The Phillies have essentially decided to run it back with their 2020 roster with a few key enhancements. The bullpen is better than it was at any point last season (it’s a low bar to exceed) and the starting rotation finally has some depth.
One of those depth pieces is right-hander Chase Anderson, who reportedly signed a one-year/$4 million major-league deal with the Phillies on Wednesday. He’ll compete for the fourth or fifth starter’s job in spring training and at the very least, will start the season working out of the bullpen as a multi-inning option if he fails to win a spot in the rotation.
The chance to pitch in the postseason appealed to Anderson.
“My goal is to go out there and provide innings and pitch hopefully 150 plus innings in a year where a lot of teams are going to need that and I think Philadelphia was just a good fit,” Anderson said on Inside Pitch with Casey Stern and Brad Lidge on Wednesday. “To be on a team that has a really good shot at winning a championship in that tough division in the NL East and I think for me, at this point in my career, I want to win a championship because I’ve been to the playoffs the last three out of the four years and there’s nothing like postseason baseball.”
Getting to the playoffs, let alone winning the World Series, is going to be tough for the 2021 Phillies. It’s hard to argue that the Phillies are definitively better than either the Braves or Mets, especially since New York is getting closer to signing Trevor Bauer, the top starting pitcher on the free-agent market. They could be a step ahead of the Nationals but if Stephen Strasburg comes close to replicating his 2019 campaign, Washington could be another force to be reckoned with.
We don’t know for sure what the 2021 postseason format will look like but it’s trending more towards a 10-team bracket as opposed to a 14 or 16-team tournament. The Padres and Dodgers are virtual locks to get in, with one of them claiming a wild card spot. Four teams: the Braves, Mets, Nationals and Phillies, will probably battle it out for two postseason spots. An expanded postseason would greatly increase the Phillies’ chances of snapping their nine-year postseason drought. And don’t rule out the Marlins, who have some of the best young pitchers in baseball in their rotation.
Despite the odds stacking against them, there are reasons to be positive about the Phillies’ outlook. Anderson also mentioned that the team has a good mix of veterans and young pitchers. He also spoke highly of Spencer Howard, saying “he’s going to be a star.”
“They’re in that window to contend and win a championship,” Anderson said. “I think I can take the ball every fifth day, go deep in the ball games, fill in the back end of the rotation. I’m looking forward to competing for that spot going into spring training, hopefully winning a spot in that rotation and getting back to my old form.”
Anderson, 33, is hoping to bounce back from a rough 2020 season. In 33 2/3 innings pitched, Anderson had a 7.22 ERA. He had two particularly rough outings against the Red Sox and Yankees in which he gave up a combined 13 earned runs in those two games alone. He failed to throw more than five innings in a start in the 60-game season.
Outside of 2020, Anderson has a consistent track record of providing innings. He’s thrown at least 100 innings each season from 2014 to 2019, eclipsing 150 innings three times. His best season came in 2017 when he went 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 141 1/3 innings. His career ERA+ of 103 suggests he’s a league-average starter. Considering that the team was woefully short of starting options down the stretch last season, the Phillies could stand to benefit from having as many average starters as they can.
While Anderson’s addition won’t move the needle, the team has a formidable win-now core in Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, Alec Bohm and Zack Wheeler along with a deeper pitching staff.
And their offseason isn’t quite over yet. Dave Dombrowski made it clear that the team is still looking for pitching help along with another bench bat. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported that the Phillies are still shopping in the second-tier of free-agent starters, which includes James Paxton, Jake Odorizzi and Taijuan Walker.
They’re far from the favorites to win the division but at the same time, a deep playoff run isn’t completely out of the realm of possibilty.
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