They announced they officially found one Tuesday, when left-hander John Lannan passed his physical and agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract.
The contract includes performance bonuses.
"It's a great opportunity," Lannan said.
It seems like a good opportunity for both parties. Lannan, 28, spent the majority of last season with Triple-A Syracuse after losing his spot in the Nationals' rotation, so he is eager to rejoin a big league roster for an entire year. Lannan is 3-13 with a 5.53 ERA in his career against the Phillies, but he is 39-39 with a 3.80 ERA against everybody else. If Lannan maintains that 3.80 ERA, it will be a great find for the Phils, because he is relatively inexpensive and they have him under control through 2014.
"John made it clear to me at the beginning of this process that he valued opportunity above all else," Lannan's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, said in a statement. "It became clear that the Phillies were a unique fit for John to secure his spot in a rotation for a winning team. John sees this contract and situation as a springboard, both to reaffirming his status as a Major League starter and to future earnings."
Lannan suffered from the worst run support in the National League from 2008-12, averaging just 3.97 runs per nine innings. NL starters averaged 4.67 runs per nine innings in that span, while Phils starters averaged 4.96 runs per nine innings.
Lannan would love to see some of that run support next season.
But what about his 6.49 ERA in eight career starts at Citizens Bank Park?
"I think it's more me not executing," Lannan said. "That's what it comes down to, and it's against really good Philly lineups. So I think it comes down to me executing pitches. It doesn't really matter where you're pitching. This park is smaller. You've just got to execute your pitches."
Lannan had a memorable big league debut in Philadelphia on July 26, 2007. He broke Chase Utley's hand with a pitch in the fifth inning, causing Utley to miss a month of the season. He followed that by hitting Ryan Howard with a pitch, earning him an ejection.
"I don't remember anything from that day," Lannan said, easing out a sly grin. "It was my debut. Emotions were running high. I think that's water under the bridge though."
Utley absolved Lannan of any wrongdoing immediately after the game, although the two never talked.
"No winks," Lannan said.
No man hugs?
"No man hugs," he said. "It was six years ago. Like I said, it's water under the bridge. I think they know I didn't mean to do it. Lefties, I've got to throw inside. I'm not going to blow people away. I have to pitch inside to good left-handed hitters. That's what Utley and Howard are. I'm not going to miss over the plate, but I'm not trying to hit them. That's basically what it came down to."
That moment should be nothing more than an interesting footnote to Lannan's arrival. The Phillies got Lannan because they felt they needed a reliable veteran arm to stabilize their rotation. Looking deeper into it, Lannan's arrival carries greater significance considering Roy Halladay is trying to bounce back from one of the worst seasons of his career.
The Phils have said Halladay is doing well this offseason, but nobody can truly know what they will get from him yet. If Halladay struggles, Lannan becomes even more important.
Now, Lannan said the right things Tuesday, stopping short of saying he is guaranteed a spot in the rotation. That is understandable. There is no reason to make any declarations about that, especially after experiencing nearly a full season in Triple-A after making 122 big league starts the previous four seasons. But make no mistake: Lannan will be in Philadelphia's rotation coming Opening Day, assuming he is healthy.
And if everything goes according to plan, he could be pitching in some meaningful games against his former team down the stretch.
"I'm not looking that far ahead right now," Lannan said. "I feel like the Phillies have a great shot of winning the NL East and going to the World Series."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.