Now that the Phillies have added Roy Halladay, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has turned his attention to shoring up their shaky bullpen. With Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre set to leave Philadelphia, Amaro has identified his two main targets: Fernando Rodney and Mike MacDougal. Both guys have experience closing, which is vital for the Phillies given how bad Brad Lidge performed last season.
The going rate for Rodney at this point seems to be somewhere in the 2 years/$12 million dollar range, which seems rather excessive when you consider that Mike Gonzalez, who is a superior pitcher, landed the exact same deal. And even though Rodney has great stuff and was a decent closer for the Phillies this season, is he a guy that the Phillies should feel confident calling on in a big spot? Lemme put it to you this way, between Rodney and Brad Lidge, it could be a roller coaster season for the Phillies.
As for MacDougal, he had a nice couple months with the Nationals last season, but when it comes down to it, MacDougal is just a guy with great stuff and very poor control. There's a reason why the Nationals non-tendered him: even though MacDougal put together a nice season as the Nationals' closer, his control makes him too much of a risk for the Nationals to pay him $3 million or so that he would have earned via arbitration. MacDougal should be a cheap option on the free agent market, but that doesn't necessarily make him a good option for the Phillies given his control issues.
Before the Phillies make a final choice on MacDougal or Rodney, I'd suggest that they take a look into Jose Valverde. As I wrote a few days back, the market for Valverde stinks and it's highly doubtful that he will come close to the 3 year/$30 million dollar contract he wanted this winter. Valverde is the best closer on the market, but because of his type A status, teams a shying away from offering him a contract.
That's where the Phillis come in. With $118 million in payroll commitments already for 2010, the Phillies have roughly $22 million left to spend ($140 million dollar payroll), but a majority of that will be spent on arbitration raises. If I'm Ruben Amaro, I would offer Valverde something like a one year deal worth $7.5 million dollars and a decent level of incentives. Because the Phillies would have to surrender their first round pick to sign Valverde, I doubt they would be willing to pay more than that for a relief pitcher, no matter how good he may be. Valverde would give the Phillies a potentially dominant closer should Brad Lidge fail to return to his 2008 form and has far more upside than either Rodney or MacDougal.
If Valverde declines the offer, which I would expect, then Amaro can move on to options B and C. But there are plenty of reasons for Valverde to accept the deal. He would be placed in a great situation to play on a winning team where he might be able to close on a regular basis. And let's face it, teams aren't exactly clamoring to sign him, no matter how good of a closer he may be.
And the Phillies would be significantly upgrading their bullpen for 2010, which in my opinion is worth their first round pick given how minimal the commitment would be to Valverde. If Valverde joins the Phillies, then they would have to be the favorites in the National League.
NL Notes: Nationals, Escobar, Holliday, Lopez
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