The Phillies' top priorities this offseason are to upgrade the bench, find a new third baseman, and retool the back end of the bullpen which was so good in their World Series-winning season two baseball years ago.
On Monday, they made a huge step towards improving the bench when they decided to remove Eric Bruntlett from the 40-man roster, which means he will become a free agent.
I have already said that the Phils should get either Garrett Atkins or Adrian Beltre to replace Pedro Feliz as the Phillies' everyday third baseman, with Mark DeRosa being another guy that I wouldn’t mind picking up.
Yesterday, I said that the Phillies should take a chance on free agent starter Ben Sheets to solidify the starting rotation.
So how do you fix a bullpen which ranked ninth in the National League last year?
As a whole group, the bullpen posted a respectable 3.91 earned run average. However, they blew 22 save opportunities, led by closer Brad Lidge and his 11 blown saves.
While Ryan Madson had a strong season as the setup man, his identity wasn’t known for most of the season because of the uncertainly that Lidge was each and every night.
Scott Eyre also had a terrific year in his role as the left-handed specialist, but he is a free agent and had surgery last week to repair some loose bodies in his elbow. To boot, he’s pondering retirement.
Ruben Amaro Jr. will have a pretty solid group of guys to pick from to improve the ‘pen. However, I wonder if Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Brandon Lyon could help the Phightins in a setup role.
Lyon, 30, appeared in 65 games last year with the Tigers while posting a 6-5 record with a 2.86 ERA and 15 holds in 78.2 innings. It was his only season playing in the Motor City.
In 2008, Lyon spent most of the season closing games out for the Arizona Diamondbacks, in which he converted 26 of 34 save opportunities with a 4.70 ERA.
I think he’s a guy that the Phillies should target in free agency because his numbers from last year are impressive, and he is a guy who has closer experience, so if Lidge falters again, you have a guy to fall back on.
Lyon can retire both right-handers and left-handers as shown last year, when both hit .205 off him. What’s most impressive is that he only surrendered one home run to lefties while giving up six to righties.
In 21 save situations last year with the Tigers, Lyon allowed only 11 hits and four runs in 20 innings, which hammers out to a 1.99 ERA. He struck out 21 batters compared to just eight walks.
With two outs and runners in scoring position, opposing batters only hit .190 off him, which shows that he performs well when there are guys on second or third with one out to get.
The only disturbing stat regarding Lyon is that in three games played at Citizens Bank Park, he has given up two runs in 2.1 innings, which is a 7.71 ERA.
He has been pitching in pitcher’s parks the last five seasons while playing for the Diamondbacks and Detroit. Adjusting to a hitter’s haven like the Bank would be something he would have to do.
Another plus in signing Lyon for the Phillies is that he has proven to be a very good postseason pitcher. In five playoff games, Lyon has allowed only one hit and has five strikeouts to go with no runs allowed.
Lyon would be a solid option as a seventh or eighth inning guy for the Phillies depending on how they plan on determining the closer. Will Lidge be handed the job, or will Madson get a fair shot?
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