Pedro Rises Again

The Phillies have signed Pedro Martinez to a one-year deal heavily laden with incentives. Now, all he has to do is solidify the Phillies rotation and help push them back into the post-season.

Since Brett Myers went down with a season-ending injury, the Phillies have scrambled to find a fifth starter for their rotation. The combination of Antonio Bastardo and Rodrigo Lopez went a combined 3-3, 5.56 in seven starts, with most of the damage coming at the expense of Bastardo, who himself has wound up on the DL. Lopez came in and showed promise. In his two starts, he went 1-0, 3.18 and it looked like perhaps the Phillies had found their fifth starter, but again, an injury hit and while Lopez is not yet on the DL, he could be headed there.

Lopez had been throwing very well at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and continued his success through his first two starts. The 33 year old right-hander is on his way back from Tommy John surgery in August of 2007 and has reached the point where pitchers generally see their velocity, control and movement on their pitches return. With the signing of Pedro Martinez, Lopez is likely lost to the Phillies. He is out of options and will have to clear waivers and then accept an assignment back to Triple-A and it's very possible that he'll either be claimed on waivers or decide to enter free agency and look for an offer elsewhere. If Lopez is truly back to form, it would be unfortunate for the Phillies to lose him, because having a veteran pitcher as insurance is never a bad thing.

For Martinez to be deemed successful, he basically just has to show himself to be better than what the Phillies had as their fifth starter and the numbers there aren't too hard to beat. Even going by what Pedro did last season for the Mets [5.16 ERA], it would be an improvement over Bastardo, who still has some learning to do. Last season, Joe Blanton came into Philadelphia and helped to push the Phillies over the top with a wonderful second-half of the season, going 4-0 with a 4.20 ERA for the Phillies. That same type of ERA from Martinez would qualify as a nice upgrade to their rotation, considering that with the Phillies offense, Martinez would be in a position to win a decent amount of games.

While Martinez received high marks for his performance in the World Baseball Classic and for his workouts for the Phillies earlier this month, keep in mind that those appearances came after a long layoff and he wasn't being called on to throw a lot of pitches in either instance. How he'll hold up to the grind of pitching every fifth day and being expected to pitch deeper into games will be the ultimate test.

Financially, the Phillies don't appear to have risked too much money on the future Hall of Famer. The fact that most of his potential paycheck is tied to incentives is a very good thing for the Phillies. Martinez can not only pick up some extra cash, but can put himself in a position to get a nice, hefty contract for next season if he performs well in the second-half of the season for the Phillies.

And, the signing of Martinez doesn't negate the potential of getting Roy Halladay. If Martinez, who will start his Phillies career on the DL, but should be activated in about three weeks, can anchor the back end of the Phillies rotation, it would be easier for the Phillies to deal J.A. Happ as part of a package to get Halladay out of Toronto. While Happ has been an important part of the Phillies rotation, there is no denying that right now, Halladay is a better pitcher. Including Happ in a package might also allow the Phillies to keep Kyle Drabek out of any potential deal to acquire Halladay or another top starter.

The final part to signing Martinez is to hope that he fits into the Phillies clubhouse. Martinez has a presence that can be at times overwhelming and at times, detrimental to a clubhouse and adding that mix to a very laid back and unselfish group of players could lead to some problems. The fact that it's only for half-a-season is likely a good thing, both in terms of getting the most out of Pedro and also in terms of not having to deal with him too much off the field.

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