As expected, the Phils did very little at the winter’s meeting last week. They did sign free agent starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez to add some depth to the starting rotation. In another move, with the 4th pick in the Rule 5 draft, Amaro plucked relief pitcher Kevin Munson from the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system.
Hernandez is expected to compete for the 4th or 5th spot in the Phils starting rotation. He signed a one-year contract for $4,500,000 with another $1,500,000 in incentives. The 33 year old Hernandez has a lifetime 59-82 record and an ERA of 4.67. Last year pitching for Tampa Bay Hernandez was 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA. Hard to believe this is what 4.5 – 6 million dollars buys today, but that was obviously the best GM Ruben Amaro Jr. could do to add some much needed depth to the Phils rotation.
If Hernandez wins a starting job, and I don’t think he was paid 4.5 million to pitch long relief, it looks like Jonathan Pettibone or Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez becomes the odd man out in the Phils rotation. The Phils could start Gonzalez at AAA to get him some low pressure starts and shake of the rust of what will be a 3-year hiatus from pitching. With Gonzalez signing a three-year, $12,000,000 contract don’t look for him to stay on the farm too long. At the end of the day, barring no preseason or April injuries, Jonathan Pettibone will be the odd man out.
Pettibone made 18 starts for the Phils last year after getting promoted from Lehigh Valley in April when the injury bug just started to bite the 2013 Phils. The 23 year old righty had a 5-4 record with a 4.04 ERA. His development is now on hold until one of the top five go down. The question is do the Phils send Pettibonbe back to Lehigh Valley to keep him stretched out and working on his craft, or does he get the long reliever / spot starter job in the bullpen? Either way it’s a signal to the young players in the Phils system – your time may come, but it’s not now.
Speaking of young pitchers there is 24 year old Rule 5 draftee Kevin Munson, who must be on the Phils roster all year or offered back to the Diamondbacks. Munson split his time between AA and AAA last year and posted a combined 2-4 record, 4.12 ERA and 14 saves. The advantage Munson has over many of the Phils current young relievers is his ability to throw strikes. If he does that for the Phils without getting smacked around the park there’s a good chance he’ll stick. That’s more an indictment of the Phils development of young pitchers than it is a credit to Munson. His 3.6/9 BB ratio is better than most of the Phils young relievers showed last year. Walks were a killer for the 2013 bullpen.
The winter meetings are over but that’s not to say the Phils can’t or won’t do more. There’s plenty of free agents still available and the Phils have some cash. Does Amaro have the green light to spend like he has in years past when the Phils were leading the league in attendance? I doubt it, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. Finding ways to make revenue neutral deals as we discussed yesterday in Philly Sports Rant article “Could Nelson Cruz Be in the Phillies Plans” is probably Amaro’s best chance of bringing in an impact player.
The Phils inability to make any deadline moves last year coupled with bringing back Utley and Ruiz tell us the Phils have decided to forego rebuilding as long as possible. The day will come when it’s a necessity and a lot of big money veterans come off the books. We wonder what Citizens Bank Park will look like then, and if whoever the general manager is will have the latitude to spend like Amaro did. I have my thoughts on that subject, but that’s another story for another day.