Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another Arm Ailing

Continuing a season-long trend of Phillies pitching injuries, rookie Antonio Bastardo made his way to the 15-day DL on Monday night with a strained shoulder. He sustained the injury in the fourth inning of his last start on Thursday against Tampa Bay. Bastardo was brought up when Brett Myers was injured, and his first two starts were very successful. His last three starts, however, have not been as good, and so in five starts, Bastardo was 2-3 with a 6.75 ERA. To occupy his roster spot, the Phillies called up none other than Sergio Escalona.

With the Phillies rotation already suffering, the question is who will be the next pitcher to attempt to fill Brett Myers' spot? They do have a few in-house options. They could call up Kyle Kendrick, though they tried that once this year and it didn't work out so well. They also have former Oriole and Rockie Rodrigo Lopez in AAA, and he has been pretty solid: 5-4 with a 3.91 ERA. They also have stud prospect Carlos Carrasco, who is rumored to be the favorite to come up and take the start. Carrasco was the darkhorse candidate for the last rotation slot this year, but in AAA, he has gone 4-7 with a 4.92 ERA. Kendrick actually has better numbers than Carrasco at this point. Also in the mix could be Gustavo Chacin, a bright spot for the Blue Jays a few years ago, who is 3-3 with a 3.40 ERA between AA and AAA. The organization doesn’t feel that Kyle Drabek is ready for the majors. If they have to make an in-house decision, the odds are they'll go with Carrasco.

However, they called up Escalona and they've announced that Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, and J.A. Happ will be moved up in the rotation for the upcoming series against the Braves. This gives the Phillies a little bit of time to make a decision, which brings up the question of whether or not they can acquire a pitcher by the end of the week. For a while, the Phillies have been known to be in need of starting pitching, a need that got much greater when Myers went down and they had that recent extremely painful stretch of home games. Many names have been tossed around as to who is going to solve the problem…

Jake Peavy – Not going to happen – Peavy has a no-trade clause and already rejected a trade to the Chicago White Sox. Supposedly he doesn’t want to leave the West Coast, so if he’s not going to Chicago, he’s not going to Philadelphia. He is also injured and will not be back until probably a month from now, if he comes back at all. However, Chris Young might be a name to watch if he becomes available, which he might, considering the Padres are 15 games back in the NL West.

Roy Oswalt – Not going to happen – Oswalt also has a no-trade clause, and even if he would waive it, the Astros may not be inclined to deal him. They recently committed a lot of money and many years to him. The Astros are also only four games back in the NL Central, and last year, when they were further back than that, they became buyers at the deadline, for example, acquiring Randy Wolf. They’re not ready to sell yet, and even if the Astros would and Oswalt would, the Phillies will probably need to make a deal before Houston can get far enough back in the standings to decide to sell.

Roy Halladay – Not going to happen – The Blue Jays aren’t looking to trade their ace. They’re only four games back in the AL Wildcard race and while they’re in possibly the toughest division in baseball this year, they still have a lot going for them. Young pitchers Scott Richmond and Ricky Romero have been good and many of their hitters have been effective this year. The Blue Jays are quite solid at every position, so there’s no reason to believe they’re going to trade Halladay, especially since as good as their other starters may be, none of them can provide what Halladay does. The Blue Jays won’t be giving him up.

Cliff Lee – Not likely – Lee could only come to the Phillies at a very high price. He’s a cheap Cy Young Award winner, which is not easy to come by. He is also the only positive thing the Indians can say about their rotation, and they don’t seem to have anyone who could come close to anchoring the rotation, especially with the demise of Fausto Carmona. If the Indians do decide to trade him, he would almost certainly become the most coveted pitcher on the market, not unlike CC Sabathia last year (though obviously Lee isn’t Sabathia). Unless the Phillies have a prospect that Cleveland really likes, they might not be able to get him if he hits the market.

Erik Bedard – Not likely – Bedard is currently on the DL, so that may not be such a good idea anyway. But many people on the Phillies staff have experience with Bedard, including third base coach Sam Perlozzo who managed him in Baltimore and Asst. GM Benny Looper who knew him in Seattle, and they’ve implied that Bedard’s character wouldn’t work well in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a notoriously hard town to play in, and neither Seattle nor Baltimore can really compare, so if people who know him have concerns, it might be a good idea to avoid him.

Brad Penny – Not likely – Penny seemed like a possibility a few weeks ago, but with Daisuke Matsuzaka headed for the DL, and Penny’s performance improving, the Red Sox have no incentive to deal him. When the Phillies inquired about Penny, they were told it would take prospect shortstop Jason Donald. Donald is now injured, making a deal even less likely. The Red Sox seem keen on maintaining a deep pitching staff, especially if their pitchers are injury prone. If the Phillies thought he was the answer, they would have made the deal with Donald.

