Phils add to 40-man roster, eye pitching

Posted: November 22, 2013

BEFORE THE clock struck midnight last night, the Phillies had a bit of in-house business to take care of: Every major league team had to make additions to their 40-man roster in preparation for next month's Rule 5 draft.

Outfielder Kelly Dugan (the Phillies' first pick in 2009, in the second round) and top catching prospect Tommy Joseph were added to the 40-man roster, along with outfielder Aaron Altherr and lefthander Rob Rasmussen. The roster shuffle prevents them from being plucked away by another team in the Rule 5 draft.

The Phillies' 40-man roster sits at 37 players, with Carlos Ruiz set to be No. 38 when his new contract likely becomes official today.

The decisions the Phillies made before yesterday's deadline shouldn't be overlooked: Players added are obviously looked at as potential pieces for the future. But the reality is that few, if any, of the players listed on yesterday's transaction wire will impact the 2014 season.

Baseball's offseason is just 3 weeks old, but the Phillies have arguably been more active than any other team, for good or bad. Yet, they still have large holes to fill after committing $16.5 million of the 2014 salary to free agents Marlon Byrd and Ruiz in the last week.

Namely, the front office has to address a pitching staff in dire need of help.

Despite having $77.5 million of their 2013 payroll tied to three starting pitchers and a closer, the Phillies had the second-worst ERA (4.32) in the National League. Three of those pitchers (Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon) remain while another (Roy Halladay) is a free agent.

The Phillies will undoubtedly add a pitcher or three within the next 2 months. A Yahoo Sports report had the Phils linked to free-agent reliever Edward Mujica, an All-Star with St. Louis last year, writing that the team could sign the 29-year-old righthander to a 3-year deal as a potential setup man.

Given the Phillies' recent history of signing veteran relievers, that's not likely the smartest way to improve the pitching staff.

If the scouts recommending Mujica are the same who recommended Mike Adams, Chad Durbin, Danys Baez and Chad Qualls, perhaps Ruben Amaro Jr. should keep his money in his wallet and refocus on adding a pitching coach who can get the most out of a herd of young relievers already on the roster. Most of the best bullpens are built from within, and with the Phillies' top-heavy payroll, they need their young (read: inexpensive) arms to get over their growing pains and find consistency.

Antonio Bastardo, who is arbitration-eligible and due for a raise, is capable of pitching in late innings. Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus and Ethan Martin all have the arms to contribute, too.

Adding a veteran reliever is still a good idea, but it's not a good idea if it's an overpay, a long-term deal - or both.

Adding inventory to the starting rotation is more important. Last season, Phillies starting pitchers had a 5.31 ERA in 66 games after the All-Star break - and that includes the sturdy work from Hamels and Lee.

The current rotation features Hamels, Lee and a lot of uncertainty.

Kyle Kendrick, who is likely to earn between $6 million and $7 million through arbitration, is a year away from free agency. Alfredo Gonzalez has never pitched in the major leagues and Jonathan Pettibone has 100 1/3 big-league innings in his career.

While the hot stove has been relatively (and not unusually) slow thus far, two starting pitchers have come off the market in the last 3 days. The Giants signed longtime Brave Tim Hudson (2 years, $23 million) and the Padres penned oft-injured Josh Johnson (1 year, $8 million).

Although he's 38 and coming off a gruesome ankle injury, Hudson is the kind of pitcher the Phillies could use to replace Halladay: dependable and durable. Johnson was arguably the most talented starting pitcher available, but he is neither dependable nor durable (16 or fewer starts in 2 of the last 3 years).

Who remains on the open market who could fit the Phillies needs?

Righthanders Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett and Ryan Vogelsong could easily slot into the third spot in the rotation. All three are also 36, meaning they aren't likely to be seeking the higher-risk, long-term deals being commanded by the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco, Matt Garza and Ervin Santana.

According to reports, the Phillies have been among the teams to reach out to Arroyo, a consistent innings eater who has spent the last eight seasons in Cincinnati. Burnett, to whom the Pirates declined to tender a qualifying offer, would fit hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park with his penchant to induce ground balls and strikeouts. Vogelsong, a Chester County native who went to spring training with the Phillies in 2011, had a $6.5 million option declined by the Giants.

In addition to that trio, the Phillies could shop the bargain bin that includes: former Tampa Bay ace Scott Kazmir, who rebooted his career last season in Cleveland; Dan Haren, who was awful for the first half of 2013 with Washington but did finish with a 3.14 ERA in his last 13 games; and Phil Hughes, the former Yankees prospect who is only 27 and could be a candidate to thrive with a change of scenery.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


comments powered by Disqus