Philadelphia Phillies Trade Speculation: Cost-Effective Roy Oswalt Replacements
What has long been speculated was confirmed last night in St. Louis: Roy Oswalt had been playing injured. Since returning from the disabled list, the normally dominant Oswalt had been very shaky, watching his ERA steadily rise while his strikeouts were at career-low levels. Frankly, he was pitching like a Kyle Kendrick clone. Now he finds himself on the DL again.
With the soon-to-be 34-year-old facing the potential end to his season, it's time for the Phillies to mull the options on how to best replace him. For the time being, the rotation will consist of Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick in the back end. Joe Blanton may return from the DL at some point in the future to help stabilize the rotation, but that is off in the distance as he has yet to start throwing.
The Phillies face more problems than just trying replace an ace in the rotation. They face financial restraints as well. With a payroll already over $170 million, the Phillies are at the threshold of the luxury tax and ownership seems very reluctant to add significant salaries.
Yes, Mike Adams is a reliever but with Kendrick moving into the rotation, there is a bullpen need. Fact is it will probably be difficult and costly to pick up a starter who is an upgrade over Kendrick and/or Worley. Why not instead try to bolster the bullpen?
Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson have been superb so far this year. However, they are going to need some help. Bastardo and Stutes have never been through the rigors of a full season in the MLB and Stutes' walk rate suggests he may be headed for some hard times soon if he doesn't improve his control.
Word around baseball is the Phils have been kicking the tires of bullpen arms—the most prominent name being Heath Bell. But why trade for an expensive (still owed roughly $3.25 million this season), soon-to-be free-agent closer that will cost a lot in terms of prospects?
Especially when Ryan Madson (2.02 ERA, 15 saves, one blown save, 9.9 K/9 IP) has actually outperformed Bell (2.70 ERA, 19 saves, one blown save, 7.2 K/9 IP) this season.
Instead, Bell's teammate Mike Adams might be a better fit. He can slide into a setup role where he has been dominant already (1.35 ERA, 0.630 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 IP) and as he's owed about $1.25 million for the rest of the season, he has a much more favorable contract.
Another reliever. Wood is a very attractive option to supplement the bullpen. This season, the power righty has posted a 2.25 ERA while striking out 7.9 per IP. On top of that, he would come at a very affordable price as he is only owed $750K the rest of the season.
The downside is that his salary is so cheap because he took less money in order to play for the Cubs. Chicago is his home and he has a no-trade clause, making it unlikely he would accept a deal out of town.
However, Wood is 34 years old and a free agent at season's end. The opportunity to win a World Series may be too good for him to pass up knowing that he would be free to re-sign with the Cubs after the season ends.
Minor League Arms
The Phils have no shortage of minor league relievers with a lot of potential. In fact, Michael Stutes may have the lowest ceiling out of the bunch. Drew Carpenter and Michael Schwimer have been tearing up AAA and at 25 and 26 years old, both are major league-ready.
Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont were just both promoted to AAA after terrorizing the Eastern League during the first half of the season. Both are probably not quite seasoned enough to be MLB-ready but will be soon.
In fact, there is enough bullpen talent on the farm; I recently wrote a more in-depth article about it.
Lightning in a Bottle
Under Pat Gillick, getting players on the cheap was a staple. Most notable was the offseason acquisition of Jayson Werth.
They also made in-season moves like that. Lefties J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre anchored the bullpen for several years after being acquired when their previous team designated them for assignment.
Potential DFA candidates that have had past success include Mike Gonzalez, Ryan Franklin, Dustin Richardson and Mark Hendrickson. If released, they would be of minimal cost for the Phillies while allowing for the opportunity to catch lightning in a bottle. Worked with both Romero and Eyre.
Jamie Moyer and Kyle Lohse were lower-profile solutions to starting pitching woes. Ruben Amaro would be smart to look for a move like that.
In recent years, Philly fans have been spoiled with blockbuster moves for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. Another move like that is unlikely this year.
Some lower-profile starters to try and acquire would include Aaron Harang, Kevin Slowey and Jeff Francis.
Bonus Solution: Pedro Martinez
With Cliff Lee back, the Fightin' Phils could bring back Pedro and party like it's 2009! Now this is a little outside-the-box thinking here, but early in the year, Pedro did seem to drop hints that he was staying in shape to make another comeback. He later came out and said that is unlikely.
However, he still hasn't filed his retirement paperwork and until that happens, he remains an option. If the right opportunity should arise—say, a starting spot on a World Series contender—then he would obviously have to give it strong consideration.
This type of move would be a win-win situation He would sign a minor league deal and work his way through the farm system, building up stamina and getting a feel for his pitches. Should he stall out in AAA, then the major league club is not on the hook for the salary and it won't count against the luxury tax.
Any salary he would receive would be prorated to what is left in the season. Last time around, he signed for $1 million. Should he return this year, he would likely seek a similar deal.