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  1. It’s a depth signing, pure and simple. As you pointed out, Contreras’ health is hardly guaranteed. The club really lacks an established set up man altogether, so it’s good to have a variety of options to turn to.

    All of the veterans in the pen except Papelbon are free agents in 2013. If they happen to block a couple of still developing relievers until then, the Phillies just shift the value they get from those players a year forward.

    At this time next year, we’ll better know if Aumont, De Fratus, Schwimer, and Stutes are all deserving of major league roster spots. Right now, some doubt remains. True, they are all at the point of their careers where we could learn about them faster in the majors, but it’s hardly hurting their development to wait a bit.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — February 1, 2012 @ 9:11 am

  2. Herndon does not belong on the major league roster. This move is still 5x better than the ridiculous amount that Kyle Kendrick is making for bringing his unique brand of awful to Philadelphia next year.

    Comment by Evan — February 1, 2012 @ 9:11 am

  3. The one thing worth noting about Kendrick is that the Phillies potentially lack major league quality backup SPs. We could argue whether that phrase describes Kendrick, but the results have been there 4 out of 5 seasons and projection systems peg him for a ~4.30 ERA. That’s a reasonable number for a backup #5 starter. But that’s a digression, the Phillies have to have somebody who can step in if Blanton or Worley struggle or if any of the top five hit the DL. It’s hard to imagine a team like the Phillies counting on Jonathan Pettibone, Austin Hyatt, and Julio Rodriguez to fill that role.

    In retrospect, the Phillies could have easily signed a similarly talented pitcher for less, but it was harder to guess that back when they had to make the decision to offer arbitration.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — February 1, 2012 @ 9:22 am

  4. Eric, do you really want the fans running the Phillies? “it’s not as if fans would have aggressively clamored for him, as many were content to see what some of the youngsters can offer.” I think this sets a dangerous precedent, and, frankly, who cares what the fans think about Schwimmer versus Qualls?

    Schwimmer – 14 major league innings, with a 36% LD% and 4.40 BB/9.

    Aumont – 53IP over AA and AAA, with 5.50 BB/9, after a horrendous 2010

    Herndon – 5.08 FIP.

    Qualls had a horrendous 2010 and his K/9 is dropping off. He does, however, wheel off groundballs at a pretty good clip, with better overall results than Herndon.

    If we’re this excited about Schwimmer, De Fratus and Aumont, I think we’re in trouble.

    Comment by Toz — February 1, 2012 @ 9:27 am

  5. Eric, do you think that the lux tax situation for the phils is more important for this year or next year? As in, the penalty they face this year is minimal and affordable unless they really want to bring in an expensive piece, but it facing repeat offender status could prevent say, resigning hamels, victorino or pence.

    Comment by Tony — February 1, 2012 @ 9:27 am

  6. All those young guys will still get a chance. Guys get hurt or are ineffective every year – you’ll use at least a dozen guys out of the pen every year.

    Comment by Mike — February 1, 2012 @ 9:30 am

  7. The Phillies signed a decent RP to a cheap contract & only committed to one year.

    Could they have gotten the same production from the youngsters? Maybe.

    But it seems like exactly the kind of a signing a contending team should make. Add depth & another quality arm as insurance against injuries, ineffectiveness, whatever.

    Comment by Mike H — February 1, 2012 @ 9:43 am

  8. All three of those minor league pitchers are good options for the pen, just not at the same time. Aumont might need to show he can lower his walk rate in AAA, but his strikeout rate is promising.

    Comment by Evan — February 1, 2012 @ 9:48 am

  9. They could have signed any number of pitchers to a MLC had they waited. They might not have known who at the time, but that’s no excuse. Or they could have released Kendrick and attempted to sign him to a lesser deal.

    It’s also worth noting that while the K rate dropped for Qualls, so did the walk rate. So the K:BB remained similar to 2010. Obviously you’d rather have the stronger K rate, but it wasn’t mentioned anywhere that the BB rate dropped along with the K rate which is why he remained at a similar level of effectiveness (at least via XFIP between 2010/2011).

    And there’s really no such thing as a bad one year deal. Qualls is a cheap, productive guy who gives them insure in case a reliever goes down. If the other RP prospects had failed, I can pretty much guarantee there would have been articles going “Why didn’t the Phillies sign a veteran RP for cheap?”.

    Comment by Mark — February 1, 2012 @ 9:49 am

  10. Phils won’t carry 8 relievers. Papelbon, Contreras, Qualls, Bastardo, Willis, Stutes, and Kendrick. There won’t be a spot for Herndon or the young guys.

    Comment by Roger Goodell — February 1, 2012 @ 9:49 am

  11. Insurance*. Not insure :(.

    Comment by Mark — February 1, 2012 @ 9:50 am

  12. The buried lead: “Speaking of Contreras, it’s entirely possible that this move signals that the Phillies lack confidence in his ability to stay healthy this year.”

    40(?) year old RP who only pitched 14 innings last year? It’s tough not to think that durability wouldn’t be a legitimate concern.

