The Phillies, through the years, have heavily relied on veterans to get the job done out of the bullpen. When Brad Lidge wasn’t available early in 2010, the Phillies placed the responsibility of closing out ballgames on 38-year-old Jose Contreras rather than 29-year-old Ryan Madson. Even in less-important roles, the Phillies have preferred to go with veterans such as Chad Durbin and Scott Eyre. It wasn’t until last year, out of necessity, that the Phillies finally handed the ball off to the younger arms, starting with Michael Stutes.
After newcomers Jonathan Papelbon and Dontrelle Willis, as well as Contreras, the Phillies will be going into 2012 with a young bullpen. Antonio Bastardo, Kyle Kendrick, and David Herndon each are 27 years old or younger, and the final two spots will be open to competition in spring training. Familiar faces such as Stutes, Justin De Fratus, and Michael Schwimer would be considered for that role along with Phillippe Aumont.
There is a veteran arm out there that has shown up on the Phillies’ radar, however. Over the last three seasons spanning 152 innings, this right-handed pitcher averaged 10 strikeouts and 4.6 walks per nine innings. Last year, he earned just $1.5 million while posting a 10.1 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 with a 3.11 SIERA.
That pitcher is Kerry Wood. According to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, the Phillies and the Chicago Cubs have interest in signing the 35-year-old starter-turned-reliever. Contrary to speculation, Wood does not intend to retire according to one of his recent tweets. He fits the Phillies’ bullpen mold almost perfectly, with the only blemish being his spotty record of health — Wood has missed 80 days to the disabled list in the last two seasons. Wood has experience closing, having finished 132 games in the last four seasons and he has been effective in doing so.
The best part for the Phillies, though, is Wood’s price. As mentioned, he made a paltry $1.5 million last year and does not have the leverage to ask for a significant pay raise. He would slot in the seventh or eighth inning, allowing the possibility for Bastardo to be used as efficiently as possible. If Wood flames out or succumbs to injury, it’s not a big deal and there would be no issue in asking everybody else to move up a notch. Signing Wood would be a low-risk, high-reward (even if unnecessary) move and it would match up with the organizational philosophy we have seen from the Phillies over the last five years.