Over the past four seasons or so, the strength of the Phillies team was their starting pitching. It was quite the departure from the Phillies teams of the late 90s and early part of the last decade, where the likes of Omar Daal and Jon Leiber were considered to be front-line starters.
But since Ruben Amaro took over as General Manager, the rotation has been completely rebuilt, thanks to the acquisitions of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and – briefly – Roy Oswalt. Along with incumbent Ace Cole Hamels, and a smattering of young arms that have proven to be very useful (Kyle Kendrick, Vance Worley, Tyler Cloyd, and so on), the Phillies haven't had a need to participate in the feeding frenzy of the starting pitcher free agent market.
That is about to change, however, in light of Thursday's trade that sent starting pitcher Vance Worley to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for outfielder Ben Revere.
Worley, who broke into the league with a stellar rookie season (11-3, 3.01 ERA, 8.1 K/9 in 131 IP) in 2011, followed up with a so-so 2012 season (6-9, 4.20 ERA, 7.2 K/9 in 133 IP) that was cut short due to a persistent elbow injury. Despite that, the 25-year-old right-handed starter would have been counted upon to log quality innings for the Phillies in 2013, ostensibly as the team's fourth starter in the rotation.
But with him shipped off to Minnesota, and with Roy Halladay's health a concern, the Phillies are now left with a void in the rotation. After Halladay, Lee, and Hamels, things get dicey. Kyle Kendrick, who has been shuffled back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation over the last two seasons, most likely earned himself a spot in the rotation after his stellar second-half performance in 2012, which leaves the Phillies with a job opening.
Internally, there aren't a whole lot of options. Tyler Cloyd, who made six starts last season, could get some looks, but there are doubts about whether or not he can be an effective Major League starter. You can also look at someone like 22-year-old RHP Jonathan Pettibone or 22-year-old LHP Adam Morgan, both of whom have had a great deal of success in the minors. However, it is very unlikely that either of those two would be considered for the rotation in 2013.
More likely, the Phillies are gauging the market for the available, free agent starting pitchers. Thankfully, the market is much more appealing (and quite a bit cheaper) than the outfielder market, thanks entirely to the amount of free agent pitchers in need of a gig.
At the top of the list are the likes of Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse, Anibal Sanchez, and Brandon McCarthy. While signing one of those arms won't signal the return of The Four Aces, the good news is that the Phillies might not need to break the bank to add one of them to the rotation.
Failing that, you had the second-tier guys, the starters who are the very definition of low-risk, high-reward. Pitchers like Erik Bedard, Jair Jurrjens, or Francisco Liriano. The pitchers who can do magical things with a baseball, but who can simultaneously ruin a season if they get too many starts.
Then, you have the “why not?” group of pitchers. These are the guys that teams will sign only if they absolutely need an arm, but are otherwise at the bottom of the food chain. I'm talking about Jamie Moyer, Roy Oswalt, Derek Lowe, Carl Pavano, Kevin Millwood, and so on.
Like I said, there aren't any Aces out there (Zack Greinke excluded), but you can do a whole lot worse than bringing in one of these guys to help bolster the back end of the rotation. If anything, the Phillies should probably be more concerned with Roy Halladay than a number five starter.