While much has been made of the Phillies’ desire to add a veteran bat this winter — two, if manager Pete Mackanin gets his wish — Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that adding a veteran starter to provide some stable innings in the rotation “seems to be as big a priority” for GM Matt Klentak as adding to his lineup.
“I don’t think we will ever have the luxury of ignoring starting pitching,” said Klentak. “Starting pitching is the name of the game. We saw it for the first month or two of the year. Every night we were pitching. Our starters were performing. … We were competitive almost every night. At times, throughout the rest of the season, we’ve sputtered along. … But if you can dictate the pace of the game on the mound, you always have a chance to win. We’re never going to ignore that.”
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, acquired with little fanfare this offseason, proved to be that stabilizing force for the Phillies in 2016, but Salisbury writes that he’ll likely go elsewhere (likely after rejecting a qualifying offer, from my own vantage point) and cautions not to expect any type of spending spree on the free agent market this winter. As such, a low-cost free-agent starter — Charlie Morton, Doug Fister and Jorge De La Rosa come to mind as possibilities — or swinging a similar deal to last year’s Hellickson swap could make some sense for the Phils.
Hellickson amounted to a rental for Philadelphia at the time of the deal, as he’d disappointed in his lone season with the D-backs and cost the team a low-level prospect and the willingness to pay Hellickon’s arbitration salary. There may not be a direct comparable to Hellickson’s situation, but the Twins’ Hector Santiago has disappointed in his few months with the team (and has a connection to Klentak from the duo’s Angels days), and left-hander Wade Miley has floundered in Baltimore but still has $9.25MM coming his way through next season. The Phils could also look to acquire a pitcher with a 2017 option that is of borderline value (e.g. Jaime Garcia or Derek Holland) and hope that he experiences better results in 2017.
While some Phillies fans might bemoan the idea of adding a veteran starter when the team has so many enticing young arms, there’s a great deal of uncertainty in Philadelphia’s contingent of young horses. Vince Velasquez has long had durability questions and missed a month on the DL this season, while Aaron Nola had to be shut down for the season due to a UCL/flexor sprain and Zach Eflin underwent surgery on each of his knees. With Hellickson departing, there’s certainly plenty of logic to adding not only a source of potentially quality innings but someone to help mentor the team’s young starters through the ups and downs of a full season at the big league level.
Salisbury also writes that in addition to adding a source of innings to the rotation, the Phillies also figure to look into some veteran relievers. However, Klentak stressed to Salisbury that the Phillies aren’t interested in removing too many opportunities for the team’s younger players to establish themselves. “We want to do everything we can to field the most competitive team on the field that we possibly can,” the GM explained. “We also want to make sure we continue to provide opportunities to our young players to develop. That’s the fine line that we’ll have to tiptoe all offseason.”