Given all of the gaps the Phillies need to fill this offseason, they should sign one of these cheap starting pitchers to fill the 2021 rotation.
The Phillies have a lot of holes to fill for the 2021 season. Between fixing the bullpen, center field, re-signing J.T. Realmuto, and figuring out the middle infield, a fifth starter is low on the Phillies’ prioirty list.
But there is still a need for an additional starting pitcher. While Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin are quite capable as the top of the rotation, Spencer Howard remains as the only starting pitcher at the back end. Unless the Phillies take a gamble with Vince Velasquez… again.
Unless the Phillies make a surprise appearance in the Trevor Bauer bidding or trade for a starter, they will need to compromise and sign a cheap starter. This means they will either need to hire an older pitcher with a low performance ceiling or a pitcher with a history of injuries but a larger potential.
Five Pitchers the Phillies Should Sign
Chris Archer, 32
From 2014 to 2017, Chris Archer pitched an average of 33.2 games per season for the Tampa Bay Rays. Injuries, however, began to plague him in 2018. Since being traded to the Pirates in 2018, Archer has only pitched 33 games. Most recently, surgery to alleviate neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrom (TOS) kept him sidelined for all of the 2020 season. The Pirates declined to pickup his $11 million option for 2021.
2021 will be Archer’s chance to prove that he can remain healthy and still pitch at the major league level. If the Phillies (and new pitching coach Caleb Cotham) can help Archer get anywhere near his career 3.86 ERA and 5.85 IP per start, Archer would be exactly what the Phillies need in a fifth starter.
Archer earned $7.5 million in 2019 with the Pirates. If the Phillies jump on Archer before Trevor Bauer signs anywhere, they could likely get Archer on a one-year, $5-6 million contract.
Adam Wainwright, 39
At 39, Adam Wainwright still has gas left in the tank. The starting pitcher has spent his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals, and now faces free agency as his career reaches its twilight. But, he proved in 2020 that he is still good. Starting in ten games (including two complete games), Waino notched a 3.15 ERA.
A three-time All Star (and four-time NL Cy Young Final 3 candidate), Wainwright uses a sinker, curveball, and cutter to keep hitters off-balance. With age comes experience as well, as Wainwright would be a valuable mentor for Spencer Howard, as well as the rest of rotation.
Ironically, the oldest pitcher on this list may also be the most expensive. If Wainwright decides not to return to St. Louis, he could fetch upwards to $10 million on the market if teams are interested. If the Phillies have any interest in him, they should strike early.
Carlos Rodon, 28
Out of every pitcher on this list, Carlos Rodon has the highest potential return for the Phillies. He is also, however, a huge injury risk. He has had shoulder issues in three separate seasons, as well as having had Tommy John surgery in 2019. Last season, he struggled with shoulder discomfort upon returning from Tommy John.
Rodon owns a career 4.14 ERA. While that is not quite impressive, the pitcher is still young enough to improve his game. The Phillies also have not had a southpaw starting pitcher since 2019.
Rodon may not be much, but he has a lot to prove. And, most importantly, he’s cheap. The Phillies could likely sign Rodon on a one-year, $4 million deal max.
Potential Returns to the Phillies?
Cole Hamels, 37
It would only be right for Hamels to finish his career in Philadelphia. The former 2002 first round pick has had quite the career, topped off by earning the title of World Series MVP in the 2008 World Series. The last time he pitched for the Phillies, he threw a no-hitter in 2015. In a season where fans will (hopefully) return to the stands, a familiar face will go a long way in filling Citizens Bank Park.
Hamels only made one start in 2020 due to shoulder tendinits. Following his one year, one start tenure with the Atlanta Braves, Hamels will look to free agency again as he looks for his fourth home since 2018. The left-hander clocked in two consecutve sub-4.00 ERA seasons in 2018 and 2019, indicating that he can still eat up innings.
If the Phillies can match the $6.6 million Hamels earned in 2020, a reunion could be just what the doctor ordered.
J.A. Happ, 38
Another former Phillies pitcher? This is the way. J.A. Happ has been consistent throughout his career with some moments of greatness in the mix as well. A 3.98 career ERA, Happ threw for a 3.47 ERA in nine starts with the Yankees in 2020.
While Happ’s previous contract earned him $17 million per year, he is unlikely to earn anywhere near that amount in 2021. Look for Happ to get a contract similar to Hamels this offseason.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire
Shaun is a Phillies Contributor for PSN and a Sports Information Graduate Assistant at West Chester University. An alum of The University of Tampa, Shaun is an accomplished sportswriter, having covered three NCAA Division II National Champions and now the Philadelphia Phillies. Connect with Shaun on Twitter @shaun_nestor