Phillies Take Unnecessary Risk in Moyer/Martinez Move
The Philadelphia Phillies, a team with a healthy 3 1/2-game lead in the NL East and a 71.7 percent chance of making the playoffs, are making a rather significant late-season move tonight, sending the once-great Pedro Martinez to the mound at Wrigley Field, while demoting 46-year-old veteran Jamie Moyer to the bullpen.
It would be a move that makes a lot of sense if a) Moyer were an absolute train wreck every time he has taken the mound, b) Martinez were the Martinez of 2000 (or even 2005), or c) the Phillies were a desperate team clinging to their postseason hopes.
Since none of those things are true (Moyer leads the team with 10 wins, albeit with a high ERA; Martinez hasn't pitched in the majors since last September and hasn't been effective for any long stretch since the first half of 2006; and the Phillies are hardly in a position of desperation), the move can only be viewed as a bad idea, an unnecessary risk in which the payoff, even if it eventually comes, could never outweigh the tumult caused by the move itself.
Like any team in their enviable position, the Phillies are trying to accomplish two things over the 6 1/2 weeks left in the regular season -- close out their division title, and set themselves up for a lengthy run in October.
But the Martinez move appears to have little chance of helping the Phillies in October. At best, he is a fifth starter -- a creature that becomes obsolete in the postseason. The Phillies' postseason rotation (assuming they get there) looks fairly settled at this point: Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee (in whatever order) in Games 1 and 2, followed by rookie J.A. Happ, who is 9-3 with a 3.16 ERA for his career (covering 20 starts and 16 relief appearances) in Game 3. Game 4, at this point, belongs to Joe Blanton, a career grinder who is 7-6 with a 4.02 ERA this season and who notched two big wins for the Phillies in last year's playoffs.
When the Phillies signed Martinez at a bargain price ($900,000 guaranteed) in mid-July, it seemed like a sensible move. They hadn't yet traded for Lee and the fifth-starter's job was a merry-go-round of has-beens and not-ready-yets. Martinez, at that point, represented some valuable depth with the potential -- if he proves himself healthy and effective -- to be an October contributor.
But with Lee's arrival and Happ's extended brilliance, the need for Martinez diminished. The only way to squeeze him into a meaningful spot on the big league roster would be to bump someone else -- either Happ, Blanton or Moyer.
By choosing Moyer as the odd man out, the Phillies risked alienating the popular sage of the clubhouse, a favorite among fans, media and teammates alike -- and a pitcher who, let's face it, was going to battle against tanks and rocket-launchers with sticks and stones every fifth day, and winning more times than he lost. He wasn't pretty, but he gave the Phillies a respectable five or six innings every time he went to the mound. It was unlikely he would ever start Game 3 of a postseason series again, as he did in all three rounds in 2008, but he was pitching at least well enough this summer to finish out the regular season as the number four or five starter on a very good team.
Oh, and he's also a guy who is signed through 2010 -- someone who, thus, deserves more respect than the Phillies showed him, not only for what he represents to their past, but to their immediate future as well.
Had the Phillies suddenly acquired Roy Halladay, that would be one thing. Had that occurred, I suspect Moyer would not have been quite as "disheartened" as he claimed to be after the Martinez move.
But Martinez is no Halladay -- not anymore, at least. For that matter, we don't even know yet if he's as good as Jamie Moyer. But for the Phillies, the price of finding out was terribly steep.
August 12, 2009; 1:34 PM ET
Categories: Phillies | Tags: Jamie Moyer, Pedro Martinez, Phillies
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