    As for the Phillies AAA pitching depth…I had no idea cheap pitching depth was something to scorn. The Phillies spent last year being (righly) killed for their lack of bench and iffy bullpen. Now that they’re improving (at a minimal $ cost and at a cost to michael schwimer’s PT), depth is “unnecessary”? Given the chance (likelihood) of injuries and/or ineffectiveness due to the high variance nature of RP in general on the ML roster I suspect that de fratus and schwimer will get a shot at some point this year.

    Comment by cable fixer — February 1, 2012 @ 9:55 am

  13. Contreras is a huge question mark and Willis has to at least find the strike zone in ST to make the squad. Blanton might not be ready as well, sliding Kendrick into the starting rotation.

    If i had to rank the youngsters who are most likely to contribute, I would go De Fratus, Schwimer, SAVERY, Aumont. I think they will take it slow with Aumont.

    Comment by Not Dave — February 1, 2012 @ 9:59 am

  14. I am actually surprised they got Qualls this cheap, he’s still a legit 7th inning guy.

    Comment by Not Dave — February 1, 2012 @ 10:00 am

  15. The point is they won’t carry 8 relievers and a 4 man bench.

    Comment by Roger Goodell — February 1, 2012 @ 10:03 am

  16. 1.5 mil is irrelevant to the Phillies, this isn’t the Rays.

    Comment by West — February 1, 2012 @ 10:34 am

  17. I fear Qualls = Danys Baez part 2. At least it’s a one year deal.

    Comment by Jonny5 — February 1, 2012 @ 10:39 am

  18. Is he? He looks more like Dontrelle Willis in reverse at this point. A speciailist carrying risk against opposite handed hitters. Brad Lidge showed results like that last year, and for about the same money, I’m a little surprised that chose Qualls over Lidge. But at least Qualls figures to be healthy. But picking and choosing spots for him seems wise. I’m pretty much in line with Eric’s point about this being unnecessary because I’d be surprised if he’s used effectively.

    Comment by Ken Bland — February 1, 2012 @ 10:43 am

  19. Willis is there to face lefties and only lefties. If they manage him properly, he should face over 70% lefties. He walked two and hit one in 60 PA in 2011. Obviously a very small sample, but it doesn’t seem like control should be a major concern at first glance.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — February 1, 2012 @ 11:20 am

  20. You hit the nail on the head – the Phillies have enough injury prone players. Getting Lidge off the stack allows the training staff to focus on more important players than middle relievers.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — February 1, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  21. Lidge’s contract has major incentives baked into it, so if he’s in any way productive he’ll be much more expensive than Qualls this year.

    Comment by Not Dave — February 1, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

  22. Quall’s peripherals, namely the GB% and BB rate are actually still pretty good.

    Comment by Not Dave — February 1, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

  23. As long as the Phils only use Qualls against righties at home, they will be fine (go look at his splits for the last few years). Of course, as Eric mentions, Charlie Manuel will use him in tie games in the eighth for a full inning.

    Comment by DD — February 1, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

  24. The phils goal is to stay under this season, and if they go over next year, when the tax is still the same, so be it, they’ll pay it at the first time rate. In 2014 the limit increases to 189mm, so in theory, they won’t pay then.

    Comment by Joecatz — February 1, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

  25. I agree 100% with Cable Fixer. I hate the Phillies so there’s no homerism here. A cheap, one year deal for an established RP is a solid move. Eric within 2 paragraphs you explain why it was. (Contreras injury concerns, Willis and his myriad of issues). Are we really counting on Bastardo pitching out of his mind for four months again this year? Seems like some regression is in order. It reminds me of Swydan’s piece on Pierre last week. The guy is more than adequate as a 4th OF, pinch runner, guy who can a get bunt down, which is exactly what he was signed for…Yet the tone of the analysis would leave one to believe that the Phillies gave him a multi year deal and planned pencil him into leadoff spot every day. And don’t tell me he’s blocking Dom Brown because he isn’t. For a team on Philly’s end of the win curve these moves make a lot of sense. They cost next to nothing and provide valuable depth.

    Comment by jpg — February 1, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

  26. Those same projection systems peg Joel Pineiro, who they signed to a minor league contract, to a similar ERA. Many bloggers and fans criticized the tendering of Kendrick solely on the basis that he would get ~$3.5M to produce what would project to be easily replaceable results. Why was this harder for the Phillies to guess?

    Comment by hk — February 1, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

  27. DC had an article last year about teams that maximize upside versus those that minimize downside. When a roster reaches a certain level where it’s considered a strong favorite to win a division, it’s important to start minimizing downside.

    These moves, Pierre and Qualls, minimize downside. There might be more upside going with Aumont and Brown, but those guys could turn in terrible seasons in 2012 and really hurt the team. Those are roster spots where the Phillies really just need guys who won’t hurt them.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — February 1, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

  28. This. Though given Howard’s condition, I can’t say they’re a lock for a playoff spot. However, if they do end up fighting for a playoff spot, upside in their middle relief is highly unlikely to be the deciding factor… while an explosion in the middle relief? Well, that could lose a race.

