Jerome Williams and the need for rotation depth


Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Like most reasonable people, I was underwhelmed when the Phillies signed Jerome Williams. My first thought at hearing the news was, “Wasn’t he the guy who won the 1989 NL Rookie of the Year award?”

A small bit of research revealed that Williams was not in fact, the winner of that award, but that didn’t make the signing any more exciting. It looked like a case of the Phillies needing SOMEONE to start for them every fifth day, and Williams certainly fit the criteria of being someone.

Based on his performance in recent years, I would have been impressed if Williams merely avoided being a Paul Abbott-level disaster. Imagine my surprise when Williams wasn’t just a non-disaster, but actually pretty good.

In nine starts, he turned in a 4-2 record and a 2.83 ERA. His peripherals may indicate that some luck was involved, but those are still good numbers any way you look at them.

The Phillies were apparently impressed as well since they re-signed him to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million.

For fans used to big name acquisitions like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, this wasn’t exactly an earth-shaking transaction. However, considering the current state of the Philadelphia Phillies, it’s probably one of the smarter moves they could make.

Williams will likely not be as good as he was in 2013. But I don’t think the Phillies are counting on Williams to be good. In fact, if they had their preference, he probably wouldn’t be a part of the rotation by the end of the 2015 season.

But take a look at the number of different pitchers who have started a game for the Phillies over the past three seasons: 9, 10, and 9. The days of the four aces taking the ball every five days without fail are over. Just to make it through a season, the Phillies will need rotation depth, and they have a perilously low amount of it.

Cliff Lee. Image Credit:

Brad Mills


The Phillies rotation isn’t exactly overflowing with options for 2015. There’s Cole Hamels, David Buchanan, and a whole bunch of question marks. A.J. Burnett may or may not retire, Cliff Lee may or may not be healthy, and hopefully Phillies management is as sick of Kyle Kendrick as the rest of us.

There are a whole bunch of guys (Jonathan Pettibone, Adam Morgan, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez) who might be healthy and effective enough to make the rotation out of Spring Training. And I’m sure club officials would be thrilled if either Jesse Biddle or Aaron Nola finds his way into the mix by the end of the season. But it is difficult to count on any of them.

As for people who question why they gave $2.5 million to a guy who would charitably be described as a journeyman: Sadly, that’s the going rate of pitching these days, even if that pitching isn’t all that accomplished.

Going beyond that, let’s at least explore the possibility that what we saw from Williams down the stretch was for real.

In recent seasons, the Phillies have seen guys who were once members of their organization go elsewhere and experience success. It’s possible that working with the Phillies coaching staff and catchers has allowed Williams to harnass his full potential.

It might be wishful thinking, but maybe the Phillies have found their own version of Jason Grilli or Brandon Moss. Wouldn’t that be a pleasant surprise and huge boost for the 2015 team?