Is Arthur Rhodes really the best that the Phillies could get in exchange for Jason Michaels? The Phillies insist that in talking to teams about Michaels other general managers didn't value him the way the Phillies did. After all, Michaels wasn't an everyday player and there was no kind of guarantee on what sort of numbers he might put up playing everyday. Still, he has a relatively low contract ($1.5 million) and definitely has skills. The bottom line though is that Rhodes is apparently the best player that the Phillies could get for Michaels.
So Jason Michaels wasn't an everyday player? What he was for the Phillies, was a key part of their bench and outfield situation. Michaels represented a solid bat to bring off the bench and showed last season that he could handle playing in center field as part of what was a very successful platoon situation. With Michaels exiting, the bench is dealt a big blow. The Phillies also should have at least some concerns about what happens if one of their everyday outfielders gets hurt and misses any substantial amount of time. For now, the first to jump into the lineup would be Shane Victorino. The Phillies didn't feel comfortable with Victorino playing in center field on an everyday basis and went out to get Aaron Rowand. Now, they're in a situation where an injury could have them with Victorino in the lineup. After Victorino, there's Josh Kroeger, acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks on waivers. Chris Roberson would be another possibility, but he hasn't played above AA ball.
How to fill Michaels bat off the bench could lead to the next move for the Phillies. Mike Piazza has been mentioned as a possible addition and could take over as the first pinch-hitter for Charlie Manuel to go to. No, Piazza isn't an outfielder, so he wouldn't replace Michaels spot-for-spot, but he is a good right-handed hitter. To make room for Piazza, it's likely that Tomas Perez would be the odd man out, since the Phillies would need to carry three catchers for insurance and couldn't just figure on Piazza filling in the spot vacated by Todd Pratt. Piazza's signing would actually make a lot of sense now that Michaels is gone and Abraham Nunez is in the fold to do for the Phillies what they had previously counted on Perez to do.
The addition of Rhodes does one good thing. It allows the Phillies to put Ryan Madson into the starting rotation. No questions, no concerns about how to replace Madson, no hedging bets. Now, Madson can concentrate on getting a job in the starting rotation, which he has always wanted to do. A staff of Jon Lieber, Cory Lidle, Brett Myers, Madson and either Ryan Franklin, Robinson Tejeda, Eude Brito or Gavin Floyd isn't all that bad. It lacks a true top-of-the-rotation stud, but it's passable.
Rhodes did put up very good numbers in 2005. He posted a 2.08 ERA in 47 games for Cleveland. Look at how he was used though; In those 47 games, Rhodes pitched 43 1/3 innings. That's less than the minimum one inning per outing that the Phillies will be depending on getting from Rhodes in 2006. That's not to say that Rhodes was a left-handed specialist. He actually faced more right-handers than left-handers and had better numbers against the right-handers (.286 average against lefties, .155 against righties). The most pitches that Rhodes threw in an outing was 32 and that came early in the season. On average, he threw just 15 pitches per outing, which brings into question how effective he'll be when needed to go longer spurts to get to Tom Gordon. When throwing 15 or less pitches last season, Rhodes had a .192 average against him and after that, had a .250 average. The good news though is that over the last three years, those numbers don't ring true. From 2003 through 2005, Rhodes allowed a .255 average in his first 15 pitches, a .250 average in the next 15 and a .167 average after that. Granted, the sample numbers drop from 388 at bats in the first 15 pitches all the way down to 12 when he hit pitch 31 and later. The numbers turn bad though when you look at his pitches per outing and innings pitched per outing over the last three years. Over the last three years, Rhodes averaged 15.3 pitches per outing and 0.9 innings pitched per outing. Not exactly the kind of numbers that you would really look for from a setup man. In comparison, over the last two seasons, Madson averaged 19.8 pitches per outing and 1.3 innings pitched per outing as the Phillies setup man.
Consider too that Rhodes has never pitched in the National League although over the last three years, Rhodes has a 3.97 ERA in interleague play. If you want another question mark, consider if Rhodes is the man that you want to be next in line to take over for Tom Gordon - a 38 year old - should the Phillies closer either falter or come up with an injury.
Rhodes may well have been the best that was being offered for Michaels, but the deal is now without concerns. On the upside, Rhodes is signed for just one season, so the Phillies avoided taking on a long contract and can simply clear his $3.7 million away after the 2006 season.