Even with a bullpen that added top set-up man Mike Adams this off-season, the Philadelphia Phillies saw fit to bring back a familiar name from the past, Chad Durbin, for 2013.
The team reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the veteran right-hander, that also includes a team option for 2014.
While the expectation is that Durbin will give them an experienced arm leading into the late innings, you might say that the team could be paying more for the former rather than Durbin’s ability to do the latter.
Headed into his age-35 season in 2013, Durbin is coming off his second-straight below replacement value season, with -0.4 fWAR in 2012. His ERA might look pretty good at 3.10, but a .251 BABIP and a career-high full season 81.6% strand rate suggests that he was helped somewhat by the baseball gods, even if he was more successful at inducing ground balls last season than the last few years.
Going against Durbin is his control (1.75 K/BB), and a home run rate that continued to hover above 1.30 HR/9 for the season year in a row. What it all means is that Durbin isn’t exactly what you’d call the most reliable of relievers. He walks a good number of batters, and gives up more than his fair share of homers. Any success he has on the mound will live and die by the BABIP and his ability to get ground balls, as his wildly inconsistent career numbers might suggest.
That said, with Jonathan Papelbon, Adams, and Antonio Bastardo having locked down the jobs in the final innings, the Phillies aren’t necessarily signing Durbin for high-leverage situations here. It might also be worth noting that two of Durbin’s most successful seasons where with the Phillies (2008 and 2010), and a return engagement to the organization could yield similar results.
If anything, Durbin is capable of being a replacement-level arm who had been durable over the years, and his experience may help some of the young arms, like Phillippe Aumont, continue to establish their game in the big leagues.