In exactly three weeks from today, pitchers and catchers will be reporting to the Philadelphia Phillies‘ Spring Training complex in Clearwater, Fla. One of them, Chad Gaudin, might be the most significant acquisition of the offseason for GM Ruben Amaro Jr.
The Phillies had plenty of problems at the end of last season, but two stood out: the team could not hit and had a leaky back-end of the bullpen. Amaro felt he at least addressed the situation by adding a hitter in Marlon Byrd. The jury is still out on Byrd, who is coming off a career year but is 36 and susceptible to the ailments of age.
Gaudin, 30, is another story altogether. The relief pitcher is younger than Byrd and, if used properly, can help bridge the game from starters like Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee to Jonathan Papelbon, who will be pitching for a new contract.
Unlike the current members of the Phils’ bullpen, Gaudin is a proven commodity. He was a product of good scouting in the Tampa Bay Rays system, a 34th-round pick in 2001 who took only two years to get to the majors. Last year, while pitching in 30 games for the San Francisco Giants, he went 5-2 with a career-best 3.06 ERA.
The fact that he’s been able to stay in the major leagues without a stop in the minors since his arrival in Tampa in 2003 demonstrates significant value, yet the Phillies were able to sign him to a minor league contract, so he will be hungry to make the team. If Gaudin becomes a reliable seventh- and eighth-inning pitcher, Amaro would have accomplished something this offseason. Not much, but something.