Is the starting rotation good enough to contend? Why didn’t the Philles add a starter in the offseason? Or why haven’t they signed Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel yet? These are just a few of the questions that are being asked about this 2019 Phillies team.
Given some of the performances we have seen from Phillies’ pitching thus far, they are completely fair questions to ask. However, only one question seems most important and that’s SHOULD they add more pitching?
Pitching has been a hot button issue for the 2019 Phillies. The new look offense has shown that it could be a force to be reckoned with. However, it takes more than just offense to be a serious contender. Good pitching is just as important but does this team have it?
As it stands, the Phillies front office has shown that they have confidence in the pitchers they have, particularly in the rotation. This year’s starting rotation was exactly how it was last year until Nick Pivetta was sent down to the minors to work on his stuff and Jared Eickoff took his spot in the rotation. Aside from that, it is not different. They didn’t sign even one starter as a free agent in the offseason. The time has come for them to sign Keuchel or trade for a starter.
Between Keuchel and Kimbrel, I think the Phillies would be better off going with Keuchel. Kimbrel has had a lock down career as a closer, there’s no denying it. However, I am not sure he still has that dominant stuff he once had. Watching closely in the postseason last year, Kimbrel struggled. Although he managed to get out of most trouble, he was still making it interesting and allowing more base runners than we're accustomed to seeing from him. Aside from that, Keuchel is a two-fold beneficial signing for the Phillies.
If Keuchel were to join the rotation, someone in the current rotation will inevitably be bumped out. I, along with many, have long thought Vince Velasquez to be a really good fit as a bullpen pitcher. Although he has had a pretty decent year thus far as a starter, I think that he would be the first one to be bumped from the rotation to join the bullpen. Now the Phillies are not only getting reinforcements in the rotation but also helping to strengthen the bullpen, thus making it a two-fold beneficial signing.
There will be stretches during the season where the pitching will look like it doesn’t need reinforcements. Recently, success from the starting staff, particularly Eickoff and Zach Eflin have helped build that facade. However, in the end, stretches of dominant pitching shouldn’t distract from the fact that the Phillies' pitching, as currently structured, can’t be trusted to hold up for the stretch run of a pennant race.
Whether the Phillies sign Keuchel now or they go after a pitcher at the trade deadline, the bottom line is this: if the front office is truly serious about contending this year, they need more starting pitching.