This afternoon, Jim Salisbury reported on CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies are interested in signing former Dodgers starting pitcher and current free agent Chad Billingsley. While he is currently 30 years old and basically hasn't pitched in the majors since 2012 due to elbow injuries--Tommy John surgery in 2013, surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in 2014.
Phillies fans might remember Billingsley best for his two poor performances against the Phillies in the 2008 NLCS in which he threw 5 innings over two starts, giving up 10 earned runs and walking 7 Phillies (on the bright side, he struck out nine batters over those 5 innings). Those two starts were anomalous for Billingsley, however, as he posted a 3.14 ERA (3.35 FIP) in 2008. In 2006, Baseball America ranked him as the best prospect in the Dodgers system. When he's pitched, he has been effective, as he owns a career 3.65 ERA (3.67 FIP) with 7.9 K/9. If they sign him, the Phillies would be betting on his ability to come back as an effective pitcher.
Elbow injuries are always troubling for pitchers, and that Billingsley has had two major elbow injuries in the last 2 years certainly casts doubt on his ability to stay healthy going forward. As a result, he's likely stuck seeking a one year contract in the hopes of reclaiming his value, similar to the 1 year/ $1 million deal Josh Johnson signed with the Padres earlier this month. Unlike the Padres who hope Johnson will contribute to what they hope will be a playoff contender, the Phillies would likely attempt to trade Billingsley in July if he proves he can still be a reliable starter.
Moreover, Billingsley would provide MLB-level depth that would afford the Phillies the flexibility to trade another pitcher, say Cole Hamels. If all goes according to plan, there should be a number of prospects ready for the majors mid-season--Aaron Nola, Jesse Biddle, Ben Lively, Severino Ganzalez--to take over if Billingsley has regained any trade value come July.
Obviously, the Phillies will take a good look at Billingsley's elbow before finalizing anything with him. At 30 years old, there is certainly reason to hope that a healthy Billingsley could continue to pitch at something like his former form for another couple years. If the Phillies' doctors determine Billingsley can pitch in 2015, he would be exactly the type of low-cost signing that a team in the Phillies' situation should seek out.