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Inside the Phillies: Phils will have to spend to re-create the '4 Aces'

Last in a series examining the Phillies' potential offseason moves. The gathering of aces did not result in the garnering of more World Series trophies at One Citizens Bank Way.

Last in a series examining the Phillies' potential offseason moves.

The gathering of aces did not result in the garnering of more World Series trophies at One Citizens Bank Way.

It's also fair to say that the Phillies do not even have the title of best starting rotation in baseball anymore. That designation should go to San Francisco, Washington, or Tampa Bay.

The Phillies' rotation posted a 3.82 earned run average in 2012, which ranked 10th in baseball and seventh in the National League. The ERA was nearly a run higher than the major-league-best 2.86 mark the starters posted in 2011 when they also won a major-league-high 76 games.

What must be decided this offseason is whether a rotation upgrade is needed because of Roy Halladay's questionable health. The most defining roster moves by general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. during his first four seasons have been the acquisitions of Halladay and Cliff Lee.

After watching the Giants' starters dominate during the World Series, Amaro is still a strong proponent of pitching, but he knows the Phillies have other needs that are probably more pressing. He also feels as if rotation help could be on the way from within the organization in the form of prospects such as Jonathan Pettibone, Trevor May, Adam Morgan, Ethan Martin, and Jesse Biddle.

"I think we're coming through a season where we counted nine possible starters coming through our system here, including guys like [Vance] Worley and [Tyler] Cloyd and [Kyle] Kendrick," Amaro said. "We have the kid Morgan, who has made a fast track. We have some guys who I think can create a lot of depth for us. I think this is as good a position as we've ever been in with regards to young bullpen guys and young starters.

"You never have enough pitching, because I can say that today and five of them could drop off tomorrow. But the fact of the matter is I don't know if we've ever been in a position where we have this many quality arms this close to the major leagues. Hopefully, we can capitalize on that."

Amaro also said that sometimes teams go into an offseason focused on X and end up with Y.

Lee was the ultimate Exhibit Y two offseasons ago, and the Phillies could at least use some rotation insurance with Worley coming off surgery. Here is a look at some of the best starting pitchers who hit free agency this week and are available to sign starting Saturday.

Zack Greinke, L.A. Angels. If Amaro wanted to create the Four Aces again, this is the free agent he'd have to sign.

Pros: He is a premier power pitcher who is only 29 years old.

Cons: He's going to command Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee money and the Phillies have too many other places that need upgrading to spend that much on a starter.

Jeremy Guthrie, Kansas City. The 33-year-old righthander's strong finish with the Royals (5-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 14 starts) makes the former first-round draft pick intriguing.

Pros: His velocity ticked upward after he moved to the Royals from the Colorado Rockies in midseason.

Cons: Guthrie struggled with the Rockies in the only National League pitching stint of his career.

Ryan Dempster, Texas. The 35-year-old righthander did not live up to the four-year, $52 million deal he signed with the Chicago Cubs four years ago, but he has been a solid starting pitcher most of his career.

Pros: He's a veteran who knows how to pitch and typically throws a lot of innings.

Cons: His fastball velocity has been in decline for a while and he's only worth signing if it can be done on the cheap.

Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle. The 31-year-old Japanese righthander was sensational in his first big-league season with the Mariners.

Pros: He was 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA after moving into Seattle's rotation in July and was also dominant in his final four seasons in Japan.

Cons: He was a bargain for Seattle at $1.5 million last season, but his price surely has gone up significantly with last season's success.

Edwin Jackson, Washington. The 29-year-old righthander is a solid fourth or fifth starter.

Pros: He is extremely durable, having made at least 31 starts for six straight seasons.

Cons: Other than one strong start against the Phillies in the 2011 NL division series, he has struggled in the postseason. He'd have to come cheap.

Scott Baker, Minnesota. He was 8-6 with a 3.14 ERA for the Twins two seasons ago, but missed 2012 after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery.

Pros: The 31-year-old righthander had a solid resume before his surgery and could come cheap.

Cons: He's a guy coming off surgery who relies heavily on location.

Kyle Lohse, St. Louis. The veteran righthander has gone 55-35 with a 3.90 ERA in five seasons with the Cardinals after the Phillies decided not to re-sign him following the 2007 season.

Pros: He is a true professional with an idea of how to pitch. Lohse is coming off a sensational season that should place him among the top three in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

Cons: He is going to get a lot of money for a 34-year-old pitcher who is not truly an ace.

Anibal Sanchez, Detroit. The Phillies are familiar with the 28-year-old righthander because of his extended time with the Miami Marlins.

Pros: He has a 3.75 ERA for his career and has made at least 31 starts for three straight seasons. He had a strong postseason.

Cons: Sanchez could be looking for a big payday - three years at $30 million? - after his strong playoff performance.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, South Korea. The 25-year-old lefthander will be the most sought after international free agent this offseason.

Pros: His age and his dominance in international tournaments like the World Baseball Classic make him highly attractive.

Cons: He is going to cost a small fortune, but could be worth it.

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