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Dodgers ‘opener’ Corey Knebel could be a fit for the Phillies


Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts surprised everyone when he announced that Corey Knebel, not Julio Urías, would start Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants. The move was made to minimize the Giants’ platoon advantage and it worked well. Knebel pitched a scoreless inning while Urías entered in the third and allowed one run through four innings.

Corey Knebel has “opened” for the Dodgers twice this postseason. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Knebel was tabbed as the Dodgers opener again for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against a Braves lineup that doesn’t rely on platoon hitters. He gave up just his second career postseason run on a wild pitch.

Knebel will become a free agent after this season and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Phillies showed interest. Philadelphia, who is once again in need of a closer, could entice Knebel by offering him a chance to close games once again. He was a full-time closer in his All-Star season in 2017, finishing fourth in the majors in saves at 39. Dave Dombrowski led the Tigers baseball operations when Detroit drafted Knebel in 2013.

The 29-year-old was non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2020 after the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement on a deal and the Dodgers scooped him up in a trade prior to the non-tender deadline. Knebel missed three months of the season with a lat strain, but he finished the season with a 2.45 ERA in 25 2/3 innings. He’s a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball that averages 97 mph and a curveball that ranks among the best in spin efficiency.

Injuries are the biggest concern with Knebel. He missed all of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and dealt with hamstring problems in 2020 along with a lat strain in 2021.

Dombrowski said in his end of season press conference that the Phillies’ next closer will likely come from outside the organization. If the team re-signs Héctor Neris, he’ll likely serve in a flexible high-leverage role.

The team does have options when it comes to true closers on the market. Rasiel Iglesias and Knebel’s teammate Kenley Jansen are the top closers in free agency. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the White Sox will likely pick up Craig Kimbrel’s $16 million option and try to trade him during the offseason.

Like last year, the Phillies need to rebuild the back end of the bullpen. Neris, Archie Bradley and Ian Kennedy all need to be replaced either through trades or free agency. On the offensive side, the Phillies are in need of at least two impact bats. They could also be in the market for a starting pitcher in addition to more bullpen arms.

Spreading the money around is the team’s overarching strategy this offseason and it would be tough to see the Phillies deviate from that when it comes to the back end of the bullpen. The Phillies are in need of multiple arms in the back end and Knebel, despite the injury risk, could be a fit for the Phillies. He should cost significantly less than the top closers on the market and could serve as either a set-up man or the closer.

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