Thursday, June 4, 2009

Perhaps the Phils Could Use Some Brand New Sheets

With the injury to Brett Myers putting the Phillies' No. 2 starter on the shelf, and many of the other starters struggling thus far this season, it's no secret the Phillies are looking for starting pitching.

More than likely, the Phils will try to fill the gap with some of their young arms, like they did the other night with Antonio Bastardo looking good against the Padres, for the time being. Cole Hamels is the unquestioned No. 1, and Joe Blanton isn't going anywhere soon. Ditto J.A. Happ, who has been very, very good this year, and even Jamie Moyer looks like he's beginning to come around.

But no matter how you slice it, the Phils need another starter, and really, they need a No. 2 or another No. 1 if they really expect to make any noise come October. The most logical way to get that is through a trade, and the Phils are linked to every available top-notch starter out there (Peavy, Oswalt, Halladay, you name it).

A trade isn't the only option for the Phillies, or any other team for that matter, however. There are some quality arms out there on the free agent market, and the Phils should at least give a look at a few of them. Without question though, one name is more intriguing than the rest: Ben Sheets.

Ben Sheets is as talented as any starting pitcher in all of baseball. Problem is, he's a walking injury. The guy is far from durable. Having said that, if I was the Phils, I'd take a chance on him no questions asked if they can't swing a trade for a significant arm.

When healthy, Sheets is flat-out dominant with a heavy fastball, unhittable curveball and excellent change. He was as big a reason as any (OK, CC was bigger) that Milwaukee made the playoffs last year, and if he can recover from offseason surgery and regain the form he's had throughout his whole career, he can be the front-of-the-rotation guy the Phils are looking for to complement Hamels.

At 30 years old, you'd think he still has something left in the tank, even with his injury history. Hell, last year he was as good as ever at the beginning of the season. Perhaps this 4-time All-Star is the guy the Phils are looking for. Obviously, signing him is a risk, but it's a calculated one if Rubes can't get a top-notch guy like Peavy, Oswalt, Halladay or even Bedard. I like my chances more with gambling on Sheets than getting an average pitcher like Jason Marquis.

In fact, if the Phils can't get a frontline starter and have to settle for an average pitcher, there are free agents out there they could gamble on and not have to give up anything for. Guys like the recently cut Tom Glavine, who pitched well in his two rehab assignments for the Braves before getting let go; Paul Byrd, a serviceable starter who could return to Philadelphia; even bigger gambles like Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez, Esteban Loaiza and, hell, even another walking injury in Mark Mulder.

None of those guys would be ideal, but it's better than having to trade a prospect to get Jason Marquis, although Marquis can hit. That would be fun.

Obviously, the best-case scenario for the Phillies is to be able to land a Peavy, a Oswalt, a Bedard, a Halladay. That should be their top priority, and they should do everything in their power to make that happen. But if not, I wouldn't settle for another average pitcher unless the price was really cheap. Otherwise, I'd take my chances with one the experienced free agents.

All told, I'd put Sheets ahead of any average starter the Phils could get unless it's absolutely clear he won't be healthy. Really, what's to lose? At best, you get an All-Star caliber pitcher. At worst, you're right where you are now. Take a gamble, Rubes. Give Sheets a call.

In fact, even if you can make a big trade to get that horse you want, adding Sheets could still be an option if he's around. Moyer hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire this year, and you can never have too many pitchers. Of course, I don't expect this happen, but I think it's at least worth exploring.

BallHype: hype it up!

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