When the Philadelphia Phillies signed Chad Qualls to a one-year deal on January 31, it wasn’t seen as one of the team’s biggest moves of the offseason, but they did add a solid reliever.
Qualls is a workhorse, and he was one of just four pitchers to pitch at least 70 games for each of the five seasons from 2004 through 2008. Qualls struggled mightily in 2010 with both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays, posting a 7.32 ERA in 59 innings.
He rebounded in ’11 to accumulate a solid 3.51 ERA in 74.1 innings with the San Diego Padres. Qualls is a ground ball pitcher and he doesn’t strike out a high percentage of batters, but he exhibits good control and limits his walks.
He’s going to be one of the veterans in the Phillies bullpen. Jose Contreras has struggled to stay healthy, and Qualls may be the odds-on favorite to be the seventh inning man. He has experience pitching as a closer and as a setup man.
One of the concerns about Qualls may be his declining strikeout rate, as he went from 7.8 K/9 in 2009 to 7.5 K/9 in 2010 to just 5.2 last season. A sharp drop in strikeouts is typically the number one indicator a pitcher’s abilities are going, but fortunately for the Phillies, Qualls isn’t a strikeout pitcher primarily: He’s a ground ball pitcher that pitches to contact and tries to get outs.
If he can pitch in 70 games with an ERA around what he posted last year for the Padres, the Phillies will take it. He’s on just a one-year, $1.15 million deal, meaning if he struggles, it’s no significant loss to simply part ways with him. Qualls is probably just in Philly for one year, but if he produces well, he may warrant a two to three-year deal next offseason.