Offseason

Offseason Overview: Fixing the bullpen with one more piece

This week we’re looking at the Phillies’ biggest holes in anticipation of the offseason. How will they fill the holes? That’s what we’re after in the offseason preview.

Fixing the bullpen

If you would’ve told me at the beginning of last season – or even at the All-Star break – that the Phillies’ bullpen would be one of the team’s bright spots, I would’ve laughed in your face. But it’s true: the young group of relievers were dominant over the last part of the season. The only piece that seems to be missing is a veteran to hold the fort down when a group as young as these guys inevitably run into some trouble.

Thus, if there’s one way the Phillies can fix the bullpen during the offseason, it’s by bringing in that one veteran.

First, let’s go over what we have now.

LOCKS

Hector Neris

Luis Garcia

Victor Arano

Adam Morgan

Edubray Ramos

Barring any major moves, the back end of the bullpen is relatively set for 2018.

BUBBLE

Hoby Milner

Yacksel Rios

Ricardo Pinto

Consider Morgan’s roster status, and he’s more likely than Milner to be written in pen for 2018. Rios had a nice tryout in late 2017, but it’s possibly he starts out in Lehigh Valley. Looks like Pinto could do the same.

For now there’s one real spot left for Klentak to fill. So let’s take a look at Matt Klentak’s free agent options.

True Veterans

These guys are on the other side of 40 and make little sense for the Phillies. Unless the price tag is too good to pass up, of course.
 
22. Koji Uehara
He’ll be 43 to start the season and was sidelined this season for the Cubs with a few different issues. Could only see this happening if it’s super-low risk/high reward type of a situation.
 
21. Joaquin Benoit
There is little to no shot the Phils sign the 40-year-old righty again but his asking price will be considerably less than the $7.5 million they gave him last season.
20. Fernando Rodney
Rodney pitched well for the Diamondbacks, saving 39 of 45 games. Those six blown saves were highly dramatic, something the Phillies should want no parts of (Neris brings enough excitement). Although it could be fun to see his tilted cap and arrow celebration on the mound.

Not Ideal

19. Jason Grilli 
Grilli has been with nine teams throughout his 17-year career. Phillies shouldn’t be interested in being number 10.
18. Peter Moylan
His numbers against righties were pretty impressive, a 1.51 ERA in nearly 54 innings, but the 39-year-old sidearm righty has had a injury-riddled career – including two Tommy John surgeries.
17. Matt Belisle
His strikeout rate of 22% was the highest it’s been since 2010 but his walk rate increase from 3.8% in 2016 to 8.9% in 2017. He wouldn’t be the worst but not the dependable shutdown guy they should be looking for.
16. Tyler Clippard
The Astros acquired Clippard from the Yankees midseason to help boost their bullpen down the stretch. It didn’t go according to plan as he had a 5.20 ERA in just 55.1 innings and failed to make the postseason roster. Don’t do it, Phils.

Expensive but effective 

Although it feels as if the Phillies turned a corner last season, they probably still aren’t ready to commit to a legitimate and expensive closer.
15. Addison Reed 
Reed finished with an impressive 2.84 ERA as both a closer with the Mets and as the set-up man to Craig Kimbrel in Boston. His versatility will work well with the Phils’ young bullpen – could be the go-to set-up guy for Neris or could slide into the closer role if Neris has an early-season meltdown. He’ll probably be seeking a multi-year deal so probably not the right fit.
14. Wade Davis
Despite being probably the best player on this list, he just doesn’t make sense for the Phillies right now. Unless they throw a crazy amount of money at him, Davis is either going to stick with the Cubs or another contending team.
13. Greg Holland
Holland already declined his $15 million player option with the Rockies so he’ll be looking for a major payday. Like Davis, he doesn’t seem to fit the Phils immediate needs as he was one of the league’s most effective closers last season.

Average Joes

These guys would be just fine, but there is risk.
12. Matt Albers
It seems as if Albers horrific 2016 season was an anomaly. He finished the season with a 1.62 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 63 strikeouts/17 walks in 61 innings. He’ll likely seek a bit of a raise above last year’s $1.75 million.
11. Joe Blanton
After a dismal first-half, Blanton rebounded for the Nationals down the stretch. Still, his high fly ball rate would be a disaster at Citizens Bank Park. With a rotation still very much up in the air, however, Blanton could eat up a lot of innings.
10. David Hernandez 
Hernandez is nothing too fancy, pretty much the definition of an average reliever. He finished the season with a 3.11 ERA split between the Angels and Diamondbacks. Not the Phils’ best option but he’s cheap and mostly dependable.

Why Not?

