Bullpen News: Horst, Adams, Stutes

Matt Gelb with the latest on a trio of Phillies relievers:

twitter.com/magelb/statuses/358325081837019136

Mike Adams is on the DL with multiple tears in his right shoulder. Jeremy Horst has a strained left elbow. Michael Stutes has right biceps tendinitis. The Phillies are going to have to start and finish the second half of the season with a hodgepodge bullpen. The crazy thing is it might actually work as there is very little discernible difference Luis Garcia, Jake Diekman, and Phillippe Aumont and the aforementioned trio. Such is often the case when bullpens end up playing musical chairs.

David Schoenfield wrote about how closers are overrated recently, and this stuck with me:

Look at the major league save leaders from 2011: Jose Valverde, Kimbrel, John Axford, J.J. Putz, Rivera, Heath Bell, Drew Storen, Joel Hanrahan, Francisco Cordero, Brandon League, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Perez, Brian Wilson, Carlos Marmol, Jordan Walden, Neftali Feliz, Ryan Madson, Jonathan Papelbon, Sergio Santos.

That’s 19 closers who all saved at least 30 games. Only four are still doing the job — the three guys Buster mentioned, plus Papelbon, who switched teams (or five if you count Bell in Arizona, although his hold on the role is tenuous). Joe Nathan missed part of 2011 with an injury, so count him as well if you want, although he too has changed teams. By the way, most of those 19 guys were pretty good in 2011; 14 had an ERA under 3.00.

Lots of old guys in that list, and lots of injuries. The reason why many say relief pitchers are volatile is because they pitch so few innings relative to starters that you can’t trust their results in any given season. Additionally, compared to starters, relievers tend to have a more risky repertoire than starters since they throw harder and can more often and more consecutively throw max-effort pitches. Studies on injuries are mostly inconclusive, but Jose Ortiz of USA Today found at least some link between relief pitcher velocity and injury predisposition. Bullpens also tend to be comprised mostly of older pitchers that couldn’t cut it in the rotation for one reason or another. Generally speaking, young players wind up in the bullpen either because they are prodigies (Craig Kimbrel) or because the team has exhausted most of its other options (Joe Savery).

With the Phillies seemingly positioned as buyers in the final two weeks leading up to the July 31 deadline, recognizing the frailty of a bullpen is important. The recent news on Horst, Adams, and Stutes might make GM Ruben Amaro even more hesitant to trade closer Jonathan Papelbon, even though he is clearly declining. The Phillies received news on their bullpen at the same time the Red Sox learned that reliever Andrew Bailey is likely headed to season-ended shoulder surgery. The Red Sox had expressed some interest in bringing back Papelbon as recently as two weeks ago.

It seems counter-intuitive to trade away the most reliable member of your bullpen, especially after getting news that three of your other relievers are gone for the season, but the Phillies would be relying on the depth of their bullpen no matter the case. Papelbon throwing another 30 innings, maybe a third of which would be in legitimate high-leverage situations, doesn’t change the team’s fate.

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25 comments

  1. GB

    July 20, 2013 06:55 AM

    I’m willing to bet Amaro gets a reliever at the deadline and probably one during the off-season too again….the guys never learns a lesson and the pen has been one he’s ignored the most over the years….Durbin, Contreras, Qualls, Baez, Adams, Romero, Lidge…how many more times do you need to sign a vet FA or extend a vet before you understand it usually does not work out, you waste valuable resources & delay promotion of younger talent? Please sink in finally! Trade Papelbon while he has any value left, bring in cheap FA to compete and let the young guys develop…we’re not winning anything this year anyway

  2. hk

    July 20, 2013 07:12 AM

    GB,

    Right message. Wrong GM. I think Papelbon will serve as this team’s closer through 2106.

  3. husky

    July 20, 2013 12:55 PM

    Move Hamels to the bullpen. The kid is washed up.

  4. Pencilfish

    July 20, 2013 08:37 PM

    Bill,

    On one hand you have tirelessly advocated trading Papelbon because he’s expensive and declining, but on the other hand, you also advocate re-signing Utley who is also declining. It’s likely Utley will ask for a multi-year deal (a la Rollins) that may make him expensive as well. I don’t mind if people are emotionally attached to Utley, but this seems to be the classic case of trying to have your cake and eat it too.

  5. Bill Baer

    July 20, 2013 08:43 PM

    Here

    Quoth myself:

    [...] under the assumption the team is serious about contending in the NL East.

    [...] It is more important to get a good return on Utley in a trade than anything else at this point in the timeline.

