At least 15 relief pitchers have signed major league contracts this offseason, none of them with the Phillies. That might not change, either. Prices are even higher than usual, with Brian Wilson signing a one-year, $10 million contract with the Dodgers to be a set-up man and 39-year-old Joe Nathan signing with Detroit for two years and $20 million to close. The Phillies are likely to be bargain hunting in January, where plenty of potential bounce back candidates should be available, but you wonder whether they are in danger of overvaluing the performance they saw out of their bullpen in the second half. While the Phillies have a number of young arms who were impressive at various stretches last season, they also have very little certainty in the bullpen. Jonathan Papelbon's velocity has dropped 4 to 5 MPH over the last couple of seasons. Antonio Bastardo is coming off a PED suspension. Ethan Martin has seven career relief appearances under his belt. Mike Adams is coming off surgery and is a question mark to start the season. It's easy to forget how big of a train wreck the bullpen was over the first couple months of the season, especially when you look at the final numbers of guys like Papelbon (2.92 ERA, 8.3 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9), Bastardo (2.32 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9) and Diekman (2.58 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 0.2 HR/9). A year ago we were saying the same things about guys like Jeremy Horst, Raul Valdes and Phillippe Aumont.
The Phillies need depth in their bullpen, especially when you look at a rotation that features Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and three question marks. The seventh inning was a huge trouble spot last year, and it looks like there could be a lot of seventh innings to kill with the bullpen this year. Along with the inevitable injuries that will occur, the Phillies should err on the side of too many arms in camp. That might mean signing two or even three veterans in the hopes that one of them pans out, a strategy that the Rays have executed to perfection in recent history.