We all love to put ourselves into the plush office chair and comfy surroundings of our favorite team’s general manager. My office chair is years old and my desk is in a corner of my living room, but why not head to the world of make believe and give myself a promotion?
Signing Kyle Schwarber gave the Phillies a much needed boost. In my little life as Phillies GM, I may have gone after Nick Castellanos or Michael Conforto and might still have an interest in them because I would not have re-signed Odubel Herrera. But in my little world, I took over right after the Schwarber signing, so we will work out from there.
Pitching – we need pitching. We have reworked the bullpen and if a lights out closer happens to come our way, we would still have an interest, but all eyes now have to be on the starting rotation.
Aaron Nola is coming off what we will term an “uncomfortable” season. Odds are that he is going to bounce back. The Phillies hold a team option for him on the 2023 season, so it would be in his best interest to put up some strong numbers this year rather than heading into free agency with two weak seasons on his resume. Things like that can enthuse a player and Nola is simply better than what he showed last season.
All hail Ranger Suarez. The kid really showed his stuff last season and figures to become a stalwart in the rotation. He spent time as both a starter and a reliever in 2021 and could do so again, but most likely, he will be starting from opening day onward.
Kyle Gibson was a nice addition last season overall, but had an ERA on the north side of five with the Phillies. Maybe jitters of fitting in with a new team or adjusting to a steadier diet of National League hitters after spending his previous years in Texas, but he is a bit of a question mark.
Zach Eflin had offseason knee surgery to repair the patellar tendon in his right knee. Unfortunately, this is not the first time he has undergone the procedure, he is a repeat customer having had the same surgery twice now in the last five years. At the time of the surgery, recovery time was put at six to eight months, which means anytime between about now and May, Eflin might be able to pitch. Of course, there will be more time needed for him to get into game shape, which pushes things back further. Add to that a number of injuries over the years and he becomes a question mark.
Then, there’s Zack Wheeler. The Cy Young candidate from a season ago showed up with a balky shoulder and it’s not quite clear whether he will be available for opening day and if not, how long after that it will be until he pitches. If his debut is pushed back, that would give Philadelphia just three/fifths of their starting rotation and because of the revamped schedule, those early season off days that we are used to seeing aren’t there, so you can’t get by with a short staff.
The Phillies need reinforcements or more accurately, insurance. Barring any potential trade for a starter, there are a few remaining free agent options. The potential moves are listed below in no particular order.
Michael Pineda, 33, 9-8 3.62 in 21 starts.
Like Eflin, Pineda has had some injury issues in the past. What about piggybacking Pineda and Eflin as starters? With the DH in the NL, there is less need for pinch-hitters and a team could conceivably carry an extra pitcher.
Zach Davies, 29, 6-12 5.78 in 32 starts.
Numbers are horrible, aren’t they? Yes, he had 32 starts but he only averaged 4.6 innings per start and his ERA was putrid. Why recommend him? His problem last season was walks. In 148 innings he walked a league-high 75 batters. In other seasons, his walk rates weren’t anything that would cause angina. Question is, what went wrong? It was his first season with the Cubs. Did they change his mechanics? Was he just not comfortable in his new spot? It’s something that can be worked on and most likely fixed.
When you look back further, he was solid in 2019 and 2020, going a combined 17-11, 3.30 with Milwaukee (2019) and San Diego (2020). He averaged under three walks per nine innings.
Tyler Anderson, 32, 7-11 4.53 in 31 starts
Another guy with sketchy numbers, but there just aren’t a lot of great numbers left in free agency. Plus, take a deeper dive into the numbers and you will see that when the Mariners acquired him from Pittsburgh, he came in and gave them a back of the rotation boost. In his first 10 starts with the Mariners, Anderson had four quality starts and in 10 of his 13 games in Seattle, he allowed three runs or less.
The ugliness in his numbers cropped up through basically three bad starts, including his last two of the season. On September 25, he got shelled by the Angels, giving up nine earned runs in just two innings. Manager Scott Servais made the decision bring Anderson back on short rest against Oakland and he gave his team four strong innings. He was again battered by the Angels in the season finale. His other bad outing was his first trip to the mound with the Angels when the Rangers got him for three earned runs in five innings. Take away those three outings and he had a 3.93 ERA down the stretch with Seattle. It’s worth noting that Seattle won seven of his 10 good starts as well.
Remember, teams can do some interesting things with the DH rule now in effect. Teams are also looking for ways to reinvent the starting rotation, so piggybacking a couple of guys is not out of the question. The prospect of a six-man rotation is also on the table.