Thursday, July 16, 2009

Risk is low for Phillies and Pedro

By Michael Rushton

This isn't the first time that the Phillies have danced this dance, acquiring a pitcher who isn't he big name that the Philadelphia faithful had been pleading, praying and screaming for.

But like seasons past, the Phils hope to once again prove that they do, in fact, know what they are doing.

No, Pedro Martinez is not Roy Halladay, the Toronto ace that everyone who wears a Phillies cap wants desperately to call their own. However, Martinez is a three-time Cy Young Award winner who the Phillies believe has something left in the tank.

"I don't expect to be the same Pedro that I was when I was 26. But I still feel like I can still bring something to the table," Martinez said at a press conference on Wednesday after being introduced as the team's latest acquisition. "I still feel like this team needs a little help, very little help, and I think I can supply a little bit of it."

This move makes nothing but sense for the Phillies. After all, Martinez's one- year contract is reported to be for a mere $1 million with another $1.5 million in incentives. That is hardly enough money to take the Phillies out of the Halladay sweepstakes, nor enough to make a blip on a $110-plus million payroll.

The Phils are defending champions, not desperate. They say they have done their homework. They saw Martinez pitch at the World Baseball Classic. They saw him pitch in the Dominican. They think they know what they are getting. They have been right before.

Fresh off a 2007 division title and their first playoff appearance since 1993, the then-title-starved diehards in South Philadelphia checked the Internet every day last season for some sign that the Phillies were going to make a push for the available CC Sabathia, who would eventually be dealt from Cleveland to Milwaukee prior to the 2008 trade deadline.

Philadelphia's consolation prize? Joe Blanton and the club's first championship in 28 years.

Back in 2006, the rebuilding club added a veteran lefty named Jamie Moyer, who won 16 games last year and was a big key to the Phils' run to a World Series title. The 2007 season, the one that ended with a playoff appearance, saw Kyle Lohse come to town. Lohse, now with the Cardinals, didn't lose a game in a Philadelphia uniform, going 3-0 with a 4.72 earned run average in 13 games.

Same thing with Blanton, who was 4-0 with a 4.20 ERA in 13 regular-season starts last year after coming over from Oakland. Blanton also won two playoff starts, one of those versus Tampa Bay in the World Series.

Sure, the Brewers also made the postseason with Sabathia on the hill, proving that the big move also works, but at a cost. They were dispatched by the Phillies in the playoffs and the prospects they gave up for CC -- including outfielder Matt LaPorta and pitchers Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson -- left their farm system thin and will likely prevent them from making a run this season at a pitcher like Halladay.

It will take a similar deal by the Phillies to get Halladay, but at least the right-hander is signed through next season. Sabathia, meanwhile, is wearing Yankee pinstripes after signing a big offseason deal with New York.

Still, there is a little wiggle room for doubters in the City of Brotherly Love. After all, it was Pat Gillick who brought Moyer, Lohse and Blanton to town, not current Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who took over for the retired Gillick prior to this season.

But Amaro is no rookie, having served as assistant GM for the Phillies the previous 10 seasons. Don't think he didn't learn a thing or two from Gillick. He will still be working the phones, trying to get Halladay in a Phillies uniform, a move that would make the team on-paper favorites to repeat as champions.

"We're going to try to improve the team either with starting pitching or a bullpen piece or a bench piece," Amaro told the Phillies' website.

And while everyone focuses on the club's pursuit of Halladay, Martinez will be waiting in the background, a low-risk, high-reward pickup that could be the first block of Amaro's own legacy.

No comments: