The Philadelphia Phillies are making no bones about it — they plan to acquire a closer with a long track record this winter as they attempt to stabilize the ninth inning for the first time since Jonathan Papelbon was traded in July of 2015.
Of those three, Jansen is the only one that’s available as a free agent. The 34-year-old — who I projected on Audacy Sports will receive a two-year/$30 million deal — converted 38 of of 43 save attempts in 2021, while posting a 2.22 ERA and 3.08 FIP. Jansen, who has spent his entire career with the Dodgers to this point, is currently 13th in MLB history with 350 saves.
Hader is likely the most idealistic candidate, given that he’s still only 27 and that he can’t become a free agent until after the 2023 season. It’s unclear if the Milwaukee Brewers — who could be a legitimate World Series contender in 2022 if they add a bat or two — are going to seriously consider offers for Hader. If they do, the asking price will likely be astronomical, which would be difficult for the Phillies to meet given that most outlets aren’t especially bullish on their farm system.
Kimbrel makes quite a bit of sense for the Phillies, despite the fact that he’s due $16 million in 2022. The Chicago White Sox reportedly plan to trade the eight-time All-Star after he struggled to get used to setting up for Liam Hendriks, posting a 5.09 ERA in 24 regular season appearances for the team. However, Kimbrel had an 0.49 ERA and 23 saves before being traded by the Cubs, so a return to the ninth inning may do the trick for the man that’s ninth in MLB history with 372 saves.
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski previously acquired Kimbrel when he was leading the Boston Red Sox front office. Kimbrel was an All-Star in each of his three seasons with the Red Sox, even finishing sixth in American League Cy Young Award voting in 2017.
It should be noted that while each of these three closers has extended postseason experience, all of them have some notable blemishes on their October legacies as well. Hader has allowed what turned out to be series-clinching postseason hits off the bats of Juan Soto and Freddie Freeman in the last three years. Jansen was part of the 2020 World Series Champion Dodgers team, but posted a 5.14 ERA in eight appearances that postseason. Kimbrel experienced a similar fate as part of Boston’s 2018 World Series team, posting a 5.91 ERA in nine playoff appearances.
Nonetheless, the Phillies have gone more than half a decade without a consistently reliable closer. It seems like they are determined to end that streak this winter.
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