COMMENTARY | A pending Philadelphia Phillies’ trade involving Houston Astros’ reliever Wilton Lopez is exactly the type of move general manager Ruben Amaro needs to make to strengthen his bullpen.
Former Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon performed well for the Phillies last season, as he picked up 38 saves and posted a 1.057 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). But, the man needs more help from his middle-inning mates than he got last season. That’s no deep slam against the core of young relievers who attempted to build a bridge to “Pap”, as they were mostly an inexperienced bunch.
If he passes his physical and both sides are agreeable, Lopez would become an ideal person for Phillies’ new bullpen coach Rod Nichols to work with. Not only does the 29-year-old veteran have a solid digital resume, he also proved that he could close major league games last season. He did experience some arm issues last season, so hopefully his health won’t be a major concern in 2013.
Earning 10 saves, after former stopper Brett Myers had been dealt to the Chicago White Sox, demonstrated that he could be more than a setup man. He doesn’t walk many batters and throws a lot of ground balls. Control of the strike zone and consistency allows a pitcher to be effective in the major leagues.
The Phillies didn’t have a reasonable alternative to Papelbon last season and would certainly be a stronger team if they have a legitimate late-inning man who could step assume his duties in case of injury, workload issues or even ineffectiveness.
More work to be done
While the Phillies are expected to send at least one of their young bullpen men to the Astros in this deal, there will still be plenty of candidates who can fill the other five slots in the traditional seven-man bullpen next season. Antonio Bastardo, Jeremy Horst, Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, Josh Lindblom, Jake Diekman, B. J. Rosenberg and Michael Stutes (who was injured for most of 2012) have all shown varying degrees of potential.
In addition to a variety of positional holes that need to be filled, I hope that Amaro obtains another veteran middle-inning arm during the offseason. Bullpen experience and depth always prove to be valuable commodities during every long season.
Sean O’Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his professional career in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons’ front office (the Philadelphia Phillies former Triple-A affiliate), later worked as a freelance sports writer and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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