As the trade deadline approaches, the Phillies find themselves in need of one of the hardest positions to shop for. Relief pitchers are a dime a dozen, but solid, dependable relievers are hard to come by, and almost every team in the race is looking to improve the bullpen.
The addition of the second wild card makes it tough too, as there are quite a few teams that find themselves in a position where they are unlikely to sell assets. Teams like the Blue Jays and Angels put a lot into their payrolls this offseason and would be unlikely to start selling while they hover around .500. The Royals and Giants, who both have some good pieces in the bullpen, also fall into a similar category should they remain where they are in the standings.
If the Phillies want to add a proven bullpen piece, they do not have too many teams who would be realistic trade partners. The Twins, Brewers, Marlins, White Sox, Mariners and Astros—all teams out of the race—are ones that could be viable trade partners with the Phillies. As these teams look to the future, they would surely require minor league talent for a reliever. The higher quality the reliever, the more the Phillies would have to sacrifice on the farm.
The other option would be for the Phillies to part with position players at the major league roster that might help another team, in exchange for a reliever. Selling to fill a need. Carlos Ruiz has been getting looks from the Yankees, and Michael Young from the Red Sox. Young has been solid for the Phillies, but they could probably live with Kevin Frandsen at third with Freddy Galvis as a backup, and Erik Kratz is a sufficient replacement for Ruiz if he continues to lack production.
All that being said, here are some quick numbers and info on relievers that could work for the Phillies. There are relievers from teams likely to sell as well as a few from teams that might sacrifice a bullpen piece to fill another need.
From the Minnesota Twins:
Casey Fien: Fien is a 29-year-old righty who works in the low to mid 90s. He does not allow batters to reach base often. This year he has a .80 WHIP, among the best of all relievers, and he will strike out more than a batter an inning (42 K in 38.2 IP). He gets you under two walks per nine and averages almost ten strikeouts per nine. Opponents are hitting just .179 off him this season.
From the San Diego Padres:
Luke Gregerson: Gregerson is an absolute workhorse. Last year he appeared in 77 games and threw 71 innings, and back in 2010, he pitched 80 innings and struck out 89 batters. In his five years in the league he holds a career 1.01 WHIP and all five years has had an ERA under 3.25. He has been one of the leagues most dependable relievers so he might cost a bit more, but you know what you are going to get.
Dale Thayer: The 28 year old right-hander has 44 strikeouts in 43 innings and holds a 2.93 ERA. In 110 2/3 innings the last two years, he has allowed only 86 hits and 25 walks, which is a WHIP of 1.00. His average against sits at .212.
Joe Thatcher- The lefty specialist averages about a strikeout per inning pitched (26 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings) and has a 1.05 WHIP this year. He might be less useful due to Antonio Bastardo’s recent success as well as Jake Diekman’s success against lefties, but if Bastardo continues his success as a seventh or eighth inning guy, he and Diekman could be the lefty specialists.
From the Miami Marlins:
Ryan Webb- Webb is an imposing 6-foot-6, 245-pound right-hander who is having a rebound year with Miami. He has a 3.14 ERA in 43 innings, but his lack of strikeouts (26) compared with his 1.419 WHIP could cause some concern. Nonetheless, he could be worth a shot if he comes cheap.
Steve Cishek- Cishek is an interesting case, because he has been a good closer on a team that doesn’t need one. He has a funky, side arm delivery from the right side, and averages a strikeout per inning this year (42 in 42 2/3 innings). He will walk a few guys on occasion—last season he was over four walks per nine, but he has lowered that this year to less than three. He could be huge against righties of the division like Jayson Werth, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton and Dan Uggla.
From the Chicago Cubs:
Kevin Gregg: Gregg is a veteran guy who is an imposing figure on the hill. He did not do so well in Baltimore the past two years, with less than a strikeout per inning and a WHIP over 1.6, but is having a rebound year for Chicago. He has 35 strikeouts, a 2.97 RRA and 1.17 WHIP so far in 33 1/3 innings and has held opposing hitters to a .213 clip.
From the Seattle Mariners:
Charlie Furbush- The lefty has tossed 38 1/3 innings and has an astounding 54 strikeouts this year. He also does not give up hits—opposing batters are hitting .191 off the southpaw This year he is averaging around six hits per nine (27 total) and last year nine average per nine innings was under six.
Tom Wilhelmsen- the 6-foot-6, 29-year-old righty has had a great year for the Mariners. He will walk some guys (21 in 41 innings this year) but doesn’t give up much else. He allows just 5.7 hits per nine innings on average, which has allowed him to keep a career WHIP around 1.1 despite sometimes struggling with command. He also averages nearly a strikeout per inning and has held opponents to a batting average of .183 in 2013.
Oliver Perez- Perez’s career turned around since joining Seattle last year. He has allowed only 14 runs in 65 2/3 innings dating back to last year, and this year has 50 strikeouts in 36 innings to go along with a 1.74 ERA and .208 average against. His walks per nine has been under four the last two years after being above eight back in 2010.
From the Chicago White Sox:
Jesse Crain- His ERA is .74. He has not given up a homer in 36.2 innings but has struck out 46 (11.3 K/9) and he is an All-Star on a bad, bad team. Enough said.
Matt Lindstrom- He has been with four teams in three years and has pitched well for all of them. He holds a 2.87 ERA and has only allowed two homers since the start of 2012 (none this year). He only has 28 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings and he walks just over four per nine on average, but he has not allowed many to cross the plate.
From the New York Mets:
Bobby Parnell- the hard throwing righty is having yet another great year for the Phillies’ N.L. East rivals. His 2.30 ERA is the lowest of his career, as is his .907 WHIP. He has not allowed a home run this year and has allowed only 10 walks in 43 innings.
From the Boston Red Sox:
Junichi Tazawa- This one would probably involve sending Michael Young to Boston. The 27-year old righty has been one of the Red Sox most dependable relievers this season, and it may be unlikely they part ways with him but it depends how badly they want Young. Tazawa this year averages just over a walk and 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
From the New York Yankees:
Boone Logan: A guy like Logan is a good guy to have around. He led the league in appearances in 2012 with 80 and has strung together several solid years in a row. He has 35 strikeouts in 25 innings this year and his walks per nine are under two. He is a possible return for an aging Carlos Ruiz, should the Yankees be interested.
*If the Yankees are still in the race, David Robertson is probably untouchable, so I did not bother listing him.
Those are some of the bigger names that stuck out to me from non-contenders and from teams who have been asking about Phillies players. Here are several more bullpen pieces that could be great fits for the Phillies if the proper deal arose.
Adam Ottavino- COL
Michael Bowden- CHC
James Russell- CHC
Jose Veras- HOU
Tom Gorzelanny- MIL
Anthony Swarzak- MIN
Ryan Pressly- MIN
Caleb Thielbar- MIN
Adam Warren- NYY
David Aardsma- NYM
It may not be easy to trade for a reliever, but if they choose to do so there are certainly some options.