested in Qualls.

The free-agent market opens Saturday, and some interesting options are likely to be on the board, with former Phillies closer Ryan Madson among them.

Here's an extended look at the free agents who could help the Phillies.

Ryan Madson, Cincinnati. He became a free agent when the Reds declined his $11 million option Thursday.

Pros: The Phillies know what they would be getting in the 32-year-old Madson provided he has fully recovered from the ligament transplant elbow surgery that ended his 2012 season before it started.

Cons: A pitcher coming off surgery is always a risk, and failed negotiations with Madson's agent Scott Boras last year may have created too contentious a relationship for the sides to agree to a deal.

Mike Adams, Texas. The Phillies have pursued Adams via trade more than once, but this is the first time they'll have a chance to get him in free agency.

Pros: He has been one of the game's best setup men since 2008.

Cons: Adams, 34, is coming off his least-effective season since his rookie year in 2004 and recently underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that includes pains in the neck and shoulder.

Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh. The 35-year-old veteran pitched superbly the last two years for the Pirates after leaving the Phillies' triple-A Lehigh Valley affiliate with a 1.93 ERA in the middle of the 2011 season.

Pros: He has been outstanding ever since recovering from the surgery for a torn quadriceps that cost him the 2010 season. He had 90 strikeouts in 582/3 innings last season. And, he has the best Twitter handle of all-time: @GrillCheese49

Cons: He struggled after the all-star break and played a role in the Pirates' second-half collapse.

Jeremy Affeldt, San Francisco. Affeldt, 33, has been one of baseball's best lefty setup men for quite a while.

Pros: He's proven he can do the job in the regular season and postseason. In eight playoff series, he has a 1.37 ERA, allowing just nine hits and six walks in 192/3 innings.

Cons: He made $5 million last season and probably deserves a three-year deal worth at least $18 million.

Sean Burnett, Washington. The 30-year-old lefty declined a $3.5 million option Thursday.

Pros: Lefties hit just .211 against him last season and have a career .225 average against him.

Cons: When someone declines a $3.5 million option you know he is looking for a huge payday.

Matt Lindstrom, Arizona. The Diamondbacks declined Lindstrom's $4 million option, and that could be good news for the 32-year-old righthander.

Pros: Lindstrom has been traded four times in the last three years, but he is pitching better now than at any point in his career. He posted a 3.00 ERA and 1.222 WHIP in 2011 with Colorado. Those are impressive numbers for a pitcher who calls Coors Field home. He also has experience as a closer.

Cons: He could be looking for a two-year deal worth $8 million to $10 million, which is probably too much for someone of his caliber.

Brandon Lyon, Toronto. The last time the 33-year-old righthander was a free agent, he received a three-year, $15 million deal from former Houston general manager Ed Wade. He was traded last season to Toronto.

Pros: Lyon rebounded from a disastrous 2011 season with a strong 2012. He has had more good seasons than bad ones since 2006 and has closer experience.

Cons: That 11.48 ERA he posted in 2011 sure looks scary.

Joakim Soria, Kansas City. The 28-year-old closer missed all of 2012 after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery, and the Royals declined his $8 million option.

Pros: If he's healthy, he is an elite bullpen pitcher, and there may be no better time to get a bargain on a guy like this.

Cons: It's always risky signing a guy coming off surgery.

Ramon Ramirez, New York Mets. After pitching well for San Francisco in 2010 and 2011, he was a bust for the Mets in 2012.

Pros: He could be an inexpensive option and has pitched well in places other than San Francisco.

Cons: His 35 walks with the Mets were a career high and a big reason he struggled so much.

Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee. The 30-year-old righthander was once an elite closer.

Pros: The 294 career saves and 2.70 ERA sure make for a nice resumé.

Cons: The life in his arm is not the same as it once was, but he could be worth considering if the price isn't too high.

Jon Rauch, New York Mets. The 34-year-old righthander was actually a bright spot in another dismal Mets season.

Pros: It's impossible not to like the 0.988 WHIP he posted last season.

Cons: He always seems to follow a good season with a bad one.

Randy Choate, Los Angeles Dodgers. He's purely a left-handed specialist, but at 37 he is still getting the job done.

Pros: Lefties hit .158 against him in 2012.

Cons: You don't want to pay too much for somebody like Choate.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @brookob.

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