With the trade of Ken Giles to Houston, the Philadelphia Phillies have a few options for the 2016 closer role.
Giles was always considered the heir apparent to Jonathan Papelbon, took over that role when the veteran was dealt to the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline this past season, and succeeded as most evaluators believed he would.
In fact, Giles was so impressive as both a setup man and in the closer role that he became easily the team’s most valuable remaining trade piece following the deals involving Papelbon and ace Cole Hamels.
Now that he is gone, the closer role would appear to be wide open. While that is likely to remain the case when the club reports to Clearwater for spring training, there is a clear frontrunner to fill the role.
Yesterday, on the same day that Giles talks were heating up and the deal being finalized, the Phils announced the signing of free agent David Hernandez to a one-year contract. That contract reportedly included incentives based on games finished. So it would appear that GM Matt Klentak was already thinking contingency plans with the Hernandez signing.
Hernandez has finished 84 games during his career, registering 19 Saves along the way. During the 2011 season, the righthander served as the Arizona Diamondbacks primary closer for a time, and at one stretch in July he recorded seven Saves in a 13-game stretch.
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Other candidates would include Luis Garcia, who finished 25 games over the last three seasons with the Phillies, including a pair of Saves this past season. Edubray Ramos turns 23 years old next week, and has 19 Saves on his resume in the Phils minor league system, 18 of those over the last two seasons.
Alec Asher could turn out to be an option. The 24-year old righty who was part of the package received from Texas in return for Hamels did not enjoy success in a seven-game audition with the Phillies. He allowed 42 hits, including eight home runs, across 29 innings, with a 16/10 K:BB ratio in his big league starting debut, and is much more likely to end up in the bullpen.
James Russell, who turns 30 years old in January, was signed as a free agent in November. He has finished 70 games across parts of six big league seasons, mostly with the Chicago Cubs, and has four Saves on his record. However, it is more likely that the Phillies will want to use Russell as a late-inning left-hander in the 7th and 8th innings.
One dark-horse candidate could be newcomer Frank Herrmann. The big righty finished out 32 games over the 2010-12 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, has a 2010 Save on his big league resume, and registered 8 Saves with AAA Columbus in 2012. The 31-year old Herrmann signed as a free agent back in November after pitching in the LA Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates minor league systems over the last couple of years.
The Phillies also have a ton of talented arms percolating at the AA and AAA levels in the minor leagues, any of whom could develop into the closer role. Those possibilities could include Zach Eflin, Ricardo Pinto, Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta, and Alberto Tirado . However, those are all longterm possibilities, and all but Tirado should remain in the rotation in the 2016 season.
It also remains a possibility that the club could sign an inexpensive free agent who might be looking at a short-term deal to better establish their own market. Pitchers such as Jonathan Broxton, Matt Albers, and even former Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo could be possibilities, should Klentak decide to take the free agent route.
While Hernandez is certainly the leading candidate, the Phillies 2016 closer role is no longer etched in stone. “100-Miles Giles” will be helping the Astros chase an AL West crown and a World Series berth. His former teammates will be searching for his replacement, at least in the short-term.