Heath Bell and Bullpen Help

Buster Olney kicked up some dust Friday when he tweeted a tweety tweet about the Phillies knocking on doors, looking for relief help.

Seemingly content with the state of the bench – at least, prioritizing it below the ‘pen – Ruben Amaro, Jr. looks to have run out of patience with regard to the health issues of Jose Contreras and Brad Lidge. In tandem with the likely loss of Roy Oswalt for what appears to be a not-insignificant amount of time, the rationale is understandable.

Oswalt, who has averaged more than six innings per start in his time with the Phillies, will now yield time to whichever one of Kyle Kendrick or Vance Worley wasn’t going to be the regular fifth starter anyway, and that shift could put extra strain on the ‘pen. Worley has averaged exactly five innings per start in the Majors – and exactly 5.2 IP per start through his minor league career – and Kendrick has averaged just better than 5.1 IP per start as a Major League starter.

Either way you slice it, that’s an average of one extra inning per start that the Philly ‘pen will need to cover, and neither Kendrick nor Worley will be available to do the work any longer.

The core bullpen trio of Madson, Bastardo and Stutes has performed admirably to date. Combining for 81.2 IP, 89 K and 32 uIBB with a 1.76 cumulative ERA, these three have been up to the task all season. Beyond them, however, lies a murky sea of uncertainty. Danys Baez, since his majestic, five-inning relief appearance May 29, has an 11.88 ERA in 8.1 IP. J.C. Romero is gone. David Herndon, while continuing to get ground balls, yields only modest work; sort of this era’s Clay Condrey.

With word leaking that the Phillies have interest in Heath Bell, then, it seems like Amaro is not content to let Herndon start pitching high-leverage innings. As good as the top three have been, they can’t pitch every game. Ask Pedro Feliciano how that method works out.

A reliever like Bell would simultaneously lighten the load on the three most reliable relievers – two of whom aren’t the most seasoned of veterans, for what that’s worth – while adding an arm that’s produced 341.1 IP of 2.56 ERA baseball with 9.5 K/9 since 2007.

Again, this is always assuming the price is right, but Bell seems more and more like a guy the Phillies could really use. He’ll be entering free agency this winter, having exhausted his final bit of arbitration eligibility, and earns a wage the Phillies can probably afford. As of May 30, the MLB Trade Rumors’ unofficial Elias projection had Bell slated to be a Type A free agent. As Bell is certain to seek a multi-year deal worth quite a bit of money, he would absolutely decline arbitration.

Guessing which prospects would be of fair value is not really my style, and I can’t attest to what San Diego may covet, should Bell be available. What I do believe is that Bell is a solid arm this bullpen may not need right now, but will almost certainly need soon.

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    June 24, 2011 02:02 PM


  2. hk

    June 24, 2011 02:07 PM

    Since Bell is a Type A free agent, it would seem as though San Diego would want a nice haul of prospects in return. Otherwise, they’ll be better off holding him and getting the two draft choices as compensation.

  3. soundofphilly

    June 24, 2011 02:24 PM

    It’s impressive how well Stutes and Bastardo have done this year.

  4. Richard

    June 24, 2011 02:41 PM

    I wonder how Bell would factor into the mix, with Madson currently closing.

    Also, though I agree he’s not the answer, it’s worth noting that Herndon has been genuinely excellent since he was recalled from the minors.

  5. MplsPhilsFan

    June 24, 2011 03:24 PM

    Heath Bell is a top reliever, and to acqurie him would cost more than the 2 picks that San Diego would receive if he leaves via free agency.

    I cannot see the Phillies would part with a Cosart, a May or someone of that nature to acquire him and I doubt that a package of Rizzotti Overbeck and Mathieson would be sufficient.

    I agree that as well as Stutes, Bastardo & Madson have done, that you cannot overwork them, but generic middle relief is often available around the trade deadline for minimal cost. Think of Romero in 2008 and how well he did for us then.

    Unfortunately, because of the cash constraints the Phils are facing this year, I do not see them doing anything other than making marginal moves for free agents.

    One thing I do feel confident in stating is that this will be Oswalt’s last year with the Phillies. I cannot see them picking up that 2012 option now, and will buy him out for $2 million. That does free up more funds to resign Hamels, which is an imperative

  6. Matt in NYC

    June 24, 2011 04:18 PM

    You might be able to get it done for something like Biddle and Valle. Maybe replace one of those 2 with Worley if/when Blanton is back.

