The Philadelphia Phillies appear to have a clear goal in free-agency regarding their bullpen; either sign a traditional closer that allows Seranthony Dominguez to be used in whatever the highest-leverage situation is, or sign a reliever that can pitch in the highest-leverage role in the game, allowing Dominguez to slide into the traditional closer’s role.
Tuesday, MLB.com‘s Jon Morosi reported that the Phillies have interest in seven-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, who is fresh off of winning a World Series title with the Boston Red Sox. Now, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic says the Phillies have checked in with two other accomplished free-agent relievers:
But the team, according to sources, also is in touch with the agents for virtually every dominant back-end reliever — Craig Kimbrel, as first reported by MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, as well as Zach Britton and Andrew Miller.
Miller, 33, may have been one of the five most coveted free-agents if he has reached free-agency after the 2017 season. You could make a case that Miller, most recently with the Cleveland Indians, has been the most valuable reliever this decade – he certainly has as far as left-handers go. But the two-time All-Star was limited by knee and shoulder injuries to just 37 games in 2018, which certainly doesn’t help his free-agent value.
His loss in free-agency could be the Phillies gain, however. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors projects that Miller, once a top starting pitching prospect, will receive a three-year/$27 million deal. That’s a fraction of what he would have received if he had reached free-agency after the 2017 season. He would make the same average-annual-value that he did in the four-year/$36 million deal that he just completed.
If the Phillies are confident in Miller’s health moving forward, he could be a potentially scary addition to the team’s bullpen. He had 36 saves with the New York Yankees in 2015, so that’s a role he could pitch out of. Or Gabe Kapler could use him like Terry Francona has in Cleveland, as a dominant reliever that’s capable of pitching in any inning (and sometimes multiple innings) in an attempt to get the ball to the closer, who would be Dominguez.
This is far from the first time that the Phillies have been connected to Britton, who was an All-Star in 2015 and 2016. As far back as March of 2017, Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported that the Phillies were seen as a speculative favorite to potentially land Britton when he reached free-agency after the 2018 season. When the Orioles dangled Britton on the trade market this past July, the Phillies reportedly checked in on the left-handed reliever. There was even credible speculation from Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia that the Phillies could try to land Britton and Manny Machado from the Orioles in the same trade. That trade, of course, did not happen, as Machado was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Britton to the New York Yankees.
Britton, perhaps lost in the shuffle of what may have been the most talented bullpen ever assembled, posted a 2.88 ERA and 4.08 FIP in 18 games for the Yankees, working out of a set-up role. If the Phillies were to sign Britton, one would think it would be for him to close games again, something he thrived at from 2014-2016, when he saved 120 games. Dierkes projects that Britton, who will turn 31 next month, will land a three-year/$33 million contract in free-agency.
This offseason isn’t short on potential late-inning relief options. Jeurys Familia, David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, Joe Kelly, Kelvin Herrera and Joakim Soria are all free-agents, in addition to the trio of star relievers the Phillies have been connected to. Phillies Nation‘s Alec Whitaker also suggested earlier this week that the Phillies could target Cincinnati Reds closer Raisel Iglesias in a trade.
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