The days of the four aces in Philadelphia ended when Roy Oswalt struggled to stay healthy for much of 2011 and then departed in free agency after the season. If the Philadelphia Phillies fail to re-sign Cole Hamels or if they trade him before the July 31 deadline, that will mark the end of the three aces in Philly, leaving the team with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Vance Worley as definites for next year’s rotation.
Kyle Kendrick has rotated from the bullpen to the rotation during his six years with the major league club, but ideally, the team will stick him in the ‘pen next year and find someone else to start games. The Phillies will need pitchers to start whether through free agency or the minor leagues. Here are some possible candidates.
In an earlier article, I mentioned Tyler Cloyd as a possible candidate to make an impact for the Phillies next year. He’s a 25-year-old pitcher who is tearing it up in Triple-A to the tune of an 8-1 record, a 2.01 ERA, and his first All-Star appearance.
Cloyd may have a similar path to the majors as Worley, another 25-year old right-hander who snuck up the system and has excelled thus far in the major leagues. Cloyd will probably see action later in 2012 when the September rosters expand to 40 players, and if he performs well in limited innings, there’s no reason not to give him a shot in ’13.
Trevor May is the top pitcher in the Phillies organization and he’s probably going to be ranked in the top 50 prospects per Baseball America by the time the 2013 season rolls around.
May is 22 years old and he’s showing all the signs that he will be an excellent starting pitcher in the major leagues someday soon. He is 7-6 with a 4.92 ERA in 17 Double-A starts in 2012, and while the ERA is higher than preferred, May’s growing pains while he pitches should soon fade. He has a 11.4 career strikeout rate per nine innings and he is tough to hit when he’s on.
The 2013 season may be pushing it for May to join the rotation considering he still hasn’t even played in Triple-A. But if he gets a promotion to Triple-A sometime in ’13, it might be worth seeing if he can perform at the major league level.
This would be a huge acquisition, and it would only happen if the Phillies traded Cole Hamels or let him walk, since there’s no way the team could afford to pay Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Greinke.
Greinke is similar to Hamels in that he is a 28-year old pitcher set to hit free agency (they were born within three months of each other). Greinke is 9-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 19 starts this year, and he’s striking out a batter per inning. Greinke has a Cy Young award to his name (16-8, league-leading 2.16 ERA in 2009), and he was 16-6 with a 3.83 ERA and a ridiculous 10.5 K/9 rate and 4.47 strikeout to walk ratio in 2011 for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Greinke will probably get something similar to what Matt Cain got, and Cain got six years for $127.5 million. That’s a lot of money to pay, and Greinke hasn’t been quite as consistent. He was just 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA in 2010 and he has led the league in losses before. Greinke would be a phenomenal addition but that’s a ridiculous amount of money to pay.
If the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim decline Dan Haren’s option for the 2013 season, Haren would be a terrific addition to the Phillies. He’s having an off year in his contract year which means he could probably be obtained at a cheaper value.
Haren has been remarkably consistent and durable throughout his career. He is just 6-8 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts, and he’s led the league in starts three times. Haren’s hit rate and home run rate are up but that’s more of an indicator of bad luck than anything, as his strikeouts are right on par with his career average. Haren is 31 years old which means a four-year deal would probably work, and he’s led the league in strikeout to walk ratio three times, so he would fit right in with Halladay and Lee.
Shawn Marcum is an average number two or three starter, and he would be a great fit for the Phillies at a reasonable price of maybe four years, $40 million.
Marcum has posted an ERA under 4.00 for four straight seasons and his 55-35 career record and 3.73 ERA are pretty solid numbers, as is his 2.67 strikeout to walk ratio. He won’t blow anyone away with his stuff but he can get a team 12-14 wins and a 3.50 ERA.
If the Phillies let Hamels walk, Joe Saunders could be a lefty who could fill in the rotation as the third starter. He’s nowhere near Hamels’ caliber, but he’s a solid enough pitcher who was 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA in 33 starts in 2011.
Saunders is just 4-5 but with a 3.44 ERA in 2012 for Arizona, and good run support keeps him from being recognized for the underrated pitcher he is. He is 31 years old and hitting free agency for the first time. Three years for $30-35 million seems plausible.
There’s probably not much left in Derek Lowe’s right arm, but say the Phillies want a one-year stopgap before they see if Cloyd and May are ready to join the rotation in 2014.
Lowe could be that guy. He’s having a good year in Cleveland, at 8-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 17 starts. Lowe has made at least 32 starts for a ridiculous 10 straight seasons and he’s strictly a ground ball pitcher who pitches to contact but he gets more success than a guy like Kendrick.
Lowe’s strikeouts are down to a laughable 3.0 per nine innings in 2012 which could be frightening in the aspect that he may not have that much left at all. Then again, he is a ground ball pitcher and he isn’t being paid for his strikeouts.
For some strange reason, Edwin Jackson only signed a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals for 2012 despite a very good 2011 campaign that included a 12-9 record and 3.71 ERA.
Jackson is 5-4 with a 3.73 ERA for the Nationals this year with a 2.53 strikeout to walk ratio. Those are similar numbers to a guy like Marcum, and he will probably get a four-year deal this time when he hits free agency. Considering he’s been on seven teams in seven years, maybe he likes being a one-year rental for a team but someone would probably be willing to give him a handful of years.
The Texas Rangers seem to be overloaded with starting pitchers now that they’ve acquired Yu Darvish and Roy Oswalt, and moved Neftali Feliz to the rotation. If they make a trade for Hamels, then they definitely won’t bring back Lewis.
He is hitting free agency after the season and he’s going to get a solid deal of three or so years for close to $30 million. Lewis is 6-6 with a 3.51 ERA in 15 starts and he’s displaying phenomenal control, leading the league in fewest walks per nine innings (1.1) and strikeout to walk ratio (7.50).
Erik Bedard is a risk considering he’s never really lived up to the potential he showed back in 2007 when he struck out an incredible 10.9 batters per nine innings and led the AL in fewest hits allowed per nine innings. He has struggled with inconsistency and injuries since then, and he’s on just a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bedard is struggling in 2012, as he is 4-10 with a 4.80 ERA through 17 starts, and he leads the NL with 10 losses. He’s struggled with his control (4.1 BB/9) but he still strikes out a high percentage of hitters (8.1 K/9) and it may be worth taking a chance on a good lefty like Bedard on a two-year deal.