    I think it’s too much, but it is a “win now” team…

  7. Dan

    June 24, 2011 10:31 PM

    We can’t afford to give up Valle, we are thin on catching prospects (almost as thin as SS). As for Biddle, he’s young… but he’s a lefty that has reportedly already touched 97 on the radar. That is incredible and I can’t see them giving him up. At least not while his stock is pretty low.

    Anyways, I would hate giving up prospects for a reliever. Most relievers are relievers because they weren’t good enough to be starters. If we need a long man, call up one of the AAA starters (Mathieson was called up and he has been starting some games recently, so that probably takes care of that). As for giving the high leverage guys a break, we owe it to our in-house options to give them a shot before spending on an outside source. De Fratus and Schwimer have both earned a shot, as has Carpenter. If we’re not going to give the young guys a shot, then what’s the point of drafting?

    If the Phils do end up giving away prospects for a reliever, I’ll be upset. Although they’d have to do something seriously stupid to make me more upset than I am that Mike Richards was traded to L.A….


    June 25, 2011 02:06 AM

    As good of a pitcher as Heath Bell is, he is not worth the kind of prospect haul the Padres are likely to want for him. Maybe if he was under contract for a few years you’d consider something, but you do not give up top prospects for a rental, especially not a reliever rental. Now if the Phillies could somehow make a trade for Bell that doesn’t involve any top prospects…

  9. Jim Z.

    June 25, 2011 08:44 AM

    If the Padres ask for Domonic Brown in a trade for Heath Bell, would it be worthwhile to consider such a trade? Brown was once considered a top prospect, but has shown to be a sub-optimal hitter in the majors. If you feel that such a player will never be a “star” in the majors, maybe it would be a passable trade at this point to swap him for elite bullpen help?

  10. hk

    June 25, 2011 09:03 AM

    Jim Z., it would be a horrible idea to judge Brown on 186 PA’s, many of which were obtained last year while he was being used infrequently. This year, Brown has been unlucky in his 116 PA’s, but his peripheral numbers (K%, BB% and BABIP) all portend good things to come.

  11. LTG

    June 25, 2011 09:24 AM

    Jim Z.,

    While it is true that Brown has not lived up to the hype, it is also no surprise. He’s 23 and has to adjust to playing in the MLB. For the current season he has an OPS+ of 90. When Manny Ramirez first hit the bigs, his was 33; Bernie Williams 91; Jermaine Dye 94 (then 69 and 56 in the next two years). Young players will struggle at first before making all of the adjustments necessary to becoming excellent starters. Brown has shown signs of improvement. His walk rate is up and his strikeout rate is down from last season. His BABIP is .212, down from .282 last season. Of course, some of that is due to his low line drive rate, and that needs to improve. But some of that is also just bad luck. Since he has improved his discipline at the plate, I expect he’ll start making more solid contact and his OPS will rise as a result. From this I conclude that Brown is still an important piece for the Phillies’ future and should not be thrown away for a rent-a-reliever. The tougher question is whether Brown could be included in a package for a guy like Kemp. I don’t think he should, but I’m sure informed people disagree with me about that.

    So, in light of Madson’s puffy hand, does that change the trade-or-not-to-trade calculus?

  12. LTG

    June 25, 2011 09:42 AM

    hk, you beat me to the punch…


    June 25, 2011 01:14 PM

    Brown STILL has sky-high potential, and it’s still WAYYYYYYYYY too soon to give up on him, since he is regularly giving great at bats but is getting a bit of bad luck which should hopefully even out pretty soon. He has great power potential, very good plate discipline, and should be a very good defender in RF with a bit more experience. Now if we were offered Justin Upton for a package including Brown, I may consider it… but that’d ONLY be if he still had some years left on his contract with Arizona and/or an extension in place with the Phillies.

  14. Paul Boye

    June 25, 2011 02:06 PM

    Agreeing with those above me. Far too early to bail on Brown. Guys with this kind of potential need multiple years, and Brown doesn’t even have one year’s worth of PA.

  15. hk

    June 25, 2011 07:58 PM


    Upton has a team friendly deal with the D-Backs through 2014, so unfortunately, I don’t think that deal’s going to happen…especially with the D-Backs in contention.


    June 26, 2011 02:44 AM

    Yeah, I really don’t expect them to trade Justin Upton…but I also didn’t expect them to trade Dan Haren(who also had a great contract, and I wanted him over Oswalt) when they did so I guess anything is possible. The ironic part is that if they still had Haren, I think they have an easier time winning the NL West. With SF dealing with injuries and player regressions, I still think Arizona has a very good chance of representing the NL West in the playoffs even without Haren.

  17. hk

    June 26, 2011 07:16 PM

    I agree, especially considering that they only player on the Arizona roster from the trade is the mediocre at best Joe Saunders.

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