1. Hector Neris will start the season as Phillies closer.
The free-agent market has been slow-moving this offseason, with uncertainty surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic and its effect on team revenue, with the Phillies reportedly seeing a $145 million loss this past season.
Even with new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, the team’s spending may be significantly reduced and much of the public attention has focused on the hopes of re-signing J.T. Realmuto. There are notable relievers on the free-agent market, but there’s a good chance that it will be Hector Neris who starts the 2021 season as the Phillies’ closer, with the team signing him to a one-year contract before the non-tender deadline.
Neris’ inconsistency has shown throughout his career, with a 3.01 ERA and 26 saves in 2017, a 5.10 ERA and 11 saves in a 2018 season that saw him sent to the minors at one point, and a 2.93 ERA and 28 saves in 2019. Coming off of that good 2019 season, where those 28 saves ranked seventh in the National League, it was once again Neris who started 2020 as closer. Once again, he was inconsistent. Neris had two saves, three blown saves, and a 9.95 ERA in his first nine games before recording three saves, no blown saves, and a 1.29 ERA in his next 14 outings. His final game of the season saw two runs surrendered to the Tampa Bay Rays.
It wasn’t only his poor early-season performance that saw him lose the primary closer role, with Brandon Workman acquired via trade with the Boston Red Sox. With Workman now in free agency and Neris finishing the year off strong, plus the tighter free agent budget, don’t be surprised to see the often-criticized Neris start the season as Phillies closer.