The revolving door that is the Philadelphia Phillies’ bullpen took another spin this week. After struggling in a few recent outings, Jeff Manship was designated for assignment. The team’s choice to replace him? Phillippe Aumont.
If any Phillies fans still had hope for this season, this news would surely upset them. This is Aumont’s second tour of duty with the big league team this season, and the first one did not go well.
In early June, after a slew of extra inning games, Aumont was called up to bolster an overworked bullpen. His stay was brief, but memorable, as evidenced by this pitching line:
2 G, 1.2 IP, 4 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 HR
As ugly as that line is, it might not do justice to how awful it was to watch him pitch. Seeing Aumont enter the game was like walking into the street knowing you’re about to see a horrifically bad car crash. Aumont turns Phillies fans into Johnny Smith from the movie The Dead Zone.
This makes me wonder: Is Aumont the worst Phillie ever?
Calling someone the worst Phillie ever is a significant accusation, as the team has had no shortage of bad players over the years. As you may have noticed, the 2014 edition alone has featured a fair share of crappy players.
And still, Aumont might actually be the worst ever.
There were problems with Aumont from the very start of his Phillies career, when he was acquired in one of the most vilified trades in team history. In December 2009, the Phillies traded Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Aumont, Tyson Gillies, and J.C. Ramirez. Aumont – a top 50 prospect at the time – was considered the key component of the trade.
The Phillies tried to convert him into a starter. This wasn’t a horrible idea since starters are generally more valuable than relievers, and it might have seemed silly to trade Cliff Lee for a package based around a relief pitcher. Unfortunately, Aumont was apparently not especially good as a starter, and the Phillies soon moved him back to the bullpen.
He pitched well enough to be called up to the majors at the end of the 2012 season. Charlie Manuel started using him as a setup man, although it’s possible that this was done at the urging of the front office. Because it looks a lot better if the guy you traded Cliff Lee for is at least a key piece of the bullpen.
Aumont actually did reasonably well in his 2012 cameo, giving hope that he would continue to excel in 2013. At that point, the Phillies were actually feeling somewhat optimistic about their relief corps.
The 2013 bullpen did not justify that optimism. Just about every single reliever they used disappointed in some way, and Aumont may have been the biggest disappointment of all. His main problem was that his control – never that sterling to begin with – seemed to get worse every time out. It got to the point where he appeared to have no idea where any given pitch was going to end up.
He was demoted, and proceeded to blame most of his problems on the Phillies coaching staff.
Heading into Spring Training 2014, there were plenty of bullpen jobs to be won, but Aumont – despite being freed from the shackles of the previous coaching staff – didn’t come close to winning one of them.
His performance in the minors was middling at best, and was only recalled out of desperation. To his credit, he has fared better after being sent back down, and now that the Phillies are in need of another reliever, he’s earned another shot.
Even though he’s back in the majors, it may be difficult for Aumont to distinguish himself. Unlike previous years, the Phillies seem to have solid options for the late innings, so he’ll probably appear on a sporadic basis.
Obviously it’s a bit early to completely write off Aumont. He’s young enough that he might still figure things out and live up to his one-time status as a top prospect.
But until he actually shows that he can capably pitch at the major league level, it’s difficult to consider him to be anything but one of the worst Phillies ever.