The Phillies did remarkably well in the postseason when one considers they employed only three starting pitchers they truly trusted.
Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez weren’t perfect in the playoffs, but all were more very good than not, and all three have proven they can be trusted to start a postseason tournament game. Manager Rob Thomson may not have ultimate faith that they can face a lineup the third or fourth time through, but that’s true of pretty much any pitcher/manager relationship in baseball right now.
This weekend, the Winter Meetings get underway, and while most will be focused on the Phils’ pursuit of a shortstop, it seems clear the team also needs another reliable starter. Zach Eflin signed a three-year deal with the Rays this week, and Kyle Gibson inked a one-year contract with the Orioles. Noah Syndergaard may or may not be back, and one can assume the combination of Bailey Falter and/or Cristopher Sanchez will get an opportunity to start some more games in 2023.
It’s clear the Phillies need another reliable starting pitcher. Here’s the problem.
The market is insane.
Most insiders expected Jacob deGrom to get a highly lucrative three-year deal somewhere. The Texas Rangers gave him five. Justin Verlander is also seeking a three-year deal, is age (40) may limit the years on anything he receives, but Carlos Rodon must be salivating. As for the mid-tier class of starters...
Mets and Rangers are among many, many teams in on Jameson Taillon. Has huge market. Will get extremely good deal in this market.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 3, 2022
This is the market I expect the Phils to wade in, but one would imagine they’ll have plenty of competition. If Heyman’s tweet is to be believed, it will likely take more in terms of years and money to sign a player like Taillon (who was worth 1.3 bWAR last year with a 3.91 ERA, 1.128 WHIP and 7.7 K/9 for the Yankees) than would ordinarily be palatable.
Still, Dave Dombrowski needs to land someone like that, if only to make sure they can get through a 162-game season in good shape.
What you’d love to see is the Phillies have a Game 4 playoff stud like Houston’s Cristian Javier, someone capable of coming in and throwing six effective, if no-hit, innings in a postseason game. Someone with incredible stuff that you can unleash upon an unsuspecting lineup.
Not many teams have guys like that. It’s why the Phillies rotation in 2011 was termed a “super rotation.” If you’re looking for a Cristian Javier-type pitcher in free agency, you’re not going to find one unless you sign Verlander or Rodon and knock everyone down a notch.
Which brings us to the Phillies’ No. 1 prospect, 19-year-old Andrew Painter. On the latest edition of Hittin’ Season below, Baseball Prospetus’ Editor-in-Chief Craig Goldstein joined me to talk about the Phils’ search for pitching, noting the Phillies may have an answer in their own farm system.
GOLDSTEIN - “I think with the teams you see succeeding like the Astros have, the Dodgers, other teams, they’re developing those [Game 4} type guys. The Phillies don’t have that type of development systems yet, but we just released our top 20 prospects list, they have Andrew Painter, they have Mick Abel, Griff McGarry... ...Painter is, if he’s not the best pitching prospect in baseball, he’s No. 2. Maybe that’s your Cristian Javier. That’s the parallel to draw. The Astros were starting Jose Urquidy for most of the season. So maybe Taijuan Walker or Jameson Taillon is the Jose Urquidy to that equation.”
Check out the entire episode for our full conversation previewing the Winter Meetings, what the best fit at shortstop would be for the Phillies, and my breakdown of Zach Eflin’s contract with Tampa as well!