Jason Marquis – Possibility – Marquis almost became a Phillie in a deal that would have sent J.A. Happ and prospects to the Rockies for him and outfielder Ryan Spilborghs. However, the Rockies went 21-7 in June and might not be ready to consider themselves sellers. Also, Marquis has been successful as a Rockie, and Colorado might not be keen on giving up a pitcher who can actually pitch well at Coors Field. If the Rockies still feel they have a chance, Marquis might be harder to get from them. Marquis has only had a couple truly impressive seasons, most notably in 2004 with St. Louis, when he went 15-7 with a 3.71 ERA and career high 138 strikeouts. Since then, he’s never had an ERA under 4.00. In my opinion, Marquis is overrated. The best thing for him would be to remain in Colorado where he’s been effective.

Aaron Harang – Not likely – Cincinnati is competing as well as any other team for the NL Central, so they may not be game on trading their workhorse pitcher. Harang has also been much better than last year. He’s already up to 98 innings and has maintained an ERA under 4.00. If the Reds have playoff aspirations this year, and at this point in the season, most teams do, they will need Harang for many of the same reasons the Blue Jays need Halladay. Harang would be exactly what the Phillies need, but it’s unlikely that Cincinnati will make him available.

Bronson Arroyo – Possibly – Arroyo, on the other hand, has already been the subject of trade rumors. Arroyo is not as good as Harang, but he does get a lot of strikeouts and he can throw a lot of innings. He has the same number of innings pitched this year that Harang does. Arroyo is sort of like a poor man’s A.J. Burnett. Some games he looks like an ace, going deep into games and getting a lot of strikeouts. Other games he can’t even get through six innings. Perhaps being backed by the Phillies offense would help him, but he might be one of the better pitchers on the market and could command a decent price. Trading for Arroyo would be similar to when the Phillies dealt for Cory Lidle and Kyle Lohse (not just because both were acquired from Cincinnati). It wouldn’t be the worst deal in the world, but it’s not the heavy impact pitcher the Phillies really need.

Doug Davis/Jon Garland – Possibly – With an up and coming young core of players, being stuck in the basement of the NL West, and especially with Brandon Webb injured, the Diamondbacks will almost certainly become sellers this year. Davis and Garland could both become available since they are veteran pitchers and Arizona can use them to acquire more youth. Neither pitcher has a good record (3-8, 4-7 respectively), but Davis has a 3.28 ERA and Garland has thrown at least 6 innings in most of his starts. However, neither of these pitchers would be much more than a placeholder for the rotation spot, and certainly neither of them are anywhere near that impact pitcher the Phillies are looking for. Arroyo or Marquis would probably be better acquisitions than Davis or Garland, though of the two I would take Davis.

Jarrod Washburn – Possibly – The Mariners know that there is interest in Bedard, or at least there was before he was injured, but they would much rather deal Washburn while his numbers look good. He is currently 4-5 with a 3.22 ERA in 14 starts, but Seattle doesn’t have the most impressive offense (excluding, of course People’s Phillies Blog favorite Russell Branyan). Still, Washburn has never been particularly impressive since his 18-6 year in 2002. He has, however been consistent this year, going either 6 or 7 innings in all but three starts, and only allowing more than two earned runs in four of his starts. He also doesn’t allow too many walks. But he is more of a fly ball pitcher, and that’s never good for Citizens Bank Park. I would put Washburn on the same tier as Arroyo, but Arroyo has more potential for greatness. Washburn’s consistency is appealing, but beyond that acquiring him would simply make me nervous.

Chien-Ming Wang - Possibly - The Yankees currently have a logjam in their rotation, with Sabathia, Pettite, and Burnett locks, Joba Chamberlain a lock for the future with some fans clamoring for him to the bullpen, and the Phil Hughes and Wang. Wang is currently occupying the spot, but he has not been good this year. He had three rotten games in April, spent some time on the DL, and then didn't get back to starting until June. He hasn't exactly been terrible in June, but he hasn't been particularly effective. He's only thrown more than five innings once, in his most recent start. Frankly, he's never thrown a lot of innings anyway. Hughes hasn't been much better as a starter, but he's a lot younger and has shown flashes of his much greater upside. So, I wouldn't be surprised if Wang became available, and the Phillies would surely inquire about him. To be blunt, he's been so bad this year that I can't imagine the Phillies actually justifying this deal. He was great in 2006 and 2007, but last year and this year he's been injured. At least last year he was good and injured. This year he's been bad and injured. The Yankees probably aren't in a rush to deal him, so they can probably command a higher price than would be truly worth it. Will he available? My guess is probably. Would he be worth it? I doubt it.

Dan Haren - Not likely - Haren would be a fantastic fit for the Phillies, giving them a true right-handed compliment to Cole Hamels, but if he becomes available, and I'm not convinced that even the basement dwelling Diamondbacks would be willing to trade him, he would come a huge price. That being said, he could actually be worth it. He's probably got a few good years left in him (he's only 28) and he would certainly help the Phillies immediately, filling that impact pitcher void. He can eat up innings, he strikes guys out, and he's only gotten better as this year has gone on. If both of them become available, Haren would be more coveted than Cliff Lee. But, the Diamondbacks would much rather deal Davis or Garland, and Haren is still young enough that he could help them in the next couple years as they develop their young core, including Chris Young and Justin Upton. I don't think Haren becomes available, but if he does, the Phillies should make a huge push for him.

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