What Is the Roy Halladay Contingency Plan?

Roy Halladay had to leave yesterday afternoon’s spring training affair due to a stomach illness, continuing what has been another ugly spring for the two-time Cy Young award winner. Halladay had allowed six runs in 2.2 innings of work in his previous start, an outing which was followed up by reports of low velocity readings and concern from scouts. Naturally, Halladay’s continued spring malaise has led many to worry about the right-hander’s ability to contribute in 2013, though catcher Erik Kratz and manager Charlie Manuel both insisted Halladay is fine.

That does bring up the ugly question that needs to be asked, though: if Halladay isn’t able to go at some point during the season, what do the Phillies do? Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan sit behind Halladay on the depth chart at #4 and 5 in the rotation, respectively, and would be bumped up a slot in his absence. Who would be available in case of emergency?

  • Tyler Cloyd: Aside from a bad final start on September 27 last year, Cloyd was surprisingly solid in his first taste of big league action. As advertised, he was stingy with the walks and surprisingly missed bats at a 22 percent clip in 33 innings of work. He projects as a replacement-level starter at best, though, with an arsenal that isn’t likely to fool Major League hitters once they become familiar with his approach. In a pinch, though, Cloyd could be handy.
  • Rodrigo Lopez: Lopez spent some time with the Phillies in 2009, posting a 5.70 ERA in 30 innings at the Major League level, and a 4.31 in 100.1 innings with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Since then, he has spent time with the Diamondbacks, Braves, and Cubs. In 2010 in Arizona, he allowed a league-leading 111 runs and 37 home runs. He may have earned himself some consideration with seven shutout innings in spring training thus far. In all honesty, the 37-year-old is below replacement-level and isn’t likely to be any more helpful to the Phillies in a pinch than their other options.
  • Aaron Cook: Another veteran trying to keep his Major League career afloat. Since 2010, Cook has a 5.54 ERA in 318.2 innings with his strikeout rate (nine percent) barely exceeding his walk rate (eight percent). Cook, like Lannan, lives and dies on his ability to generate ground balls (57 percent) and on his defense to convert them into outs. In an infield that includes Michael Young and Ryan Howard, that may be a dangerous proposition. Though not perfect like Lopez, a strong spring showing (2.45 ERA in 11 innings) will leave a positive impression.
  • Jonathan Pettibone: Pettibone got his first taste of Triple-A competition last year, posting a 2.55 ERA in 42.1 innings. The bulk of his time was spent with Double-A Reading, though, where his ERA was 3.30 in 117.1 innings. Among prospects, he is the most MLB-ready in the system and may be the go-to guy in the event Halladay would be out for an extended period of time. The Phillies may not want to promote Pettibone to the Majors if he is only making one or two starts, since that would disrupt his routine established in Lehigh Valley, and it would unnecessarily start his arbitration clock earlier than is necessary.

There are also a few free agents left out there:

  • Kyle Lohse: Lohse, seeking a big contract during the off-season, still has not signed with a team. The general consensus is that the right-hander will have to accept a one-year “pillow contract”, but even that is unattractive to many teams since those who are not picking in the top-ten of June’s amateur draft must surrender their first round pick to sign him. Additionally, there is some skepticism of pitchers who find success in St. Louis and Lohse is one of them. Lohse is also 34 years old and has had a few bouts with injuries. Though Lohse has a 3.11 ERA in 399.1 innings over the last two seasons, it doesn’t seem worth giving up the #16 overall pick for a pitcher who didn’t face any spring competition.
  • Roy Oswalt: Oswalt could do “the Clemens” — that is, join a team around the midpoint of the regular season, as he did last year with the Texas Rangers. Making his season debut on June 22, the right-hander posted a 6.49 ERA through six starts before being moved to the bullpen. He made a few more starts through the end of the season, but it was a disappointment. In a second go with the Phillies, GM Ruben Amaro would be hoping the veteran could recapture some of his success from 2010-11.
  • Carlos Zambrano: Though without a Major League home, Zambrano did pitch for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, allowing two runs in 3.2 innings. 2012 was his worst season going by peripherals as the difference between his strikeout and walk rates (3.4 percent) was the lowest of his career. Still, he is only 31 years old and does not have an extensive injury history.

If you ask me, I’d call upon Cloyd for a short-term fix and Pettibone for a season-long fix, if necessary. Cloyd’s arbitration clock has already begun and doesn’t stand to gain anything more by consistently being in Triple-A, so he could be someone who makes a couple starts here and there throughout the season as is necessary. Pettibone would benefit more from pitching every fifth day, something which would only be guaranteed if Halladay were to land on the disabled list for an extended period of time, and something he would definitely get with Lehigh Valley.

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