What was once regarded as an area of depth for the Phillies proved to be the opposite last season. Regression combined with a plethora of injuries were the downfall of the Phillies starting rotation in 2017.
With the team showing a willingness to spend this offseason, there has been speculation that they may try to nab a big-name pitcher. While it may not be realistic to expect them to dish out a 6-year, $160MM contract on a 31-year-old Jake Arrieta, the Phillies do have other options.
Nowadays, MLB teams are searching for controllable assets. Teams are less likely to pursue one-year rentals than they used to. The Phillies front office seems to be following this trend.
With that, here are some possible avenues that the Phillies can pursue for starting pitching help this winter.
Trade for Danny Duffy (LHP), KC
The Kansas City Royals are expected to enter the new year with a reshaped roster. As they brace for the losses of key pieces from their World Series contending teams, the team may be willing to go all-in on the rebuild.
If they do decide to chalk up 2018 to a rebuilding year, and make Danny Duffy available, the Phillies would be a good suitor. The lefty is two years removed from a stellar breakout campaign, and is locked in for five more years with an average salary of $15MM.
The Phillies have plenty of open space on the payroll and can undoubtedly afford Duffy’s contract. But, can their farm system afford this trade? That is the question the Phillies front office needs to answer.
There are a lot of factors that would need to go right for the Phillies to land Duffy. But, he is a 29-year-old left-hander with great upside that could slide in right behind Aaron Nola at the top of the rotation.
Sign Trevor Cahill (RHP)
A once exciting young arm for Oakland, Cahill has struggled to find a permanent fit with a team. After being deployed out of the bullpen by the World Champion Cubs in 2016, the San Diego Padres signed him as a starter for 2017.
Last year, Cahill started throwing his curveball more, leading to a career-high 10.6 K/9 and a lower walk rate. After a shoulder injury mid-season, Cahill was shipped to the Royals and faded into the background, logging just 23 innings with the team.
Trevor Cahill fits the Phillies pattern of investing in low-risk, high reward pitchers. He showed quality upside in 2017 and his presence on the staff could help take pressure off of guys like Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez.
The Phillies could take a one-year flier on Cahill to fill out the rotation and hope that he regains his early summer form.
Trade for Dan Straily (RHP), MIA
While the Phillies have been tied to the Marlins for their other assets, they could look to Miami’s rotation for help. Dan Straily has quietly been a solid, consistent starter for the past two seasons.
Straily fanned 170 batters in just over 181 innings for a middling Marlins team last season. Now, with Derek Jeter and the new ownership group in full-on fire sale mode, no one is safe.
Straily, 29, is a controllable arm. He won’t reach free agency until 2021 and is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason.
Expected to make around $4.5MM next season, Straily would be a bargain for the big market Phils, especially if he continues pitching the way he has.
Scratch-Off Lottery Tickets
If the Phillies are simply desperate for innings at the back-end of the rotation, they can look to the younger end of the free agent class.
These are guys that teams will probably want no part of, given their sky-high ERA’s and lack of strikeouts. But, they are young and thus, there is still hope for them.
David Holmberg is a later years David Wells, minus the good pitching. He registered a 4.68 ERA last season with the White Sox, with more walks than strikeouts.
But, he’s still just 26 and was once named the sixth-best prospect in Arizona’s system. A second-round draft selection in 2009, Holmberg has to possess some positive traits that impressed scouts.
Another option in this category is righty Drew Hutchison. Once an up-and-comer with the Toronto Blue Jays, Hutchison faded fast.
He posted an ugly 5.57 ERA in 2015, his last full season in the bigs. After being traded to Pittsburgh, Hutchison wound up back in the minors.
However, in a full season with the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate last season, Hutchison posted strong numbers. He was the team’s innings leader, registering over 159 frames with a good-looking 3.56 ERA.
Both of these guys could be worth a gamble for the Phillies. At the very least, an invite to Spring Training couldn’t hurt.