The Phillies must shore up their bullpen at the trade deadline. The Phillies bullpen has been decimated by injuries this year, which has forced youngsters Mike Stutes and Antonio Bastardo into more prominent roles. The two have performed beyond expectations, but how will the increased innings or the pressure of the postseason break them?
With Brad Lidge's status as an effective pitcher in doubt when he returns, the Phillies cannot afford to pass on bullpen help.
The Phillies are repeatedly being linked to Heath Bell. Bell would be a good option, but a pricey one. The Cardinals, who find themselves in an unexpected dogfight in the NL Central, seem desperate to match the Brewers acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez. St. Louis could drive up the price of Bell.
Here are six potentially available pitchers, three right handed and three left handed, who could help the Phillies bullpen at a cheaper price.
Uehara does not figure to be in the Orioles long-term plans and they are likely to be looking to see what they can get for him.
Uehara has pitched very well this season with a 1.84 ERA, while limiting hitters to a .150 BAA. Uehara also has excellent control, walking only eight batters in 44 innings. This is a valuable trait in a relief pitcher.
The Nationals are reporting that their All-Star setup man, Clippard, could be available. The righty, like Uehara, boasts an ERA below 2.00. Clippard is equally effective against right and left-handed hitters.
He would be an excellent eighth-inning bridge to Ryan Madson, which would allow Bastardo and Stutes to share the seventh inning. Clippard is also attractive because he will not be an unrestricted free agent until 2016.
The Phillies could make him a key piece of their bullpen for an extended period of time.
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reported that the Phillies and Marlins have been talking about a trade of closer Leo Nunez for pitching prospects.
Nunez has three years of closing experience with the Marlins, but would probably not be expected to fill that role in Philadelphia. Nunez's numbers are not as good as Uehara and Clippard's, but the Marlins look to be sellers at the deadline once again.
The Phillies have enough young prospects to make a play for Nunez. It should not require a top prospect to get him. Like Clippard, Nunez is only eligible for arbitration after the season.
The number of lefties who are likely to be available is limited, as many of the best lefty relievers pitch for contending teams who will not be looking to trade them. However, there are a few viable left-handed options for the Phillies to pursue if they so choose.
Randy Choate is a classic LOOGY (Lefty One Out Guy) as he has appeared in 45 games but only pitched 20.1 innings. The Phillies do not have a guy like this in their bullpen, and Choate has been particularly nasty against lefties this season, limiting them to a .107 average with 23 strikeouts in 56 official at bats.
Choate, like Uehara, is an older player who does not figure in his team's long-term plans. The Marlins should be looking to capitalize on his success this season and deal him to a contender. Choate could be included in a deal for Nunez.
Rzepczynski is a lefty who could be available and pitches to more than one or two batters. He has pitched 39.1 innings in 42 games while only allowing two home runs.
Rzepczynski has a ground ball-fly ball ratio of 1.83, which bodes well for success in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. Right-handed hitters have batted .262 against Rzepczynski this season, compared to .152 for left handers.
If the Phillies acquire Rzepczynski, he could form a platoon with Stutes.
Byrdak, like Choate, is another LOOGY who has bounced around and stayed in the league because of his ability to get lefties out. The Phillies have reportedly been kicking the tires on Byrdak. The Mets look to be undergoing a massive fire sale, and should be willing to move Byrdak, a player who other teams will value more than the Mets do.
The Marlins will probably move Nunez, as his role as closer drives up his value. They may not want to part with Choate as well, a move that would decimate their bullpen. Byrdak is a similar pitcher to Choate who is definitely available.