First-half record: 57-34
Standings: 3 games up on Braves in NL East
Bullpen: Ryan Madson should return to form after he comes back from a hand injury, but the Phillies can’t rely on either Brad Lidge (shoulder, elbow) and Jose Contreras (elbow). Adding another late-game reliever should be this team’s priority. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be an experienced closer, not with the way that Madson has stepped up.
Outfield: I think the Phillies can pass on an adding an outfielder. Rookie Domonic Brown is hitting .371/.436/.400 through 35 at-bats this month, and even when he has struggled at the major league level, he’s never looked overmatched. It wouldn’t hurt to bring in another part-timer — preferably a backup center fielder who could also serve as a defensive replacement for Raul Ibanez in left — but Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr. make for a nice pair of backups as is.
Infield: I’d rather see the Phillies go get themselves a legitimate backup for Chase Utley and Placido Polanco. Wilson Valdez is a nice defender, but he’d be an awfully weak option as a regular if either Utley or Polanco gets hurt at the wrong time. Omar Infante would be a great pickup if the Marlins decide they’re out of it. Jeff Keppinger and Mike Aviles would also work.
Luke Gregerson (RHP Padres): Gregerson makes more sense for the Phillies than Heath Bell: he’s an extreme groundball pitcher and he wouldn’t stretch the team’s budget. He certainly won’t come cheap, not when he’s under control through 2014, but the Padres figure to be open to moving him if the right offer comes along. They have plenty of needs, and they’ve never been shy about trading relievers to fill them.
Gregerson for RHP Brody Colvin
Colvin entered the year as the Phillies’ top pitching prospect, but he’s fallen behind Jarred Cosart while missing some time and amassing a 4.16 ERA and a 43/22 K/BB ratio in 62 2/3 innings for high-A Clearwater. He’d still be a really nice get for the Padres here, and he could be part of a promising 2013 rotation that’d also potentially include Cory Luebke, Casey Kelly and maybe Simon Castro, with Keyvius Sampson and Joe Ross on the way up.
As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.
Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.
If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.
Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.
But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.
Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.
There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.
Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.
Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.
We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.
Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.
The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.
Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.
In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.
Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.
He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.