The Phillies’ approach in the offseason was clearly about trying to find the best talent for the best price. That is why the team traded Vance Worley and Trevor May for Ben Revere. That is why they traded Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla for Michael Young.
And when the team finally made their first free-agent signings of the season yesterday by signing reliever Mike Adams and starter John Lannan, they once again made some solid moves for little cost.
Adams will make $6 million in 2013. Considering he will be the set-up man, the Phillies did a solid job locking down their guy. Of the three quality set-up options the Phillies had at the open of the offseason, Adams was the player I thought was best suited for the job. Clearly, the Phillies thought so too, although by the time they began their heavy pursuit of the reliever, he was the last of the three – the others being Koji Uehara and Joakim Soria – still on the market.
With little choice but to meet the demands of the reliever, the Phillies did what they needed. And considering that one of the larger holes being filled this offseason was eighth-inning relief, Adams is just the guy to stop the bleeding.
Consider this. Last season, the Phillies didn’t have a true bullpen after closer Jonathan Papelbon. Who’s to say that Antonio Bastardo, Mike Stutes or Phillippe Aumont will ever amount to the ranks of set-up man or closer?
It is the one risk with a bullpen every season. You can try to assemble the best one out there, but it all comes down to what they do on the field. And because pitchers, especially late-inning relief, come a dime a dozen, it’s sometimes difficult to separate great relievers and closer options from the average Joe.
In 2013, with clear roles for closer – Papelbon – and set-up man – Adams – it allows the Phillies to use their remaining relievers in more suitable situations. Bastardo can focus on being the lefty specialist. Aumont can serve as a sixth or seventh-inning reliever. Stutes can fill the same gap.
Meanwhile, John Lannan did not initially strike me as a great idea. It has nothing to do with his terrible numbers against the Phillies. Mainly, my fear came from his numbers in Citizens Bank Park.
In his career, Lannan is 2-5 with a 6.49 ERA in eight starts at his new home ballpark. And he’ll likely have to make 10-15 starts at CBP if he does indeed become the Phillies’ fifth starter.
However, Lannan has come quite a long way since his major-league debut at Citizens Bank Park. His debut is quite infamous in Phillies history.
July 26, 2007. The Phillies are in the midst of making a run at a division title when Lannan makes his debut. The Phillies grab a 4-2 lead entering the fifth inning. Chase Utley stepped to the plate that inning and was hit by a pitch square on the knuckles. He suffered a fractured finger from that, leading to a one-month stint on the DL. Ryan Howard was hit with Lannan’s next pitch, ejected from the game, and thus ended a less-than-memorable debut.
Six seasons later, Lannan is a more accomplished pitcher. Keep in mind, Lannan’s records haven’t been the greatest because he spent his entire six-year career with the Nationals, who consistently posted last-place finishes in the NL East for the early years of his career.
He posted his first 10-win season in 2011 and last season, with a much-improved Nationals’ team playing behind him, he went 4-1 in his six starts posting a 4.13 ERA. Lannan’s career ERA is 4.01. Take out his 3-13 record against the Phillies, and it is 3.80.
So, for a fifth starter, Lannan is not bad. And for the cost of $2.5 million, he is a fit for the Phillies who had a need for another starter. This low-risk, high-reward signing should help the Phillies be better off, especially considering they would have entered 2013 with rookie Tyler Cloyd as the fifth starter.
So after playing the waiting game – and many fans thinking the gamble had hurt the Phillies – it may have actually paid off. In less than 24 hours, Ruben Amaro Jr. checked off two major pieces from his offseason wish list.