On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Phillies did something that blew my mind: they acquired a player that may improve their team a good bit in 2014, and gave up next to nothing to get him. Ruben Amaro's club acquired reliever Brad Lincoln from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for backup catcher Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen, who didn't throw a pitcher as a member of the Phillies organization after being acquired from the Dodgers for Michael Young in September.
Lincoln is a guy who has shown flashes of potential in the past. In the first half of 2012 when he was with the Pirates, Lincoln made five starts and 23 relief appearances, totaling 59 1/3 innings, striking out 60, walking 13, and pitching to a 2.73 ERA. He was traded at the trade deadline to Toronto, and the wheels fell off for him north of the border. In 60 innings in the major with Toronto over the past two seasons, Lincoln struck out 53, walked 32, and allowed ten homers to go along with a 4.80 ERA. The 28-year old had Tommy John surgery back in 2007, but has been largely injury free after that aside from a forearm contusion two years ago and some shoulder inflammation this spring.
His velocity has ticked up since becoming a reliever full-time, and really, this is the type of reliever teams should look to acquire as opposed to retreads like say, Chad Durbin or Scott Eyre. Lincoln still has one more season before becoming eligible for arbitration after failing to acquire enough service time in 2013, and if he stinks, the Phillies can simply cut bait with him after the year. Simple, right?
The team also really gave up nothing of value for him. Kratz is the name Phillies fans are familiar with, but let's be honest: he's a 33-year old backup catcher that hit .213/.280/.386 last year. He wasn't going to be part of Philadelphia's future, and it was apparent that he wasn't going to be part of their present after the club signed veteran backup Wil Nieves on Tuesday. In Toronto, he'll compete with Josh Thole for the backup job behind newly-signed Dioner Navarro. The 24-year old Rasmussen might even have less value, as Toronto will be his fifth organization in the last year and a half after moving from Miami to Houston to Los Angeles in 2012. He spent the year with AA Chattanooga and AAA Albuquerque in 2013, combining to strike out 113, walk 60, and post a 4.11 ERA in 135 2/3 innings.
I know Phillies fans are conditioned to hate everything that Amaro does, but this really isn't a move worthy of scorn. Yes, the Phillies traded a popular player in Kratz, but the difficulties the Phillies had in 2013 with their bullpen were more substantial than worrying about a backup catcher. Throw a resurgent Lincoln into a bullpen that includes Jonathan Papelbon, Jake Diekman, Antonio Bastardo, and Ethan Martin, and maybe the Phillies won't have to spend an absurd amount of money on someone like Edward Mujica, which would be a move much more worthy of your hatred than this one.