The Phillies added another arm Tuesday night, when they announced they had acquired right-hander Brad Lincoln from the Blue Jays for catcher Erik Kratz and left-hander Rob Rasmussen. Lincoln has made 97 appearances in four seasons in his big league career, which began in Pittsburgh. He has posted a 4.66 ERA, although he spent much of 2013 in Triple-A Buffalo as he battled command problems.
"We've always liked Brad Lincoln's arm," Phils general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday morning. "He's gone back and forth as a starter and reliever. We think he's going to be somebody that can really help us in our bullpen. It's a matter of him getting back into that niche."
The trade explains the Phillies agreeing to terms with catcher Wil Nieves, which sources confirmed following the initial CBSSports.com report. Amaro declined comment on Nieves but said, "We're trying to create some depth there."
Presumably, Nieves will be Carlos Ruiz's backup, although Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg are quick to praise Cameron Rupp, who spent much of last season in Triple-A. Nieves hit .297 with a .690 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 206 plate appearances last season with the D-backs. He has a .597 OPS in his 10-year career, but is known for his defensive capabilities.
Lincoln, 28, averaged 9.9 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings with Buffalo, but 7.1 strikeouts and a troubling 6.3 walks per nine innings with Toronto. Before last season, he has averaged 6.8 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings.
"He had some issues with his command last year," Amaro said, "but I don't think that's his MO, typically. We think he's a good arm. We're trying to create some depth in our 'pen."
The Blue Jays have plenty of depth in the bullpen, which made Lincoln expendable. He also had run out of options, which is something to remember as the Phils finalize their Opening Day roster in March.
The Phillies hope Lincoln provides depth for a struggling bullpen short on experience, having finished 14th in the National League with a 4.13 ERA. Closer Jonathan Papelbon (527 career appearances) is expected to anchor the 'pen, but he has experienced a dip in velocity and strikeouts. Setup man Mike Adams (386) will try to come back from right shoulder surgery -- Amaro said they cannot expect him to be ready by Opening Day, although they are hopeful -- while left-hander Antonio Bastardo (208) will try to prove himself following a 50-game suspension for using a performance-enhancing substance.
Following them is a host of relievers that includes Michael Stutes (79 career appearances), Jake Diekman (77), Justin De Fratus (76), Jeremy Horst (72), B.J. Rosenberg (44) and Phillippe Aumont (40).
"We have to have confidence they're going to continue to improve," Amaro said about his collection of young relievers. "But at the same time, if there's a way we can improve our club, we can't just stop doing it. We've been surprised at times with some of these guys, particularly a couple years ago with Stutes and Bastardo. On the flip side, we've been disappointed, which is part of the growing process when it comes to the bullpen and particularly young bullpen guys. Some guys year to year can make it click. And other guys just don't ever get it."
Amaro said they have interest in several players recently non-tendered by their former teams. Relief pitchers include Ryan Webb, John Axford and Wesley Wright.
"We've made several calls to quite a few of those free agents," Amaro said. "We'll see how it pans out. I think it's still very fresh. Whenever this happens to players, typically they're surprised by it. So they're just getting into the marketplace. Our job is to try to make sure guys know we have interest in them."
Kratz hit .230 with 18 homers and 52 RBIs in 120 games over three seasons with Philadelphia. The Phils acquired Rasmussen from the Dodgers in August for infielder Michael Young. He went 3-11 with a 4.11 ERA in 28 games with Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Albuquerque.