    At any rate, Utley isn’t even declining, at least with the bat.

  6. Pencilfish

    July 21, 2013 03:31 PM

    Utley’s OPS post-2010 shows a significant dip. I haven’t looked at his defensive stats, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost a step in the field due to age. Injuries have limited Utley to less than 120 games 2010-2012. Barring any setbacks, Utley may just squeak by 120 games this year. In effect, we have been paying Utley $15M for ~375 AB’s 2010-2012. That’s overpay. In fairness, we underpaid pre-2010.

    The most compelling reason to resign Utley to a team-friendly deal is the lack of alternatives on the performance/$ scale. The Phillies won’t win the Cano sweepstakes, and we have no credible internal options right now. The same can’t be said for Michael Young, Ruiz and perhaps Papelbon.

  7. hk

    July 21, 2013 07:02 PM

    There’s also the matter of Papelbon being a relief pitcher who pitches ~60 innings, many in low leverage situations, per year while Utley plays 2B. If he produces 4 WAR in 120 games, he still produced 4 WAR.

  8. Pencilfish

    July 21, 2013 07:27 PM

    hk,

    yes, my point is that we can’t find someone to replace Utley’s performance/$. That’s why we try to keep him. Having said that, Utley is a very high injury risk. I can’t even venture to guess what kind of team-friendly contract he will find acceptable.

    Papelbon is an expensive luxury, but before dealing him away, we have to ask if his performance/$ can be replaced. In my opinion, not internally, so who’s going to be available (via trade and/or FA) this year and onwards? We can’t ignore that question if Papelbon is dealt away.

    We have internal replacements for Michael Young (Asche and maybe later Franco). Finding replacements for Ruiz and DY is more challenging, but less so than Utley.

  9. hk

    July 22, 2013 06:13 AM

    “Finding replacements for Ruiz and DY is more challenging”

    36 RF’s have accumulated as many PA’s as DY has this year and only one, JD Martinez, has been worse. RAJ is the only GM for whom replacing DY might be a challenge. If this team would embrace platooning, the answer is 30% Mayberry + 70% of a solid LH-hitting RF (like someone in the Schierholtz mold). Also, considering that Chooch has barely been above replacement level this year, replacing him and expecting equal or better value should not be too hard.

    “Papelbon is an expensive luxury, but before dealing him away, we have to ask if his performance/$ can be replaced. In my opinion, not internally, so who’s going to be available (via trade and/or FA) this year and onwards?”

    In addition to embracing platooning, this team should embrace the idea that teams don’t need a proven closer to win. Most of the best teams in baseball are winning with closers who weren’t closers in 2011 or even last year. Last year, the Red Sox signed Uehara for one year and $4.25M and he’s now their closer. If they trade Papelbon, it would be incumbent upon RAJ to find next year’s closer from the list of free agent relievers. If they can clear all of Papelbon’s contract off the books, they could sign two pitchers and still have money left to address other areas.

    “we can’t find someone to replace Utley’s performance/$. That’s why we try to keep him. Having said that, Utley is a very high injury risk. I can’t even venture to guess what kind of team-friendly contract he will find acceptable.”

    I agree. Re-signing Utley is a must. The deal being “team-friendly” is not as long as it is not too long. Utley has accumulated 9.9 WAR from 2011 through the first 99 games of this year in 1,106 PA’s. It seems reasonable to base a contract for Utley of a projection that he’ll accumulate >= 6 WAR in ~ 800 PA’s over the next 2 seasons. If any of what I hear about Utley wanting to stay here is true, I cannot understand why he hasn’t been extended yet. If the Phils sign Utley to something like 2 years and ~$25M (with the ability for him to earn more salary and/or a 3rd year if he reaches a certain # of plate appearances), you will never hear me complain about that contract even if Utley gets hurt and/or declines to the extent that he never earns one cent of it.

  10. Scott G

    July 22, 2013 11:15 AM

    Pencilfish,

    Is $15 million for 375 ABs overpay if the batter hits 375 Home runs?

    Utley has been very productive this year while playing, and his defense is still very good. And, maybe I’ve missed it, but the only injury that you can realistically be concerned about is his knee problem, which hasn’t been mentioned much this season, has it?

    If they’d just rest him regularly, I’d beg that he’d still be worth a starting role. He makes $15 million now. There’s no way a team will offer him anything close to that.

  11. Chris S.

    July 22, 2013 11:35 AM

    To further Scotts argument according to fangraphs Utley has been worth $14.9 million so far this year in just 70 games. So yeah if we could have him for 2 years at 12.5 per year with an option for a third I would do it in a heart beat.

