For most of the season, the one thing keeping the Phillies from being acknowledged as a top team in the league is their rotation. The team was in the running to acquire CC Sabathia, but lacked the major league ready prospect that Milwaukee was able to offer in Matt LaPorta. With Sabathia and Rich Harden off the market (not that the Phillies were interested in Harden), these are some of the remaining starting pitchers the Phillies are/might be interested in. Bear in mind, that most teams would be asking for one of catcher Lou Marson or pitcher Carlos Carrasco, along with other prospects. Some of these pitchers would be better ideas than others:
Bronson Arroyo, Reds - Bad Idea - Arroyo has only had one particularly impressive full season. In 2006, his first season with the Cincinnati Reds, he went 14-11 with a 3.29 ERA and had 184 strikeouts. Batters hit .296 against him that year and his WHIP was 1.19. This is a career best in every single one of those statistics, except for losses as he had 10 the previous year (huge difference, I know). He usually puts up a decent number of strikeouts: he's had at least 100 every year since 2004, and he hasn't been injury prone like most of the pitchers on this list. Beyond that, there's no reason to believe that he would improve the rotation. If he can be acquired for a very cheap price it would be better than nothing, but beyond that it would be a bad idea.
Erik Bedard, Mariners - Good Idea - Seattle looks incredibly foolish in many ways right now, but one of the biggest is the trade to acquire this pitcher, who was supposed to be the stud ace to put the team over the hump into contention. Now, Seattle's new general manager has a lot of house cleaning to do in order to get this team back on track, and a part of that is figuring out what to do with the bigger contracts. The Phillies could take on Bedard's contract while offering players who are lower in the minor league system, which makes sense for a team that needs a few years to rebuild. Bedard has not been happy in Seattle and could use a change of scenery. He might also thrive in the shadow of Cole Hamels. If the Phillies can get him, he would probably be worth a Carlos Carrasco, injury notwithstanding. There was a good reason the Mariners made the trade they did.
A.J. Burnett, Blue Jays - Bad Idea - Burnett is the player that had generated the most hype regarding a Phillies trade. Pat Gillick is apparently overlooking a lot of things if he's seriously considering dealing a top prospect for Burnett. If interest in Erik Bedard disappeared once he hit the DL, then why is he ignoring the fact that Burnett has started more than 25 games only three times in his career. He's never had more than 12 wins and never had fewer than 8 losses in seasons where he did manage to start 20 games or more. The only things he has going for him are that when he is healthy he gets a decent number of strikeouts, striking out over 100 in every year he made more than 15 starts and he's finished all but three seasons with an ERA under 4.00. Burnett might have more success coming into in the National League and he'd be reunited with former Florida pitching coach Rich Dubee, but there's too much of a injury risk with him. Burnett is a good pitcher when he's healthy, but even then he would not be worth a Carrasco or Marson.
Aaron Harang, Reds - Good Idea - It would be very hard to convince the Reds to trade Harang, but if the Phillies can pull it off, it would be great. Harang's current injury isn't too much to worry about and despite his poor numbers this year, he would be a great right-handed co-ace to Cole Hamels. Harang has been a workhorse for the Reds, pitching over 200 innings since 2005 in over 30 games and has had over 200 strikeouts the past two years. Even if this turns out to be an off-year for him, it would give the Phillies one of the best top of the rotation duos for the next couple years. If Harang were having shoulder problems or an injury that could keep recurring, then it would be a waste to get him. The forearm injury could be a convenient excuse to get him off the field and give him a break from his poor numbers.
Derek Lowe, Dodgers - Good Idea - It would be very surprising if the Dodgers dealt Lowe, but he's a solid veteran who is used to being at the top of the rotation on a team near the top of the division. The only potential downside is that he's 35 years old, and with a team that is already one of the oldest in the majors, Lowe isn't going to help the team in the long run. But with their main offensive weapons in their primes, it would be a good time to acquire a finishing piece like Lowe. More than likely, he won't be dealt anyway.
Greg Maddux, Padres - Good Idea - Maddux would essentially give the Phillies mentors from both sides of the pitching rubber. Maddux knows how to deal with contention and would be a fantastic presence and influence on the rest of the team. Even if he is not quite the pitcher he used to be, he is still a solid pitcher and could probably be acquired for slightly less than Bedard or Harang. He doesn't throw as many innings, which would mean more work for the bullpen, but that's not too different from the rest of the staff behind Hamels. The Phillies' aren't likely to acquire a workhorse since there aren't many available. Maddux would be a good, relatively cheap option who would make the Phillies' rotation look scarier than it would actually be.
Jarrod Washburn, Mariners - Bad Idea - Washburn has not been a good pitcher in years. He doesn't strike out a lot of guys, his ERA has been below 4.00 once in the past five years, and there's not a whole lot to say in his favor except that he's not particularly injury prone. The Phillies might be able to get him for dirt cheap due to his large contract and the Mariners more than likely being willing to dump him. But Washburn has only had one great year: 2002. In 2002, the Phillies were still playing in the Vet, still had Scott Rolen, and Jose Mesa managed to record 45 saves. Not to mention Jamie Moyer was under 40 years old.
Randy Wolf, Padres - Bad Idea - As much as I would love to see the return of the Wolf Pack, trading for Wolf wouldn't do a whole lot of good. Every time Wolf is talked about during the offseason, there's a huge question mark surrounding his health. Rightly so: he hasn't started more than 20 games since 2004. He also has had an ERA lower than 4.00 twice in his career. Wolf has always had the potential to be extremely good, but if he hasn't achieved that potential by age 32, there's little reason to believe that he's ever going to. If the Phillies were in need of a left handed starter, then acquiring Wolf would be a decent idea. He's a solid left-handed pitcher, but he's not what the team needs to put them over the hump, even if he does stay healthy.
As far as pitchers to acquire, there is one more whose name has come up a bunch of times. The Phillies are also in search of a left-handed reliever, so it seems reasonable to talk about this guy as well:
Brian Fuentes, Rockies - Bad Idea - It's not that Fuentes isn't good - he is. However, he is certainly not worth one of the Phillies' better prospects, and with a lot of teams interested in acquiring him, it would not be worth it to enter a bidding war. If the Phillies are dying to put another left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, they could probably find someone else, though they've been just fine so far without having to worry about it. When Gordon comes back, who can you take out of there? Seanez or Condrey most likely, but they've been very good even if they are the dregs of the 'pen. Just as Manuel didn't want to alter the bullpen by taking Chad Durbin out of it, there's no reason to touch it in terms of Seanez or Condrey. There is no way they could win the bidding war in a way that would be worth it to fill a need that doesn't really need to be filled.