Most of the talk during the offseason has gone to the addition of #33. Cliff Lee will make the Phillies rotation one of the best in the history of baseball. There hasn't been a lot of discussion about the bullpen this winter. But regardless of how good the starting pitching will be, the bullpen will need to get some crucial outs. Since 2008, when Chad Durbin joined the Phillies, he had the most games pitched for the team. He joined the Phillies bullpen after starting his career as a starter with the Tigers, as a Phillie he has posted a respectable 3.62 ERA in a team high 194 games pitched. Durbin’s ability to pitch multiple innings has given Charlie a lot of flexibility in the late innings. There is still an outside chance that Durbin will be back with the team.
In a recent interview with MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. stated that he didn’t think Durbin would be resigned but he hasn’t completely ruled it out. Durbin is reportedly looking for a two year deal and a raise from his $2.125 million he earned last season. The Phillies are only willing to give Durbin a one year deal and I would expect he would have to take less then he made last season. This is just speculation on my part, but I would think the Phillies would be willing to give him a 1 year deal at about $2 million.
Durbin has done a solid job out of the pen over the last several years and he would definitely be a better option than guys like Herndon, Baez or Mathieson. But the real question is, would it be wise and worth the money to bring Durbin back. The Phillies currently have 11 pitchers under contract for the 2011 season. Amaro Jr. mentioned in the interview with Zolecki that the team can go with either 11 or 12 pitcher to start the season. And as we get closer and closer to spring training, it looks more likely that Joe Blanton will at least start the season with the team. If we assume Blanton will start the season with the Phillies, 10 of the 11 pitchers are almost guaranteed a spot on the roster. The only one in question would be veteran Danys Baez.
If Blanton is the team’s fifth starter, it would then bump Kyle Kendrick into the bullpen. Kendrick spent most of last season in the Phillies rotation but he has pitched out of the pen at times during his career. Being a starter for most of his career, he is more than capable of pitching multiple innings. He could than assume the role that Durbin has had for the last 3 years. The team has plenty of options to fill the remaining spots without having to spend the guaranteed money on Durbin.
One of the options is David Herndon who showed some promise last year. He pitched poorly at times last season but he has a heavy sinker and should only continue to improve. Herndon is a ground ball pitcher who needs batters to hit the ball to his fielders to be effective. I think that his numbers were worse than they could have been due to some bad luck. In numerous games, batters were able to find the holes with ground balls. They could have just as easily been double play balls to get him out of the inning. In addition to Herndon, there are also some other young pitchers the Phillies would like to give a chance. Lefty Antonio Bastardo has a very good chance at making the team; he has been wild at times. But he has shown the ability to completely dominate lefty’s. The list of potential young relievers includes flame thrower Scott Mathieson, Vance Worley and Justin De Fratus.
With the starting rotation the Phillies have, will there be enough innings for Durbin? On most nights, the team’s starting pitcher will pitch at least 7 innings. Most close games will mainly consist of the starter going 7, then Madson in the 8th and Lidge in the 9th. While there will be innings needed by the bullpen, the number of important innings that will be needed by middle relievers will be relatively low. There will obviously be game were the starter only goes 4 or 5 for whatever reason, but there will also be games where the pen is not needed at all because Doc pitches another complete game. Last season Halladay lead the majors with the 9 complete games. The Phillies as a team had 14 complete games, which was the most in baseball. Then you add a pitcher like Cliff Lee who had 7 complete games and there isn’t going to be a lot of innings for middle relievers.
As I stated earlier Durbin would be a safer bet than some of the other options. But Durbin would most likely make at least $1.5 million more than the other options. I believe the team would be wise to save the money they would use for Durbin and use it for a deadline acquisition. Without trading Blanton, the team has very little flexibility to make any accusations during the season. Durbin has been a crucial member of the pen over the last 3 seasons; but I believe having him would be a luxury and not a necessity.