Phillies looking for arms in tight market
GM soliciting trades, but pitchers are hard to come by
PHILADELPHIA -- General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has been on his Blackberry incessantly in recent weeks.
He is looking for pitching help, and he is finding this year is much like previous years.
There isn't much out there.
"How many starting pitchers moved last year?" Amaro said Monday from his office at Citizens Bank Park. "Three?"
The Indians traded CC Sabathia to the Brewers, and the Athletics traded Joe Blanton to the Phillies and Rich Harden to the Cubs before last year's July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"That's a whole lot of them, isn't it?" Amaro said. "Twenty-five teams were looking for pitching and just three were moved."
The Phillies have had luck in recent seasons finding starting pitching help. They acquired right-hander Cory Lidle on Aug. 9, 2004, from the Reds. They got Jamie Moyer on Aug. 19, 2006, from the Mariners. They acquired Kyle Lohse on July 30, 2007, from the Reds, and they got Blanton on July 17 from the A's. But that does not mean luck this year.
"When you have this many teams in the race it's very thin," Amaro said. "It's always thin. Again, there were three teams who got pitching last year. Three teams out of 30. That's 10 percent. We can say, 'Pretty please can we have a pitcher?' but that doesn't mean one will become available."
Red Sox right-hander Brad Penny looked like a good possibility for the Phillies at one point. They had been scouting him regularly, but he is less likely to be moved in the immediate future because Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka is on the disabled list and right-hander John Smoltz looked shaky in his season debut Thursday.
Jake Peavy? Roy Halladay? Roy Oswalt? Forget about them. Peavy is hurt, but even if he were healthy he is unlikely to waive his no-trade clause to play in Philadelphia. The Blue Jays are just three games out of the American League Wild Card lead, which means the Blue Jays are not going to trade one of the best pitchers in baseball. And Oswalt is a favorite of Astros owner Drayton McLane.
Cliff Lee? The price for Lee is high in part because the Indians have a $9 million club option on the 2008 Cy Young winner in 2010, and any team would love to have a former Cy Young winner in their rotation at that price, including the Indians.
Erik Bedard could be a possibility, although he remains on the disabled list and questions about his character persist. But at least the Phillies know Bedard well, if they decide to pursue. Third-base coach Sam Perlozzo managed Bedard in Baltimore, assistant general manager Benny Looper knew him from his time in Seattle and Raul Ibanez played with him in Seattle.
Amaro said the priority remains improving the rotation, although the Phillies would like to improve their bullpen.
Phillies starters have a 5.21 ERA this season, which is worst in the National League and 28th out of 30 teams in baseball. Phillies starters are averaging a little more than 5 2/3 innings per game. Their inability to pitch deep into games has placed a tremendous strain on the bullpen, which is 11th in the NL with a 4.11 ERA.
The bullpen had a 3.45 ERA on June 11, its best mark since April 12. It has a 6.70 ERA in 14 games since.
"We have interest in a lot of guys and we have talked to several teams about pitching across the board," Amaro said. "But a lot of it just depends on which pitching becomes available. And if they do become available, if we have the right fits for them."
The Phillies are trying to find a fit for Thursday's game in Atlanta. Left-hander Antonio Bastardo has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left posterior shoulder. Left-hander Sergio Escalona temporarily takes Bastardo's place in the bullpen, but they still need a starter for Thursday. Right-handers Carlos Carrasco, Kyle Kendrick, Andrew Carpenter and Rodrigo Lopez are under consideration.
Double-A Reading right-hander Kyle Drabek is not an option.
"He's got great stuff," Amaro said of Drabek. "He's going to be a quality Major League pitcher, if he stays healthy. But we do not believe he is ready to pitch in the big leagues at this time. He needs more Minor League experience. I would not count on him for the 2009 season. He's not somebody we would actively move to the big leagues because he needs time to pitch in the Minor Leagues and he's coming off [Tommy John] surgery. Now, there are circumstances that may change that, but right now we're fully committed to having him pitch in the Minor Leagues in 2009."
So Drabek is out and Carrasco looks to be in, until the Phillies find a pitcher from the outside.
If they can find a pitcher from the outside.
"If a team doesn't want to trade a pitcher, there's nothing you can do to get him," Amaro said. "There are teams we already have had discussions with where I have talked about a multitude of prospects and a pitcher was not going to be moved. If the guy is not going to go, he's not going to go. You can give them your entire club."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.