Mike Adams was one of the best relievers in baseball, closer or not, from 2008-11. The right-hander used an array of mid-90’s four-seam fastballs as well as a cutter to break bats and rack up the strikeouts. His control was also pristine, allowing him to post strikeout-to-walk ratios in excess of five-to-one twice, in 2009 and in 2011.
Adams was not without his health concerns, however. He had surgery on his right shoulder to repair his labrum and rotator cuff in October 2008, keeping him out of action until June 2009. He strained his oblique in the summer of 2010. Most importantly, he finished up the 2012 season suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder, giving him another date with the surgeon.
The off-season surgery, along with a 1.5 MPH decline in his fastball velocity, wasn’t enough to stop GM Ruben Amaro from signing the then-34-year-old Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal with a third-year club option worth $6 million. Having a back-end of the bullpen that included closer Jonathan Papelbon, Adams, and lefty Antonio Bastardo was enough to send chills down the spines of opposing teams, or so we thought.
Adams was reliable through about the first five weeks of the season, owning a 2.57 ERA with 21 strikeouts and five walks in 14 and two-thirds innings of work through May 8. In his next 12 appearances spanning 11 innings, he had a 5.73 ERA with four strikeouts and six walks. Compared to 2012, his average fastball velocity declined by another 1.5 MPH. It was announced that he had once again torn his labrum (twice, this time) and his rotator cuff, requiring season-ending surgery.
Overall, Adams finished with a 3.96 ERA, which is not terrible, but it’s a far cry from the dominant reliever he used to be and the one the Phillies hoped they would be seeing when he signed on the dotted line. I gave him a solid C for the season because he wasn’t altogether terrible, and it isn’t his fault the Phillies ignored the warning signs about his health, offering a multi-year deal to a 34-year-old relief pitcher with a history of shoulder issues.