One of the biggest achilles heels facing the Phillies this past season was relief pitching. Cliff Lee waited until July for his first win in large part due to shotty bullpen work. In total, the Phillies managed to blow an impressive 12 games when leading after 8 innings. Finishing 7 games out, it's obvious that cutting that number drastically was Ruben Amaro Jr's priority number one. But every veteran signing comes with a cost.
The Phillies carry 22 pitchers on their 40 Man Roster. They've invited another 8 to Spring Training. A typical Major League Roster carries 11-12 pitchers on the 25 Active Roster. See the log-jam yet? Now factor in the first 5 of those 12 spots go to Starting Pitchers:
1. Cole Hamels
2. Roy Halladay
3. Cliff Lee
4. Kyle Kendrick
5. John Lannan
Now one spot goes to your closer:
6. Jonathan Papelbon
Now you add in your newly signed setup man, last year's setup guy, and the old/reliable veteran you picked up on the cheap last week:
7. Mike Adams
8. Antonio Bastardo
9. Chad Durbin
That leaves you two, maybe three bullpen spots. With a Roy Halladay coming off a series of injuries that rendered him a shell of himself last year, and a back end of the rotation that includes a ticking time bomb in Kendrick and a guy who spent nearly all of 2012 in the minor leagues in Lannan, you have to assume that at least one of your pitchers will need to be a long man capable of throwing multiple innings.
10. Tyler Cloyd (the most likely suitor)
You're left with 1 or 2 specialty bullpen jobs for one of the following:
- Phillippe Aumont - former 1st rounder who pitched respectable in the bigs last year (24)
- Justin De Fratus - pitched to a 2.10 ERA across 3 levels of the minors in 2012 and well in his brief time in the majors (25)
- Michael Stutes - A roster mainstay in 2011 who battled injury in 2012 (26)
- Michael Schwimer - tall, hard throwing righty. (26)
- Jake Diekman - 11.5 K/9 last season with the Phillies (26)
- Jeremy Horst - 11.5 K/9 and a 1.15 ERA in 2012 with the Phillies (27)
- Ethan Martin - High upside stuff that the Phillies gave up Shane Victorino for (23)
- Justin Friend - Only one earned run and 24/24 in save chances for Reading last season (26)
- Adam Morgan - One of the top prospects in the organization who kicked it up in 2012 (23)
While the 34 year old Mike Adams (who had a rib removed in the offseason) and the 35 year old Chad Durbin (league average) may have came to the Phillies with low price tags, I can't help but be concerned with the opportunity cost they incur by preventing any one of the live arms mentioned above from seeing significant time with the big club. Now it's likely that injuries and bullpen shuffling lead to most of these guys spending a few weeks in the Majors, you have to wonder if that shuffling doesn't set back their progression even further.
In short, I'll take the unproven potential over the known mediocrity (Durbin) every day of the week. Especially when that talent is mid 20s and perhaps battling for their last chance to be a serious MLB player.