The Phillies are reeling after Cole Hamels suffered a setback, pushing his 2014 debut into May most likely. They’re thin on starting pitching depth even after adding A.J. Burnett last month. As a result, they have checked in with Ervin Santana according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
Or maybe not. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported shortly after Cafardo’s tweet that a team source told him that the Phillies have not checked in on Santana. [.gif of Larry David hemming and hawing]
It would be surprising if the Phillies wound up with Santana because it isn’t as if they’ve lost Hamels for an entire year. Additionally, they have set a franchise-high payroll following the Burnett signing. Not counting pre-arbitration players, they sat at close to $172 million, per Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly back in February. Once you include those pre-arb players, they’re close to $180 million. Adding in their 1/30 share for player-benefit costs (between $10-11 million), they’re right up against the $189 million luxury tax threshold. Adding Santana would undoubtedly push them over. The Phillies would then have to pay a 17.5 percent penalty on the amount they exceed the threshold, and it would put them in line for a harsher penalty next season if they were to exceed it again. There’s an incentive to stay under if you don’t have unlimited amounts of money like the Yankees and Dodgers.
Amaro recently said in an interview with MLB Network Radio that he needed ownership approval to sign Burnett and would undoubtedly need it once more to sign Santana, which might be one wrench in his plans if Cafardo’s tweet is true. As it stands, the Phillies can hope Jonathan Pettibone is healthy by mid-April, that Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez can handle Major League competition, or choose from a handful of non-roster invitees including David Buchanan, Jeff Manship, Sean O’Sullivan, and Mario Hollands.
Santana, by the way, recently fired his agent. Seems he isn’t happy about being unemployed going into March.
Not much has gone right for the Phillies in the early going. They are 1-3 in the Grapefruit League thus far, having been disappointed several times already by Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Roberto Hernandez wasn’t sharp in his first outing. Jonathan Pettibone has had shoulder problems again. The cherry on top of the sundae, though, was when they learned that Cole Hamels would not be ready for Opening Day due to tendinitis in his right shoulder.
Thankfully, the Phillies have received a dose of good news about Hamels. He is progressing well and may only miss one or two starts at the beginning of the regular season. He is on track to throw live batting practice next week. Via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki:
“Everything felt really good,” he said at Bright House Field. “My pitches are really coming along. I’m really able to execute down in the zone. I know that’s something Bob [McClure, pitching coach] preaches to everybody. I know I’m pretty good at doing that, so to get into my second bullpen and execute down in the zone, correct pitches within a pitch, having the control, it feels great.”
The Phillies are thin on pitching depth as is, so a healthy and productive Hamels is tantamount to the Phillies remaining at least somewhat competitive throughout the 2014 season. The left-hander finished the past season with a 3.60 ERA in 220 innings, ending a stretch of three consecutive seasons between 2010-12 where he finished with an ERA of 3.06 or lower.
The Phillies’ rotation depth took a hit today, as Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that right-hander Ethan Martin has been shut down for three weeks due to triceps and shoulder capsule strains.
Martin left Thursday’s exhibition opener against the Blue Jays due to shoulder soreness. He faced just four batters and was reportedly hitting around 85 mph on his fastball.
The Phillies are already expected to be without Cole Hamels and Jonathan Pettibone at the start of the regular season, so that leaves Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick, and Roberto Hernandez as the only sure things for the starting rotation. It would certainly help if Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez begins to show why the Phillies gave him a three-year, $12 million contract, but he’s a huge mystery at the moment.
Martin, 24, was acquired from the Dodgers in 2012 as part of the Shane Victorino trade. He posted a 6.08 ERA and 47/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings last year between the rotation and the bullpen.
The A.J. Burnett signing is sounding more and more important for the Phillies with every piece of pitcher-related news that comes out, it seems. At around the same time the Phillies handed a contract to Burnett, they announced that Cole Hamels wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day due to shoulder tendinitis.
Now, according to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, Jonathan Pettibone is feeling shoulder discomfort again. GM Ruben Amaro said the injury is “similar, but not as severe” as the shoulder injury that brought Pettibone’s season to an end in late July last season.
Pettibone on his injury:
“It’s kind of the early stages of what happened last year,” he said. “So it’s good that we stop it early and jump on some anti-inflammatories and hopefully get it before it gets too serious.”
Pettibone was expected to compete for the #5 spot in the rotation along with Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Roberto Hernandez. The Phillies’ pitching depth is razor-thin as it is, having also learned in January that Adam Morgan will miss most of the 2014 season.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. indicated Friday that he didn’t expect to make any additions prior to spring training, but Todd Zolecki of MLB.com hears that the club is “very much still in the running” to sign free agent right-hander A.J. Burnett.
While it’s unclear if the two sides are close to a deal, Zolecki writes that the chances have improved since Friday. The Pirates are seen as the main competition to sign the veteran right-hander, while the Orioles and the Nationals have also been mentioned as possibilities.
If signed, Burnett would give the Phillies a pretty impressive trio along with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. As of now, Kyle Kendrick is slated to be Philadelphia’s No. 3 starter, with Roberto Hernandez and either Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez or Jonathan Pettibone filling the final two spots.
Burnett, 37, had a 3.30 ERA and 209/67 K/BB ratio over 191 innings with the Pirates last season.