The Philadelphia Phillies don’t have many compelling options this offseason, but stocking up on relievers is their best bet when it comes to competing for the playoffs.
With the team supposedly losing $145 million due to the pandemic-stricken 2020 Major League Baseball season (per The Associated Press) and owner John Middleton basically admitting that the team can’t re-sign catcher J.T. Realmuto, the Phillies have their hands tied behind their backs this offseason.
One figures they can at least improve their roster’s gaping hole, that being the bullpen.
Last season the Phillies bullpen finished 30th in MLB in ERA (7.06), home runs per nine innings (2.03), and BABIP (.376). Outside of Blake Parker, manager Joe Girardi had minimal relievers he could rely on in the late innings from start to finish.
On the other hand, the rotation was a sturdy force, as Aaron Nola, free agent signee Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin were reliable forces every fifth day. All in all, Girardi’s rotation finished fourth in MLB in home runs per nine innings (1.10) and eighth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.52). They also finished with the best ERA in the National League East (4.08), a division crowned for its starting pitching.
Philadelphia missed the NL playoffs by one game in a year where eight teams made the fall festivities from each league. Had their bullpen been a shred better, they probably get in the playoffs. Nonetheless, the Phillies have now missed the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons.
Fortunately for the Phillies and those in search of bullpen help, this is the offseason to add multiple relievers; the options are deeply deep.
Want to back up the truck for a stud closer or backend reliever? Liam Hendriks, Shane Greene, and Kirby Yates are available. How about an old reliable? Yusmeiro Petit, Joakim Soria, and Alex Colome are for the taking. Looking to get a veteran back on track? Sean Doolittle, Brandon Workman, and Chaz Roe are looking for new homes.
Hansel Robles has become a swift late-inning reliever; at his best, Archie Bradley has been a lights-out reliever; Blake Treinen and Ken Giles are capable closers; Trevor Rosenthal had a resurgent 2020 season.
Let’s put on our thinking caps: the Phillies aren’t re-signing Realmuto, are rumored to be shopping some veterans, and are dealing with financial issues. This means they’re not signing anyone to a long-term deal, which makes loading up on relievers the sensible move.
Considering the overwhelming amount of relievers on the open market, the price for relievers should be lower than face value. Why? There’s a lot of parity. If someone is asking for too much money, a team can opt for a different reliever of the same level. Let’s also incorporate the reality of teams trying to keep their payrolls down given the uncertainty of the sport’s revenue and free agent asking prices should be lower this offseason. It’s a take what you can get and run with it-type offseason if you’re not the best player available at your respective position.
The Phillies could sign multiple relievers to one-to-two-year deals who would come in and make a difference in the late innings. Free agent signing duos could be but aren’t limited to Petit and Rosenthal, Greene and Roe, Colome and Bradley, and Colome and Treinen. Depending on how deep their financial issues run, the Phillies could even sign three relievers.
As is, the Phillies are in trouble in their division. The Atlanta Braves won the NL East for a third consecutive season and reached Game 7 of the NL Championship Series with 80 percent of their projected starting rotation absent; the Miami Marlins have absurd organizational pitching depth and are on the rise; most of the Washington Nationals’ 2019 championship core remains in place; the New York Mets are a competitive foe looking to get busy this offseason.
How many teams are the Phillies without a doubt better than in the NL East?
Their rotation can hold its own next season. Around the diamond, the Phillies have one of the better offenses in the sport even if Realmuto walks.
Bryce Harper is a slugging machine; Rhys Hoskins swings a power bat; Alec Bohm hit .338 across 44 appearances last season; Andrew Knapp can be a reliable force behind the plate; Scott Kingery can bounce back from hitting .159; Andrew McCutchen is still a steady hitter; if Jean Segura is dealt, top infield prospect Bryson Stott could take his place within the next year.
The long-term pieces are already in place. All the Phillies can do is fill voids across the board and be savvy in the way they allocate their resources.
Beefing up the backend of the pitching staff ensures nothing, but it fills an ongoing void and gives the Phillies a fighting chance in the NL East. At the end of the day, execution looms largest.