Now that the Philadelphia Phillies have addressed the outfield and the back end of the starting rotation, the one part of the house that needs attention is the bullpen and Grant Balfour should be at the top of the team’s targets. The New York Yankees are said to be interested in Balfour and, if the Phils are smart, they would be wise to cut that team off at the pass.
Fans have to assume that will be next on GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s wish list, but as they have learned with Amaro, assuming that he will do something might be a bit much at this point. If you are going to take him at face value, he says he wants to add and not subtract, while squelching rumors that Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Domonic Brown are on the trading block.
The next need area on the team is the bullpen and adding some talent to that part of the stadium is the area of most need now. It’s no secret that Amaro has sought to unload closer Jonathan Papelbon and that might be adding by subtraction. Papelbon’s fastball has dropped from 97 mph when he signed a three-year deal for $50 million two years ago to 92 mph this year. Arm curls or whatever workouts Papelbon does this offseason probably won’t increase that speed.
So any addition to this team should also include a seventh or eighth inning guy with some experience and success as a closer, should Papelbon implode in 2014. Balfour fits that profile. Seventh-inning left-handed specialist Antonio Bastardo is coming off a PED suspension. Eighth-inning right-handed specialist Mike Adams is coming off surgery and even his availability in April or May is in question.
That’s a lot of question marks especially if Amaro wants to keep starters like Lee and Hamels fresh through six months. The cost of signing a bullpen specialist figures to be high, but the cost of not signing one appears to be higher.