Phillies likely to seek a one-year rental for rotation

Posted: December 13, 2012

Two days after Zack Greinke signed the richest-ever deal for a righthanded pitcher, Kevin Correia agreed Monday to a two-year, $10 million contract with Minnesota. Last week, former Phillie Joe Blanton signed with the Los Angeles Angels for $15 million over two seasons.

The cost of doing business in the pitching market is prohibitive, from top to bottom. That's why, as the Phillies seek a replacement for Vance Worley's fifth spot in the rotation, they are thinking Chan Ho Park.

No, the Phils are not signing Park, who recently announced his retirement from baseball. Rather, this situation conjures memories of 2009, the last time the Phillies truly had a rotation battle in spring training. (That is excluding 2010, when Jamie Moyer merely had to demonstrate good health to beat Kyle Kendrick.)

The Phillies had three young pitchers - J.A. Happ, Carlos Carrasco, and Kendrick - as candidates for a job. Then, in January, they signed Park to a one-year, $2.5 million deal.

Sounds a lot like the type of pitcher Ruben Amaro Jr. is seeking now.

"We'll probably look to add a low-risk, high-reward type of guy, or somebody's who's come back from an injury, or someone like that who can battle for that fifth spot," Amaro said Sunday. "A lot of teams have had some success looking for that guy late in the season and finding that productive guy. So that's one possibility."

Park, of course, went to spring training in 2009 as the favorite to win the job. He did just that. And by mid-May he was demoted to the bullpen while Happ was installed in the rotation and flourished as a rookie starter. Park thrived as a middle reliever, and the reward was solid considering the small risk ($2.5 million) taken.

So forget the Ryan Dempsters, Edwin Jacksons, and even Shaun Marcums on the market. They will sign for at least two - maybe three - years, given the demand. The Phillies are looking for a one-year deal having already invested $71.75 million in 2013 salary for their four starting pitchers.

They possess young talent in Jonathan Pettibone, Tyler Cloyd, Adam Morgan, and Ethan Martin. None is proven or considered a top prospect, which probably will prompt a cheap addition from elsewhere.

Pettibone, 22, could be the most polished; he finished the season in triple A but nearly doubled his walk rate there. Cloyd, 25, allowed eight home runs in 33 major-league innings after tearing through the International League. Morgan, 22, has a better power arm than those two and earned high marks from two scouts who saw him in 2012. Martin, 23, was acquired in the Shane Victorino trade and pitched well at double-A Reading.

That depth should be augmented by the sort of veteran, "low-risk" pitcher Amaro described. There is no shortage of such available. A sampling: Joe Saunders, Chris Young, Carl Pavano, Derek Lowe, John Lannan, Jair Jurrjens, Kevin Millwood, and Chien-Ming Wang.

None of those names is particularly overwhelming, and identifying one that stands above the rest is trivial. But remember, the Phillies are looking to replace the production of Blanton, while banking on Kendrick's continuing his rise. Blanton made 20 starts for the Phillies last season with a 4.59 ERA.

Kendrick's final two months - 3.20 ERA and 51 strikeouts to 14 walks in 701/3 innings - were beyond encouraging in a small sample size because of real mental and mechanical adjustments. He is 28, and the Phillies have not counted on him this much going into a season since 2008.

Ideally, that "low-risk" pitcher can move to the bullpen if ineffective and one of the younger arms is promoted. The Phillies may have some $20 million to spend, but that sum could disappear once a corner outfielder and veteran reliever are added.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com.

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