Whether or not there’s more risk, these guys come with higher potential rewards.
9. Mike Minor 
Minor has reinvented himself after injuries sidelined his career. His 2.55 ERA in 77 innings for Kansas City placed him in the top 25 among relievers. He has a $10 million team option but the Royals have to dish out a lot of money this offseason. Phils don’t necessarily need another lefty-specialist with Adam Morgan but again, for the right price.
8. Luke Gregerson 
At first glance, it looks like the righty had a bit of a down year with a 4.57 ERA in 65 appearances but his high strikeout rate (26.6%) and average walk rate (7.6%) shows he still has something to contribute. His 1.92 HR/9 could be a problem in CBP.
7. Bryan Shaw
Shaw has been a key part of Cleveland’s bullpen over the last few years, pitching in at least 70 games since 2013 while posting an ERA of 3.11. They heavy workload could catch up to him but for two years or less at around $6 million/year, the Phils should roll the dice.
6. Joe Smith
Smith fit in nicely with Shaw and the rest of the Indians’ bullpen after being traded by Toronto this season. He posted a 3.33 ERA with both clubs, striking out 71 in 54 innings. Although he’ll likely come at a cheaper price than Shaw, it’s looking like he might be staying put in Cleveland if Shaw goes.
5. Anthony Swarzak
Split between the White Sox and Brewers, Swarzak finished the 2017 season with an impressive 2.33 ERA in 77.1 innings, striking out 99 while only walking 22. He earned less than a million last season so even with an significant increase, he’s a low-risk/high-reward.
4. Pat Neshek
When Neshek was traded, he said Philly was one of his favorite places despite only being here for half a season. He’ll be a hot commodity – and a pricey one – but the Phillies have the money to spend and it’d be worth it if they can flip him again at the deadline. It’s unlikely but never say never.

Go for it

These are the flaming-hot choices. Make your move, Phils.

3. Jake McGee
Averaging almost 10 strikeouts and less than three walks per nine innings, McGee is definitely somebody who Klentak should look at this offseason. He’s relies mainly on his fastball but at 95 mph it doesn’t really matter.
2. Steve Cishek
Cishek can’t seem to stick with a team but that isn’t because of his performance. Since debuting in 2010, he has a 2.73 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP and averages nearly ten strikeouts per nine. He’ll probably sign for $7-8 million for two years.
1. Juan Nicasio
He was a Phillie for a hot minute this summer after Klentak snagged him on the waiver wire from Pittsburgh. They then flipped him to St. Louis for a decent prospect. He’s a hard thrower who doesn’t walk guys – perfect for shutdown innings late in games.
3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Steve (Tampa)

    November 8, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Nice read. I still think Arano needs to earn a spot in spring training, but he would need to effectively pitch himself out of contention.

    I would take two from Cishek (My 1st choice), Nicasio, McGee, Neshek, Swarzak and Minor. On most days the pen is active by the 6th inning so I would welcome reinforcements

    Also to consider the likes of Velasquez, Eflin, Leiter, Pivetta, JThompson. Very likely that one or more of the young starters are converted to the pen this spring. Upper system is heavy fringy starters.

    Great read – thanks!

  2. denzen

    November 10, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Please don’t laugh, but I tought the bullpen would be pretty good. Of course I thought Jenmar would be a big part of it, so what do I know. haha Seems like there are always veteran relievers that excel for teams during the course of the season. The trick is who. Someone on MLB was saying they thought Clay Buckholtz could be a starter to step up next year like Charlie Morton did this year. Any thoughts.? Seems like a long shot to me, but I can never figure out pitching.

  3. Ken Bland

    November 12, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Every time Yu Darvish is speculated about as a free agent, an asterisk is applied as speculators want to overlook his WS appearances. Not quite as blatantly, but another pitcher who didn’t help himself with HIS WS performances is none other than Ken Giles. Since departing Philly, Giles has put up a so-so 2016, and a good 2017 until he saw his closer’s role taken away in The Series.

    At this week’s GM meetings, I seriously doubt Giles gets moved even though the Stros supposed desire to rebuild their pen is one of the most talked about wish lists in the sport.

    But that’s now. While it seems a good chance that Wade Davis stays with the Cubs, if he does wind up with the Astros, which seems plausible at least, what does Houston do with Giles? I’d put the chances of his being traded at about 15% sometime this winter, increasing to perhaps as high as 40-50% if Houston nabs Davis. Every Series winner is always thought of in dynastic terms, few follow through. But Houston, with some truly terrific young talent, and a damned good rotation is probably going to be very aggressive in improving their pen to take that pretty realistic shot at repeating a deep fall run.

    Giles, for his Series shortfalls is still a very good reliever and could be a help to the Phils.

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