Brandon Kintzler finished tied for fourth in Major League Baseball in saves during the 2020 regular season with 12, one more than the entire Phillies bullpen.
The story of the 2020 Phillies could have been much different if the Phillies employed him. Kintzler, who had a 2.22 ERA in 2020, admitted that he was extremely interested in pitching for the Phillies in 2020.
“I wanted to come there last year but it just didn’t work out,” Kintzler said Wednesday on MLB Network Radio’s MLB Roundtrip with Jim Memolo and Jeff Joyce.
Harper and Kintzler are both from Las Vegas and were teammates for two years as members of the Washington Nationals. The Phillies slugger made a push to get Kintzler on the team prior to the 2020 season and tried again this offseason. This time around, Harper found success.
“He was just like ‘We need, we need you,'” Kintzler said. “‘A guy like you with your leadership in the pen. We need your mentality.’ And he goes ‘And obviously you dominated last year, we need that. We scored nine runs 11 times last year and lost. We need guys down there. We need guys that are consistent.'”
The Phillies actually scored at least nine runs eight times last year and lost only one of those games. However, the bullpen’s struggles with holding leads last season are well documented and Harper’s comments match the sentiment. They lost 21 games in which they had a lead. While Kintzler isn’t the team’s only ninth-inning option, he’s a lock to rack up a few saves opportunities if he makes the big-league roster.
He has signed a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. If he makes the big-league roster, he will earn $3 million in 2021. The deal could be worth as much as $4 million with incentives. The 36-year-old turned down a guaranteed contract worth $2 million to return to Miami in favor of signing with Philadelphia.
“When the superstar keeps telling you they want you on their team, at some point, you gotta give in. I can’t keep telling him no every time,” Kintzler said.
By turning down the Marlins deal, Kintzler is taking a risk. While it’s very likely he’ll make the Opening Day roster, an injury that takes him out indefinitely or a dreadful showing in spring training could be disastrous. It’s a risk Kintzler is willing to take to get the chance to call Citizens Bank Park home.
“I want to see Bryce win,” Kintzler said. “I want to see Philly win. I’ve always wanted to play there. I love pitching in that stadium. I’m up for the challenge of betting on myself and being a big part of the bullpen.”
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