  12. Pencilfish

    July 22, 2013 11:51 AM

    hk,

    Replacing Ruiz is an issue because:

    a) Tommy Joseph has had trouble staying on the field this year. There is no way to tell he’s ready to take over in 2014. Valle has not distinguished himself either.

    b) Should the Phillies go with Kratz and Quintero? Maybe, if they don’t plan to contend in the next few years.

    c) Should the Phillies go after McCann, a power-hitting catcher who bats LH? Since McCann will require a multi-year contract, this would be the end of Joseph/Valle experiment.

    Replacing DY is more complex than you might think:

    a) JMJ is a great RH power bat off the bench. Platooning is a strategic handicap in some situations, because we can’t use JMJ when a tough LHP is brought in the late innings.

    b) With Asche and maybe McCann, the Phillies are too LH. the new RF needs to be an everyday RH power bat. There are no internal options in 2014. Re-sign Pence as a FA?

    c) If we re-sign Utley and let go of Ruiz, Halladay and the Youngs, I don’t think we have enough budget (~$33M) to sign McCann, an everyday RF and still address all the other issues, unless we get a ton of salary relief on any Papelbon deal.

    “Most of the best teams in baseball are winning with closers who weren’t closers in 2011 or even last year.”

    But aren’t the Red Sox and Tigers rumored to be pursuing Papelbon?? If what you are saying is true, then there is no market for a Papelbon trade…

  13. Scott G

    July 22, 2013 12:03 PM

    Pencilfish – Why can’t we “use JMJ when a tough LHP is brought in the late innings”? If the starter was a LHP, he’ll already be in. If the starter was a RHP, he can be brought in. JMJ has proven to be good against LHP. Career .365 wOBA.

  14. Larry

    July 22, 2013 12:04 PM

    @ Chris S,

    You are using fangraphs WAR value in dollars to justify keeping Utley for 12.5 mil. However, in another thread you disagreed with me about Shane Victorino being worth 13 mil a year. He had one of his worst seasons of his career last year(Wrist injury was a big reason), but fangraphs said he was worth 13.1 mil last year. This year fangraphs show Victorino worth 12.5 mil this year in only 66 games.

    Now I don’t agree with fangraphs information on what a player’s value is per year, but I know you do.

    So why would you use WAR value for Utley, but not for Shane? Now keep in mind Shane is younger and has a better chance to stay on the field the next 3 years than Chase.

  15. Pencilfish

    July 22, 2013 12:33 PM

    Scott G,

    Say JMJ is batting 6th or 7th in the original line-up against a LHP. In late-innings of a tied game, a LHP is brought in to relieve the starting pitcher, to pitch to the top of the Phillies line-up and face a string LH hitters, say Utley, Howard and Brown. If Utley hits a double, we don’t have a PH for Howard. The opposing manager will keep the LH to face Howard and Brown.

    JMJ does not have to PH for Howard only. He can PH for the pitcher, too.

  16. hk

    July 22, 2013 12:39 PM

    “If we re-sign Utley and let go of Ruiz, Halladay and the Youngs, I don’t think we have enough budget (~$33M) to sign McCann, an everyday RF and still address all the other issues, unless we get a ton of salary relief on any Papelbon deal.”

    Aren’t you the one who used to repeatedly claim that RAJ’s overpaying ways (primarily the Howard and Papelbon contracts) did not and will not hinder the Phils in their efforts to do whatever it takes to win?

  17. hk

    July 22, 2013 12:42 PM

    “Say JMJ is batting 6th or 7th in the original line-up against a LHP. In late-innings of a tied game, a LHP is brought in to relieve the starting pitcher, to pitch to the top of the Phillies line-up and face a string LH hitters, say Utley, Howard and Brown. If Utley hits a double, we don’t have a PH for Howard. The opposing manager will keep the LH to face Howard and Brown.”

    Are you saying that JMJ would be more valuable as a PH to get ~30 PA’s vs. LHP’s than he would be as an adequate fielding, adequate base running platoon RF who gets ~200 PA’s vs. LHP’s?

  18. Pencilfish

    July 22, 2013 02:00 PM

    hk,

    “Aren’t you the one who used to repeatedly claim that RAJ’s overpaying ways (primarily the Howard and Papelbon contracts) did not and will not hinder the Phils in their efforts to do whatever it takes to win?”

