In a perfect world, maybe even in an imperfect one, Alex Anthopoulos might have been able to pull a rabbit out of his hat and land a 200-inning, No. 2 or 3 quality pitcher this off-season.
Didn’t happen and manager John Farrell is able to shrug it off. He knows why that need went unfilled.
“The acquisition costs make pitching the most expensive position to fill,” he said the other day. “Sure, we know that for us to go deeper into the season and to contend, we need a greater number of quality innings pitched by our starting rotation. I think we have talent in our group to do just that.”
Beyond that, it isn’t as if GM Alex Anthopoulos will sit idle until the next off-season. He’s shown in the past two years that he’s open for business at any time of the day or night, all year long. Indeed some of his most significant moves (Yunel Escobar, Colby Rasmus) have occurred in season.
From an internal standpoint, Farrell sees a stronger talent base to start spring training than the one he took over last spring. Ricky Romero has established himself as a bona fide No. 1. Brandon Morrow is showing signs he might be able to step his game up. Brett Cecil is in the best shape of his life and if Dustin McGowan can become a facsimile of the pitcher he was three years ago, it will have the same effect as adding someone from outside the organization. And what of Henderson Alvarez, whose pulse rate never seems to rise beyond 60?
While the rotation may have not been bolstered, the bullpen was rebuilt better than before. With the addition of a young closer in Sergio Santos and a couple of old vets in key spots, Farrell likes his pen.
“This year we’re as deep, if not deeper, with guys who have fewer physical questions around them,” he said. “So, for me, we’re going into spring training with a bullpen that is a little bit more defined and clear-cut than a year ago.”
That said, the bullpen can only be as good as the rotation allows it to be.
“There are a couple of things that make a good bullpen,” said Farrell. “One is talent. Two is a good rotation. That combination allows a bullpen to pitch exceptionally well over a long period of time if they’re not asked to pitch a great number of innings.
“That’s why our rotation has to take a step in that direction.”