With Vance Worley Gone, Ruben Gets To Do What He Likes Best: Sign A Starting Pitcher


Could Shaun Marcum’s soft stuff be a viable replacement for Vance Worley? Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

In the last couple weeks, Ruben Amaro Jr. has had to go through a lot.

He had to go through the drudgery of finding himself a starting center fielder (hi there Ben Revere!), and a third baseman (Michael Young, we think), and still must deal with the inconvenience of finding a corner outfielder (Cody Ross, Nick Swisher and Josh Hamilton all quickly glance in our direction) and an 8th inning reliever (you mean, it’s NOT going to be Josh Lindblom?).

But now that the Phillies have sent Vance Worley packing to Minnesota (it’s cold there, eh?), Amaro is in his wheelhouse, and gets to do what he likes best.

Attack starting pitching.

Perhaps it’s because when he was a player, he so very rarely attacked starting pitching. Whatever the reason, there is nothing Ruben Amaro likes doing more than bringing new starting pitchers onto the Phillies.

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Pedro Martinez, Roy Oswalt. All under Ruben’s watch.

As the starting staff currently stands, Kyle Kendrick and Tyler Cloyd would be the team’s #4 and #5 starters after Halladay, Lee and Hamels.

One would doubt the Phillies would enter the 2013 season with the back-end of the rotation that flimsy, especially given the improvements made by the Nationals to theirs. The Phillies simply aren’t going to win as many series as they could with Kendrick and Cloyd pitching every fifth day.

So, into the free agent market we go. And thankfully, there are a handful of starters that make a lot of sense and shouldn’t be too expensive.

First, the known quantities.

Shaun Marcum is a soft-tosser, relying mostly on his change-up and breaking pitches to get hitters out. He also missed two months of 2012 with elbow issues, and has pitched 200 innings only once in his career (2011). Still, he’s been an effective pitcher when healthy, posting a career 3.76 ERA in seven seasons with the Blue Jays and Brewers. Last year, in 21 starts, he posted a 3.70 ERA, striking nearly eight batters per nine innings. And since he’s coming off an elbow injury, it’s unlikely he’ll cost a team any more than two years, even in this whack-job of a baseball economy.

Edwin Jackson had a decent season with the Nationals last year, starting 31 games and posting a 4.03 ERA, and showed a continued tendency to miss bats (8.0 K/9). The negatives? He gives up a lot of home runs (23 last year) and sometimes has trouble pitching deep into games (his absurd 149-pitch no-hitter in 2010 notwithstanding). He’s also probably in line for a deal more like what he was looking for last year, a four-year contract hovering around $10 million a year.

John Lannan was non-tendered by Washington after the addition of Dan Haren to their rotation. He’s arbitration eligible, after pitching most of 2012 in AAA, biding his time until the Nats shelved a healthy Steven Strasburg. Yes, Lannan broke Chase Utley‘s wrist back in 2007, but we all have to move on, and the Phils could do a whole lot worse than Lannan’s career 4.01 ERA.

Jeff Karstens is another non-tender who could be a valuable pickup for the back of the rotation. In 15 starts for the Pirates last year, Karstens posted a 3.97 ERA after a 2011 season that saw him go 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA. And hey, when you win nine games for the Pirates, that’s about 16 wins for a real Major League team. Karstens battled injuries in 2012, but if healthy,he could be a good #4 or #5 starter for the Phils.

Jair Jurrjens, get that knee healthy, son! Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

One intriguing name to consider is Jair Jurrjens. He is a definite injury concern, suffering the last two years with a balky knee. The Phillies would need to know that knee is healthy before bringing him aboard, but if it is, the return could be tremendous. In 2009, Jurrjens went 14-10 with a 2.60 ERA in 215 innings, and he started the All-Star Game in 2011, going 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA. Last year, however, his knee plagued him all season. He started just 10 games and posted a 6.89 ERA. Still, he enters 2013 at just 27 years old, and if the Phils are willing to take a chance on a high-ceiling guy, Jurrjens would be an interesting choice.

Other possibilities include Kevin Correia, Joe Saunders, Carlos Villanueva, and Erik Bedard.

There is also the “Former Phillies Division” of free agent starting pitchers into which Amaro could wade, if he’s feeling brave enough.

Kevin Millwood is 38 years old and his best days left him long ago. But he continues to be an innings-eater, pitching 161 innings in 2012 with Seattle, posting a 4.25 ERA in 28 starts.

There’s also 36-year-old Freddy Garcia, who struggled a bit in 2012 after a very solid 2011, posting a 5.20 ERA in 17 starts.

The always entertaining Brett Myers is available, too. He pitched out of the bullpen last year, but says he wants to start once again. Myers’ fastball was rejuvenated a bit last year, averaging about 91 mph after dropping into the high 80s the previous two years. However, much of that can be attributed to his move to the ‘pen. He pitched just 65 innings with the Astros and White Sox, posting a 3.31 ERA, and would need to be stretched out in order to be a starter. It’s likely the quality of his stuff would diminish with a return to the rotation as well.

And there’s always… wait for it… Roy Oswalt, who is considering pitching once again in 2013. Let’s all hold our breaths while he decides, mmmkay?

Regardless of which direction the Phillies decide to go, Ruben Amaro should be happy as a pig in slop. He figured out a way to create a hole in his starting rotation, and now gets to do what he likes best.

Ruben Amaro is going to go get himself a starting pitcher.

Anyone know what Pedro Martinez is up to?