Phillies: Free agent relief options in a weak market
The Phillies landed one of the big names in this offseason market early in the process, inking former Met Zack Wheeler to a reported 5-year, $118 million contract that keeps Wheeler in a Phillies uniform until his age-35 season. With that being said, there’s still plenty of holes to fill for next season’s roster, one of the main weaknesses being the bullpen.
The Phillies will gain back some solid, healthy arms with the likes of Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan, and Hector Neris. But in order to compete for a World Series, time has proven that a dominant bullpen is almost required to win a title. There are some arms available, but it remains to be seen if the Phillies will bite on some back-end arms.
Although he may be a former member of the Yankees, Dellin Betances is a big-name guy still on the market. Betances only appeared in one game last season due to injury, but before that, he was one of the most dominant eighth-inning guys in the game. His 6-8 frame propels the ball into the upper 90’s with absurd movement, giving reason to his career 14.64 K/9. Betances is a two-pitch guy, but both offerings are wipeout pitches when he’s truly healthy. He’ll probably demand close-like money, but he could slide into the closer role, moving Hector Neris to an earlier role.
Quietly one of the most consistent bullpen arms over the past decade (holding a 2.69 ERA over 572 appearances), Steve Cishek is solid arm the Phillies could likely sign for less than top dollar. Cishek’s success is in his deceptive delivery, a type of guy the Phils haven’t shied away from in the past (Pat Neshek). His stuff hasn’t tapered off much, if at all, and he would be a solid addition as a middle-reliever or perhaps in the eighth inning role depending on which version of Neris the Phillies get.
In need of good left-handed relief pitching, the Phillies could likely enter trade talks due to the lack of talent among lefties in the open market. Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez proved they can throw some meaningful innings, and down in the farm system Jo-Jo Romero and possibly 2019 draftee Erik Miller could be pulled from the ranks to eat innings.
In terms of other names, the Phillies could go after to restructure their bullpen, Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, and Taijuan Walker are all names to watch for. Hudson’s value went through the roof after a brilliant second half run with the Nationals last season, and Harris was a productive back-end bullpen piece for the Astros all last season, posting a 1.50ERA over 68 appearances. Both options will be tough to pry from their former team’s hands.
Walker has only been a starting pitcher in the big leagues, but it had long been though that his size and easy velocity could make him a dominant bullpen arm. It remains to be seen if Walker will ever be willing to make that switch, but the Phillies could pursue him to fill a rotation spot or as a bullpen piece.
It’s still early in the free agent process, with many of the big names yet to find a home, but the Phillies have been active early. With the correct acquisitions, the Phillies could find themselves with a stacked pitching staff, far and away from the makeshift staff the front office put together last season.