The Phillies still need to address their starting rotation. Could Paul Maholm or Jason Vargas be a fit? (AP)
Over the next several weeks we’ll unveil a list of potential free agents and trade targets the Phillies could pursue this offseason, one in which they’ll need to plug holes behind the plate, in the corner outfield and, most importantly, on the pitching staff.
After looking at reclamation projects on Thursday in starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Phil Hughes (see story), we changed things up on Friday by focusing on two right-handed power bats in the outfield (see story). Today, it's back to starting pitching as we examine two left-handed, back-end-of-the-rotation starters.
2012-13 stats: 23-22, 4.01 ERA in 57 starts and one relief appearance, 1.30 WHIP, 6.47 K/9
Most recent contract: Made $6.5 million last season from deal signed before 2012 season
2012-13 stats: 23-19, 3.92 ERA in 57 starts, 1.26 WHIP, 6.13 K/9
Most recent contract: Made $8.5 million last season after being traded to Angels in offseason
Maholm and Vargas are similar soft-throwing lefties on the free-agent market. Both rely on off-speed, location and pitching to contact.
Maholm is coming off a 2013 season in which he threw his fewest innings (153) since his rookie year in 2005. Battling injuries to his left elbow and wrist, Maholm finished the year 10-11 with a 4.41 ERA and 1.41 WHIP — his worst ERA and WHIP since 2010 — and failed to make the Braves’ NLDS roster.
However, from 2006 to 2012, Maholm was healthy and reliable. For seven straight seasons, he eclipsed 162 innings, owned a groundball percentage of 52 and allowed 0.85 home runs per nine innings. Pitching for the Cubs and Braves in 2012, Maholm set career highs in wins (13), strikeouts (140), WHIP (1.22) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.64), while posting a 3.67 ERA.
So he can be durable and dependable … was last year an anomaly?
Maholm will be inexpensive, which makes him an attractive arm worth possibly a one-year deal.
Vargas suffered a blood clot that kept him sidelined nearly two months this season. Despite the tough blow in a contract year, he managed to go 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA and 1.39 WHIP for the Angels.
But what Vargas did his previous three seasons is what should impress suitors. The southpaw compiled 192-plus innings in each of his past three seasons with the Mariners to go along with a 3.96 ERA. Like Maholm, Vargas also had a career year in 2012. The lefty pitched to a 3.85 ERA and collected career bests in wins (14), starts (33), innings (217 1/3), strikeouts (141), WHIP (1.18) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.56).
Vargas does surrender the long ball — he’s allowed the 10th-most home runs since 2010 among active starting pitchers, but free agents Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes have permitted more.
Vargas, unlike Maholm, should wear a larger price tag. According to MLB.com, Vargas could be looking for a three-year deal and it seems the Angels would like to re-sign him.
“We'll maintain a rhetoric with him and do have interest in him returning,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said on Nov. 4, per MLB.com. “I think it's a mutual interest.
“There's a number of starters out there that we have interest in on some level but right now our priority is focusing on Jason.”
If the Phillies are committing to mid-level free agents (see story), miss out on Arroyo and want to play it safe, these two lefties could be options.