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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.