Can Lidge Regain His Swagger with the Phils?

by Ryan Dodson on November 7, 2007 @ 17:14:21 PDT's Jerry Crasnick reports the Philadelphia Phillies acquired closer Brad Lidge from the Houston Astros, along with utilityman Eric Bruntlett, in exchange for Phillies speedy outfielder Michael Bourn, reliever Geoff Geary and minor league infielder Mike Costanzo.

Lidge, who turns 31 in December, is coming off his most tumultuous season. The 2007 campaign saw him lose the closer's job numerous times. He finished strong, though, with 19 saves in 27 chances, a 3.36 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and 88 strikeouts in 67 innings. Lidge struggled down the stretch with a 5.11 ERA in August and a 5.23 ERA in September, but this can be attributed to torn cartilage in his knee, which has been surgically repaired.

There are several glaring worries for the Phillies, who are acquiring their most prominent closer since Billy Wagner bolted to the New York Mets two years ago. The once unhittable Lidge has allowed 19 homers in the last two seasons after allowing the same number in three seasons from 2003-05. He will now pitch in one of the premier hitters' parks in baseball. Another scare is that Lidge has thrown nearly 400 innings in the last five seasons. His strikeout rate has fallen each of the last three seasons, and his nasty slider has lost effectiveness.

Still, this is a glaring need for the Phils, who can afford to put ace Brett Myers back in the rotation. The Phillies had a dismal 4.73 team ERA last season, and it's fair to say their bullpen was as shaky as their rotation. This move shores up both ends.

From a fantasy sense, Lidge's value decreases slightly because of the switch to the much more hitter-friendly ballpark. He still strikes out a ton of hitters, but as mentioned, his K rate has been declining the past few years. On a positive note, he should receive more save opportunities than he did in Houston because of the power-packed offense provided by the Phillies. Lidge should be selected as a low-end No. 2 closer or a really good No. 3 closer, much like he should have been in 2007.

The Astros received a sparkplug for the top of their lineup in Bourn. This was one of the things Houston was seeking this offseason. If Bourn can win a starting job, he would slot into center field while Hunter Pence moved to right field. The team has rumored to be shopping right fielder Luke Scott, and this may be evidence of such rumor.

Bourn will be 25 to start the season, and he has 50-stolen base potential. He stole 18 bases, mostly as a pinch-runner, last season. He hit .277 with a homer, six RBI and 29 runs scored. Bourn also has the range and arm to patrol the spacious center field in Minute Maid Park. Bourn instantly becomes a mega-sleeper for the 2008 season, and he's someone you'll probably have to snag in the middle rounds of your drafts to secure. 

Myers' value increases as he goes from closer to starter. He has always had the potential to be a top-notch starter but hasn't put it together consistently. If his shoulder injury is behind him, he makes a good middle-round pick next season for your starting rotation.

This leaves a gaping hole in the Astros' bullpen. The team could choose to go with Chad Qualls as their closer. The trusty setup man had his best season of his career last year with a 3.05 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings. He also pitched in five saves and 21 holds. Qualls would be a low-end closer to snag late in your draft next season.

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About Ryan Dodson

Dodson is a KFFL Contributor and has been with KFFL since 2002.

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