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The Phillies’ pitching predicament

The Phillies need to add a starting pitcher – there’s no way around it.

There are three pitchers I trust in the rotation as it stands right now in the middle of April: Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin. Nick Pivetta, the supposed dark horse Cy Young candidate, has been abysmal in his three starts. Vince Velasquez looked himself in his lone start of the year.

With two question marks out of five pitchers, it’s clear there’s a desire to shore up the pitching staff. Two names that are popular among Phillies fans are Madison Bumgarner and Dallas Keuchel.

Jon Morosi reported the Phillies are “doing their due diligence” on Bumgarner, the lefty from San Francisco, someone who could instantly improve the starting rotation.

Bumgarner is a beast in the postseason. In the World Series alone, he is a perfect 4-0 with a .25 ERA. Yes, your eyes are working just fine.

While his past is incredibly hard to argue with, Bumgarner hasn’t been himself the past two seasons. In 2017, he threw 111 innings over 17 games with a 3.32 ERA. In 2018, he started the season on the DL and threw 129.2 over 21 games with a 3.26 ERA. He will turn 30 this August.

It would be hard to part ways with a top prospect for a pitcher who appears to be on the decline who is only getting older. Prospect pending, I would be interested in a trade for Bumgarner. Realistically, I think the Giants would wants a haul for a guy with the notoriety Bumgarner has – kind of like the Phillies wanted for Cole Hamels back in 2015.

On the other hand, the Phillies could still pursue Dallas Keuchel. The 31-year old lefty is still on the market despite being one of the best pitchers to hit the market this off-season. Just last month, Morosi reported Keuchel is throwing simulated games.

Last year, Keuchel was a far cry from the pitcher he was when he won the Cy Young in 2015. In 2018, he posted a 3.74 ERA over 204.2 innings pitched. He’s a ground ball pitcher who relies on accuracy to put batters away.

The Phillies have an estimated $17.5 million in cap space before they hit the luxury tax, so, in theory, they have some room for negotiations with Keuchel if they so choose.

The pitcher the Phillies need is someone who can go six or seven innings consistently and keep the game in reach for their potent offense. I think Keuchel could be that guy but he will likely cost too much.

If I was in the Phillies’ front office, I’d let the rotation go through another two or three times before hitting the panic button. If I had to make a decision right now, I’d lean Keuchel over Bumgarner, simply because I would be hesitant to meet the Giants demands for a pitcher whose best days are likely behind him. If the Phillies can talk down Keuchel’s price, then I’m all on board.

Who knows – the next Phillies pitcher could be in the farm system. Enyel De Los Santos looked capable in his limited time last season. Cole Irvin, a 25-year old left hander, was 14-4 for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs last season; he won the International League Pitcher of the Year. While he is definitely not the immediate answer, Irvin is a name to watch moving forward.

The point is this – the Phillies don’t necessarily need another ace for the rotation. They need a guy similar to what Joe Blanton was for the 2008 team, someone who can eat innings and keep our potent offense in position to win games. The problem here is finding the guy to do it for the right price.

The Phillies have plenty of options at their fingertips when they’re ready to make their decision. Whether it’s trading for Bumgarner, signing Keuchel, promoting from within or trading for a different pitcher, I can guarantee Klentak and the front office will have done their research and made the smartest decision.


You can follow Anthony Mazziotti on Twitter (@AntMazziotti) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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