    Comment by B N — February 1, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  29. Exactly. My Mets are looking into Ibanez or Damon. For a team that’s a good bet for a distant last place finish…That’s the definition of a stupid, unnecessary move. I would have rather gotten further proof Fernando Martinez sucks.

    Comment by jpg — February 1, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

  30. You’re missing the main point. The Phils are right up against the lux tax, every dollar saved now affords them flexibility later. By signing Qualls they cost themselves financial wiggle-room and added a redundant piece to the roster.

    Comment by zeke — February 1, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

  31. Everyone is ignoring the salary cap implications. Also in theory bullpen depth is less important for a team that should be top one or two in the league in starter’s IP’ed and CG’s. So a million+ for a guy who will be insurance, righty specialist, or 3rd string set-up man doesn’t seem the most effective way of using the last few dollars in your pocket especially when the bullpen is already a strong point as far as organizational depth.

    Comment by zeke — February 1, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

  32. mlb doesn’t have a salary cap.

    Comment by cable fixer — February 1, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

  33. He probably means the Phillies “budget” as opposed to “salary cap” but I still disagree. A one year commitment at a little over a mil isn’t going to stop Philly from making another move down the line if they feel the need to.

    Comment by jpg — February 1, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

  34. Yeah, I obviously meant luxury tax, I guess I’m not in mid-season form. As for my argument, the FO knows more about the teams finances than I do, bit it seems odd to free up salary by trading Valdez and then add that salary right back. My point is that you can’t just say “low salary, high upside, good move” without factoring in salary implications and whether or not they could get similar or better production from within the organization.

    Comment by zach — February 1, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

  35. I mean this in a complete non-snarky way: How do any of us really know what the Phillies finances are? This luxury tax threshold is oft-repeated but is seemingly unsubstantiated and also somewhat refuted by the Qualls signing. If that money really doesn’t exist, then they wouldn’t have brought in Qualls, right?

    As for zach/zeke’s initial point: ” [signing qualls] doesn’t seem the most effective way of using the last few dollars in your pocket especially when the bullpen is already a strong point.” Ok, I’ll bite on the opportunity cost argument: what is a more effective way to spend that money? Since you mentioned him…300 more ABs of .275 OBA from Wilson Valdez?

    I also disagree (kind of) that the bullpen is a strong point. Prior to the Qualls signing, they were relying a 40 year old with health concerns to pitch the 8th. While the Phillies should be applauded for fixing their depth issues–cheaply too–any bullpen that’s relying on Jose Contreras in high leverage spots has at least one major question mark, IMO.

    Comment by cable fixer — February 1, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

  36. Seems like an unnecessarily long essay about an unnecessary reliever. I rarely hear the term “we have too much pitching” thrown around in baseball. I think they’ll be just fine… I also doubt they are clueless about where this leaves them financially and have 1 or 2 or 5 contingency plans to make things work out for the best. They get paid a few dollars to do this kind of thing.

    Comment by last72stop — February 1, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

  37. In reply to Not Dave, who says Lidge’s deal has major incentives baked into it, I thought this might be a good point, though no specifics are mentioned, so I checked Cots, which simply says he has incentives based on appearances, and games finished. So I’ll guess Lidge could be more expensive than Qualls, but it’s a near certainty based on his place in the pen (preceding Clippard and Storen that his games finished incentives are like Kyle Kendrick’s incentives for winning the CY.

    Comment by Ken Bland — February 1, 2012 @ 6:48 pm

  38. Fair arguments cablefixer. To be clear, I’m not trashing the signing outright or claiming to know what to do with the Phillies’ money. I do, however, agree with the author’s premise that given what we do know about the team’s payroll and organizational depth that the signing can be characterized as “unnecessary” and questionable.
    These are the things we are forced to debate in February.

    Comment by zeke — February 2, 2012 @ 1:17 am

  39. PAPELBON WILL BLOW A LOTS OF LATE INNING SAVES, IT WASN’T UNCOMMON FOR HIM TO LET A RUN IN OR 2 IN AND RUIN THE SAVE, HE WAS LUCKY THE RED SOX GAVE HIM A GOOD CUSHION OF RUNS MOST TIME, TO COVER HIS BAD PITCHING!!!!!!!!!!HOLD ON TO YOUR SEAT, IT WILL BE A SHAKY RUN WITH HIM!!!!!!!

    Comment by BOB KUDELSKI — February 2, 2012 @ 6:52 am

  40. “The Phillies had a 4-3 lead over the Marlins, but that all changed when Herndon surrendered three home runs in one inning”. This was a 7th inning gaff and cost Cole a ‘W’. A tough loss and one the Phils do not want to repeat. Enter Chad Qualls in that situation. Herndon is the wrong deal, not Qualls. Ask most fans what happens when Herndon is announced. A resounding… AHHHHHH.

    Comment by LuckyNucky — February 4, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

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