There are two possible five-man starting-pitching rotations for the 2014 Philadelphia Phillies—the one they should have and the one they probably will have.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. all but conclusively answered the question of which five pitchers will be in the rotation when the Phillies leave Clearwater in March in remarks he made recently, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nobody needs Amaro Jr. to confirm that Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick are the first three pitchers in the rotation. They held those positions in 2013, and no one in the organization has the stuff or the track record to take any of their slots entering 2014.
It is with reference to the last two spots in the rotation as the Phillies are currently constructed that guidance is needed. Amaro provided it in the context of the signing of Roberto Hernandez in the Gelb piece: "This is not someone who is going to slide into the top of the rotation. He's in the bottom of the rotation. But we need some depth."
Where is the rest of that depth going to come from?
"We've talked a lot internally about some of our options," Amaro Jr. continued. "(Jonathan) Pettibone and Ethan Martin will be stretched out in spring training. Hopefully that will create enough depth for us. We're going to try to continue to look for more depth there."
The wild card (in every sense of that term) is Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. D.J. Short of Hardball Talk laid out the caveats on Gonzalez concisely in October: "While Gonzalez was originally expected to sign a six-year, $48 million contract with the Phillies, the deal was reworked amid concerns about the health of his throwing elbow." Gonzalez signed for $12 million over three years.
The Phillies would be thrilled to see Gonzalez go to spring training and dominate. More likely, though, he will start the season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Based on the arms the Phillies have on hand, the rotation is almost certainly going to be Hamels/Lee/Kendrick/Hernandez followed by Pettibone, if he is healthy, or Martin if Pettibone is still unable to go.
The rotation should be Hamels/Lee/free-agent signing/Kendrick/Hernandez. Matt Garza, Ervin Santana or A.J. Burnett would slot really nicely into the No. 3 role, and any of those right-handers could be used to split up left-handers Hamels and Lee.
But don't count on such a signing. Amaro Jr. said: "(W)e're trying to get the best bang for our buck. In this marketplace, it's tough because the prices have soared pretty significantly."