The offseason hasn't officially started and the Phillies have already improved themselves for next year. No, they haven't re-signed Terry Adams or another journeyman swingman to a multi-million-dollar contract. No, they haven't signed Adams' younger brother Gomez-they love signing brothers. No, they have not coaxed Gregg Jefferies out of retirement or pried Ron Gant away from the Padres to platoon in left and stand in the way of more promising young players. Heck, they didn't even trade away five major-league players for one overrated skinny rookie outfielder.
The Phillies signed Joe Kerrigan to be the pitching coach for 2003. It was announced last Friday and now that baseball is on hiatus for four days-did I mention that this will be NO BASEBALL FOR FOUR DAYS?-I have time to get to it.
Kerrigan has been a very effective coach in the past developing young arms in Montreal and Boston while reclaiming veterans from the scrap heap. Kerrigan was let go in spring training as manager of the Red Sox and hooked on for the Phillies' postgame show on Comcast SportsNet. He was the logical choice for pitching coach. He knows the staff and the organization, and hopefully he knows what he's getting himself into.
The Phillies will look to Kerrigan to develop Vicente Padilla (25 years old), Brett Myers (22), and Randy Wolf (26) into upper-tier starters. He will determine if the once promising careers of youngsters Brandon Duckworth (26) and David Coggin (25) can be salvaged. Also, he must decide if older players like one-time staff ace Robert Person (if he re-signs) and 31-year-old, career minor-leaguer Joe Roa can be used to fill out the staff.
On the bullpen side, he will have to determine what is to be done with a group that performed adequately but is aging and potentially will be decimated by free agent departures. Ostensibly, the always unpredictable Jose Mesa will return as the closer. Terry Adams pitched well in relief, but given that he was signed to big contract as a starter ($2.7M in 2002), his option may not be picked up. Overpriced journeyman, Ricky Bottalico's option will almost certainly be dropped. Veterans Dan Plesac, Jose Santiago, and Mike Timlin will probably depart as free agents. That leaves Carlos Silva (3.21 ERA as reliever), Cliff Politte (3.86), lefty Hector Mercado (5.13), and lefty Rheal Cormier (5.25 with a $2.8M 2002 salary who worked with Kerrigan in Boston). Their bullpen was ranked twentieth by Baseball Prospectus in adjusted runs prevented. None of their relievers finished in the top 30 in this statistic. Certainly, the Phils look extremely weak from the left side and overall the bullpen looks pretty poor for 2003 and may get worse with the free agent defections. The other spots may be filled by one or more of the starters who don't make the rotation, free agents, and/or trades. It doesn't look like there is a Francisco Rodriguez waiting in their minor-league system.
Kerrigan certainly has his work cut out for him, but if the Phils wanted to make one move to shore up their pitching staff short of having held on to Curt Schilling, this looks like a hard one to beat.