Will the Phillies go back to the free agent reliever well after a murky history?
Free agent relievers have historically panned out poorly for the Phillies, as highlighted by David Robertson’s recent Tommy John surgery. The trend of faulty relievers dates back to the signings of Mike Adams, Joaquin Benoit, and in some eyes, the franchise’s all-time saves leader, Jonathan Papelbon.
This offseason the Phillies have several relievers set to hit the free agent market, notably, Pat Neshek, Juan Nicasio, and Tommy Hunter.
Philadelphia’s bullpen has allowed an average of 4.93 runs per game, just slightly higher than the major league average. They’ve not blown many saves (just 15) but in context, they’ve had just 44 save opportunities this year, the fourth-fewest in the National League.
If the Phillies are to take the next step in this rebuild and push towards a championship, their bullpen can not be highlighted by a pack of failed starters and inexperienced relievers. Leadership and stability, something Robertson was supposed to provide, is needed, and the Phillies may be forced to go back to the well where they’ve drawn murky water in years past.
Every unrestricted free agent who has thrown at least one big league inning this year is at least 30 years old. That’s just how the game works with the current collective bargaining agreement. Players aren’t hitting free agency in their prime, and the deal they sign this offseason could be both their first and last.
The average age of an unrestricted free agent reliever available this offseason is 33.97. If you take out 43-year-old Fernando Rodney, the average dips to 33.72.
Even if you examine the players with team or player options available this offseason, the youngest are 29, Martin Perez and Chris Devenski, both on player options with ERAs over 4.50.
The average ERA for an unrestricted free agent reliever with at least 30 innings this year is 4.14. If you remove the extremes (Felix Hernandez’s 6.52 ERA and Will Harris’ 1.72 ERA), the average ERA is still 4.14.
Here’s a closer look at relievers available this offseason who could help the Phillies