Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted last night that the Phillies are “strongly pursuing” set-up men to pitch the eighth inning behind closer Jonathan Papelbon, namely Edward Mujica. Passan says the Phillies are believed to be willing to go up to three years for such a bullpen piece.
Though it doesn’t make sense from a logical, team construction point of view, it does make sense because it’s Ruben Amaro at the helm. The Phillies already have a set-up man in Mike Adams, who will earn $7 million in 2014, the final guaranteed year of a two-year deal signed last off-season. Adams suffered from several injuries, including hip soreness, a back strain, biceps irritation, and a season-ending tear of his labrum and rotator cuff, so perhaps the team is skeptical of his ability to be healthy and effective. However, the bullpen is also chock full of high-upside arms, including lefties Antonio Bastardo and Jake Diekman, who finished the 2013 season with a 2.32 and 2.58 ERA, respectively, along with impressive strikeout rates.
With $127.5 million committed to eight players already, before factoring in arbitration-eligible players and pre-arbs, the Phillies have a limited amount of wiggle room unless they decide to ignore the $189 million luxury tax threshold, or last season’s Opening Day payroll under $160 million — attendance has been slipping fast at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies finished 16 games under .500, so they’re more than Marlon Byrd and a set-up man away from being a realistic contender in the NL East again.