    Don’t recall saying that way. I also forgot the luxury threshold rises $11M next year, so we may have no budget issues. I originally hoped to get $48M in relief from Ruiz, Utley, Halladay and the Youngs, but if we re-sign Utley for lack of alternatives, then this changes to ~$33M + the $11M above.

    Platooning JMJ is more a statement about the lack of credible everyday RF’s than JMJ’s value. Perhaps the emergence of Frandsen as a valuable PH lessens the need to rely on JMJ.
    I remain unconvinced that JMJ as a platoon player gives the team performance/$ that is needed for a winning team.

  19. Chris S.

    July 22, 2013 02:24 PM

    @Larry

    I did not say Victorino was not worth the contract, what I said was that he was terrible from the plate from the left side and looked like a platoon player moving forward, he has proven me wrong in this aspect so good for him. However, one of the big things that is helping his WAR total is his defense in RF with the Red Sox compared to CF with the Phillies. Another big part of Victorino’s game is speed which tends to diminish as players get older.

    The fact that Victorino looked like a platoon player and his speed being his main asset would have kept me away from Victorino in the offseason because it would have been a risky move in my opinion. So far he has been very productive up in Boston so phooey on me for the first year, but it is a 3 year deal and Victorino is turning 33 this fall, as is discussed a lot here there is a greater injury risk as players age and one year doesn’t make or break a contract.

  20. hk

    July 22, 2013 03:19 PM

    Pencilfish,

    I apologize if it was not you who made those claims. However, I disagree with your take on JMJ. He is a very good hitter vs. LHP’s (.362 wOBA over the past 2 2/3 seasons) and a not-so-good hitter vs. RHP’s. Since he’s also an acceptable base runner and fielder, why wouldn’t you put him in the lineup every game when the opponents start a lefty? If the Phils had gone with a Schierholtz / Mayberry platoon in RF this year (as many on these boards suggested), it’s not a reach to think that they could have won a few more games this year and had one less position to worry about next year.

  21. Kevin H

    July 22, 2013 03:21 PM

    I don’t think there is a market for Papelbon. Maybe if he were in the last year of his deal but nobody is going to want to commit to him for $30 million through the end of 2015 given his performance this year. Now if Amaro got hired by the Cubs or D-backs, we might be in business.

  22. hk

    July 22, 2013 03:43 PM

    Kevin H,

    I think there will be a market for him if the Phils are willing to eat enough salary to make it cost effective for the acquiring team. I think they may find a buyer if the buyer is only on the hook for ~1/2 of what he’s owed (~$14M for 2 1/3 seasons). Unfortunately, I think the bigger detriment to them trading him is RAJ’s view that they must have a proven closer.

  23. Larry

    July 22, 2013 04:18 PM

    @ Chris S.,

    “So far he has been very productive up in Boston so phooey on me for the first year, but it is a 3 year deal and Victorino is turning 33 this fall, as is discussed a lot here there is a greater injury risk as players age and one year doesn’t make or break a contract.”

    I definitely agree with your statement Chris, but wouldn’t the same apply to Chase who is older with chronic knee problems? I thought Chase would have a good year this season playing for a new contract. I just don’t see Chase taking a 12.5 per year contract. Maybe I’m wrong, but we will see how badly Chase wants to be a Phillie. I would be in shock if Chase averages 130 games a season for the next 3 years as a Phillie. (If he gets a 3 year deal)

    Now if he was in the AL splitting time as a DH I could see him playing a lot more games. IMO he is worth more than 12.5 mil if he went to the AL. Now if AL teams believe as I do, then maybe we can get a better than fair market value for a rental player, which will help us in the future years when we are more competitive.

  24. Chris S.

    July 22, 2013 05:03 PM

    @Larry
    It absolutely applies for Chase as well, however I think him being able to stay on the field with the Chronic knee issues this year with zero problems with his knees is an encouraging sign. It shows that he is able to deal with his knees and he is not limited in anyway in the field or at the dish. He is putting up Utley numbers which makes me less worried about the knee issues. I admit there is an extreme bias for me wanting the Phillies to keep Utley since he is my favorite player of all time because I am young and haven’t seen as much baseball as some of the people on this site. However, I do believe that teams will be scared away because of his presumed price tag and his knees, which will bring his price down I would guess in the $11-$13/year million range. I think it will be hard for Utley and his agent to argue against that range because he hasn’t stayed healthy for a full 162 game season in 4 years. However, 120 games isn’t out of the question in my opinion and 120 games of Utley is better than a full season of 85% of the second basemen in baseball so I would pull the trigger if I were the Phillies.

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