2015 Phillies Offseason Preview: Free Agent Pitchers

November 9th, 2015 by Ryan Waterman | Filed under Baseball, General, MLB, Phillies, Sports.

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An interesting off-season lies ahead…..

After one of the worst seasons in Phillies history, there has been a major overhaul in the front office. Andy McPhail has taken over as team president, Ruben Amaro is out as General Manager, and Matt Klentak is in. It’s a new era in Phillies baseball and there is a sudden buzz of excitement swarming over the Philadelphia baseball community.

Arguably the biggest buzz is surrounding the roster overhaul. This season saw the departures of two of the biggest stars that the Phillies have ever had, in Chase Utley and Cole Hamels. Both deals brought back a fair amount of talent, but that’s only part of the battle. There’s also the development of that talent, in addition to other youngsters, and any possible free agent additions that are brought in.

As demonstrated in other sports, not all free agent “splashes” turn out to be good ones. Hell, that’s even been prominent in baseball as of late (Hello, Pablo Sandoval!). So, while many fans are eager for the team to win sooner rather than later….they also need to understand that the Phils have to spend their money wisely. One wrong investment can set an organization back upwards of five years.

This off-season is arguably one of the more pivotal ones in this team’s history. Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins are gone and off of the payroll. Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz are the two lone Phillies originals from the ’08 World Series team left. The key to this off-season, is for the team to spend their money wisely, while focusing on the development of their prospects.

This article will be the first in a series, that preview the upcoming free agent class.   The first issue we’ll tackle, is the upcoming starting pitcher class. There’s a number of high-profile names on the open market this year, but it wouldn’t be smart to anticipate on the Phillies snagging one of those high-end studs.  It’d be more realistic to expect a Aaron Harange-esque, or Bronson Arroyo-type of pitcher.

Without further delay, let’s dig deeper into this free agent class….

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Group A (The Aces): David Price, Zack Grienke, Jordan Zimmerman, Johnny Cueto

This group represents the “big four” of the free agency pool.  While Price, Grienke, and Cueto have all had their fair share of experience, heading a pitching staff…..Jordan Zimmerman has never been anything more than a #2 in the Nationals rotation.   Stuck in the shadows of Stephen Strasburg, and then both Stras and Scherzer, J-Zimm has still managed to amaze fans, and put up ace-caliber numbers in the third spot.  I have to say, that’s pretty impressive to do.

All four of these studs will likely command contracts, north of $150 million dollars.  That figures to be too rich for the Phillies blood, but I can’t say it’s impossible for it to happen.

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Group B (The Rocks): Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir, Doug Fister, Hisashi Iwakuma

This group could also be referred to as “secondary aces”.   Samardzija stands out as the only unimpressive player in this group, as he possesses not only a losing career-record, but also holds a career ERA over 4.00.   The remaining three all have career win-percentages above .500, and an ERA under 4.00.

This group of four will command far less money than the first four, but it will still likely be in the $10+ million range.  The only possible option from this group, is a short-term contract for Iwakuma.

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Group C (The Inning-Eaters): Alfred Simon, Mike Leake, Mat Latos, Yovani Gallardo, Jeremy Guthrie

These may not be the flashiest names out there, but they certainly do the job.   They come in, put together solid outings, and eat up the innings in the process. Usually a safe bet for at least six-innings, this group is one of the most under-appreciated groups in baseball.

I’d be hard-pressed to think that the Phillies  pass up on one of these players.  For having such a young staff, inning-eating arms may be a blessing.  With these five likely to command contracts well-south of $10 million/year, the Phillies would be smart to grab an arm on a short-term deal….

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Group D (The Wild-Cards): Mark Buehrle, Bartolo Colon, Ryan Vogelsong, John Lackey, Kyle Lohse

This could also be named the “old-timers” group, as there’s not one player in this list under the age of 37.   All five have been solid pitchers, that have also been prone to their share of clunkers.  Instead of expecting big numbers from these arms, it’d be more reasonable to expect average numbers, with an abundance of veteran leadership.

These pitchers will likely only fetch a one-year deal, in the range of $3-$6 million dollars.  That is probably the smartest, and most likely avenue for the team to explore.  Bring in experienced, back of the rotation cogs, to eat up some innings, and provide some veteran leadership to the youngsters in the clubhouse.

With many options available to them, it will be interesting to see how the Phillies approach free agency.  Will they go big, or will they focus more on low-cost, veteran options to shore up the back-end?  Keep a close eye on TSP, as the off season grows older….we’ll be keeping track of all Phillies transactions.

That does it for the first issue in the “Phillies Offseason Preview” series.  As the weeks go on, stay glued to TSP for additional entries into the “Offseason Preview” series.   Next up on the docket, I’ll take a look at the back end of things, and put the focus on the bullpen….

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