Adams turned down more lucrative offers to join Phillies
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When the Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon last November, they envisioned handing leads to a bullpen that was stellar in 2011 and having their new closer lock them down.
Like so many other things in an 81-81 season, things didn’t go as planned.
The Phils blew 13 leads in the eighth inning. Their ERA in that frame was 4.89, second-worst only to the 107-loss Houston Astros. Only four bullpens lost more games than the Phils’.
All of it led to the signing of setup man Mike Adams, whom the Phillies finally clothed in a jersey on Thursday after coveting him for several years.
“We felt [last year] like we had that part of the bullpen handled with [Antonio] Bastardo and [Mike] Stutes, what they had done the year before. But obviously the back-end of the bullpen is a volatile position from year to year unless guys have a tremendous track record, which Mike has had,” GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “That became a bit of an Achilles heel for us, no question. We wanted to try to address that better. Fortunately we have that addressed now.”
They’ve addressed it by bringing in Adams -- who had a 1.42 ERA from 2009-11 before pitching hurt last season -- to a two-year, $12 million deal. Adams’ contract includes a third-year option at $6.5 million that vests if he pitches 60 games in the first two years or 120 games total.
Adams was in high-demand this offseason – six teams were interested and three were serious, according to agent Josh Yates – and he had offers on the table for more guaranteed years and money. One of those offers was from an NL East team, believed to be the Nationals. He even had opportunities to close.
But the Phillies were high on Adams’ list from the day the Rangers’ season ended because of the 34-year-old’s desire to win, proving that even after a disappointing .500 finish, players still do see Philadelphia as a destination.
“There was an NL East team that was really in on it,” Adams admitted. “It was a tough choice between the two, but from what I’ve heard from other players that have been in this organization, what they think about it, where I think it’s headed, that played a huge part into my decision.
“I had more guaranteed money elsewhere, but I don’t think just because it’s a vesting option ... I’m counting that as guaranteed money. I plan on fulfilling my contract for three years and hopefully beyond that. If all goes the way I see it, by the end of my contract this is going to be a bargain.”
It very well could be. Consider that the guaranteed portion of Adams’ deal is worth $9 million less than Jonathan Broxton’s and $10.5 million less than Brandon League’s. Adams, like Giants lefthander Jeremy Affeldt, will make $6 million per year. But Affeldt has three guaranteed years.
All of this despite the fact that since 2009, Adams has allowed an average of 0.98 baserunners per inning, and no reliever other than Craig Kimbrel has a lower ERA.
The painful thoracic outlet syndrome that required surgery after the season certainly played a role in the apparent bargain contract, but Adams expects to be 100 percent for pitchers and catchers and sees no reason he won’t be healthy for the spring.
The larger reason those aforementioned relievers found more lucrative paydays is the premium placed on saves, something Adams feels strongly about.
“Last year, in my final year of arbitration, it was very important to me to kind of set the standard for guys like myself, guys who had done pretty well in the eighth inning but had been behind somebody in the ninth inning,” Adams said.
“I’ve been with San Diego and Texas where the closers were pretty good. I was stuck behind all-stars. So it was pretty important for me to raise the bar financially for guys, to kind of set the table for them in the future so that these guys can get compensated the way they should.”
Adams was stuck behind Heath Bell with the Padres and Joe Nathan with the Rangers, which is why he has just four career saves. That is a far cry from Broxton’s 111, League’s 60 or even Affeldt’s 28.
“I think I could have filled in the closer's role in a lot of situations with different teams, and possibly lost out on some pretty good money because I was behind all-star closers,” Adams said. “But I’m not upset about it anyway, it’s all working out the way its supposed to be. I think getting to the AAV (annual average value) of $6 million a year was very important to me. Not just for myself and my family, but for guys who are going to come behind me.
"I think we’re starting to see the importance of the eighth inning guy really starting to show up here in the last couple years. A lot of people call it the setup man, but it’s almost like having a closer in the eighth and ninth innings.”
With Adams and Papelbon, that is what the Phillies feel they have – two elite relief pitchers who have been among the 10 most valuable in the game
over the past four seasons and can create the type of depth that prevents the unit from losing 27 games, as it did a year ago.
“One of the funny things about the eighth inning is that a lot of the times the closer gets to face the 7-8-9-hole hitters, and the setup guy has to hold down a [one-run lead] with the middle of the lineup,” said Amaro, seated next to a smiling and nodding Adams.
“In a lot of ways, sometimes you need two closers. You saw what happened with the San Francisco Giants this year -- they closed with their third or fourth option.
“I like our group now quite a bit better than I did at the beginning of this offseason.”E-mail Corey Seidman at firstname.lastname@example.org