Phillies Free Agent Shopping Cart: Starting Pitcher: Arroyo, Kazmir, Jimenez
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro made public his checklist for the 2014 offseason, and it included a right-handed power hitting corner outfielder (Marlon Byrd), a starting catcher, one or two starting pitchers and help in the bullpen. Over the next few days, we'll lay out what we think are his best options, and offer a profile, risk/reward analysis and projected salary for each.
Outisde of Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, the Phillies have question marks in three of five sports in their starting rotation.
Kyle Kendrick should command between $8-10 million if tendered in arbitration. His sour finish to 2013, the second time in four years his production has leveled sharply, makes him a dicey investment. Kendrick is both low-ceiling and high risk. Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez was signed in August for $12 million over three years, much less than the $50-plus million megadeal nixed by the 27-year-old's history of elbow issues. While Amaro said he hopes the right-hander makes the 2014 big league rotation, a $4 million per year commitment is far from binding. Jonathan Pettibone filled in for the oft-injured John Lannan nicely, but himself succumbed to injury, a season-ender in August. Ethan Martin seems destined for the bullpen. Adam Morgan avoided surgery on his injured throwing shoulder, but can't be relied upon as a top five option, even if healthy. Tyler Cloyd is merely organizational depth.
In other words, outside of Hamels and Lee, all viable options should be considered.
Here are the best ones.
Bronson Arroyo, 36, RHP
I know, I know. "Not another 36-year-old!" But the 13-year vet of Cincinnati, Boston and Pittsburgh might actually make for the best get of all the starting pitchers available. The main selling points: consistency and reliability. Arroyo's managed an ERA under 3.90 in each of the last five seasons but one, in 2011. He's a soft-thrower, a sinker/slider type who tops out at about 87 m.p.h., so losing some heat isn't going to hurt him. His style also bodes well for his longevity over the three-year deal he'll likely command, as does the fact that he's a righty. He's only missed six games in his career, all in 2009. He's not going to vie for a Cy Young, but that's not the role of a No. 3 starter. Being consistent and healthy is. Arroyo fits that bill. The Phillies are reportedly interested. So too are the Twins and Giants. Arroyo's agent has already said he'll consider the Mets.
Verdict: Three years for anything under $36 million, I'm in.
Scott Kazmir, 29, LHP
A 4.04 ERA typically doesn't leap off the stat sheet, but when you consider that Kazmir also struck out 9.23 batters per nine innings with the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career, had an average fastball velocity 6 m.p.h. faster than his last big league season and on par with when he was once considered one of the brightest up-and-comers in baseball, and did it in the American League, it sings. A two-time All-Star who was out of baseball for a year after compiling a pimply 5.64 ERA in 75 starts between 2009 and 2011, Kazmir's resurrection demands attention. So far, the Orioles are the only ones whose interest has been made public. Kazmir has yet to be reported to be on the Phillies radar. Maybe he should be. Especially considering a deal is likely to be for only two years, the same length as Byrd's free agent pact and the remaining length Chase Utley's and Jimmy Rollins' deals.
Verdict: For $15 million over two years, he'd be cheaper than Kendrick with more upside and a better injury history.
Ubaldo Jimenez, 29, RHP
No doubt about it: Jimenez is a gamble. His 3.30 ERA and career-high 9.56 strikeouts per nine innings from last season in Cleveland are enticing. But those came directly on the heels of drek: a combined 5.03 ERA in 63 starts over two years prior, with the Indians and Rockies. An All-Star in 2010, Jimenez has already shown how spectacularly he can come crashing down to earth. And he's a power pitcher who's already lost 5 m.p.h. -- FIVE -- in the last three years. High upside, but not without risk. He's kept relatively healthy, hitting the DL only once in seven big league seasons. Maybe the biggest downside: he was extended a qualifying offer, meaning the Phillies would have to sacrifice next year's first-round pick, No. 7 overall, to sign him. Cleveland is reportedly meeting with his people at the GM meetings this week. No other suitors have emerged publicly. Though for Amaro, moving quickly on a free agent has typically meant overspending, not saving.
Verdict: If I miss out on Arroyo and Kazmir, maybe. But don't expect less than four years and $60 million.
Paul Maholm, 31, LHP
Rough year last year. Had a 4.41 ERA, his worst in three seasons. Missed 29 games with a wrist sprain, 10 with elbow inflammation. He has talent, and it showed in his 3.66 ERA between 2011 and 2012. But even after trimming the $6.5 million he made last season for bad numbers and two injuries, that might still be too much. Though he'll probably only seek a one year deal to rehabilitate his value. Might not be a bad flier, for a No. 5 guy.
Jason Vargas, 30, LHP
Much like Arroyo, he's a soft-thrower with a low ceiling. Consistent production. ERAs of 3.78, 4.25, 3.85 and 4.02 over 30 starts in each of his last four seasons. A decent fallback option, definitely an upgrade over Kendrick. Vargas made $8.5 million last season. He could earn as much as $10 million next season, maybe over two years.
Gavin Floyd, 30, RHP
Iffy track record. Last sub-4.00 ERA season was 2008, his only such season. But he's coming off Tommy John surgery, which should clip his price tag and help his ability, and he earned only $3.75 million per in his four-year deal through 2012. Better options exist. But Floyd, who has history here, isn't a bad break-the-glass move.
Bruce Chen, 36, LHP
On paper, this would feel a lot like John Lannan's signing last offseason, but for an older player and more money. Great 3.27 ERA for the Royals last season. But he had a 5.07 ERA in 2012, is closer to 40 years old than 30 and may cost as much as $7 million per, maybe for two years. Had two stints in Philadelphia, in 2000 and 2001. Consider it if the market empties and his price tag plummets. Maybe. On second thought...
Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Edward Mujica, A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon, Josh Johnson, Jason Hammel, Tim Hudson, Roy Halladay, Darn Haren, Mike Pelfrey, Scott Baker.
I'll pass. On all of them.
Matt Hammond covers the Phillies for 97.3 ESPN-FM.