Philadelphia Phillies: An early look at the 2021 bullpen
If you watched even one Philadelphia Phillies game last season, the chances are you saw a relief pitcher give up a run or a lead at some point in the game. Despite midseason additions of David Phelps, Brandon Workman, and Heath Hembree, the bullpen still ended 2020 with one of the worst bullpen ERAs in MLB history.
This offseason, the Phillies’ top priority remains to re-sign J.T. Realmuto, but Dave Dombrowski has made multiple moves in hopes of bolstering the weak bullpen. Among the first were two low-risk, high-reward signings of Michael Ynoa and Neftali Feliz. Both have not pitched in the majors since 2017, yet enjoyed success in the Dominican Winter League spanning 2019 and 2020.
Two trades ensued those signings, granting the Phillies two more hard-throwing arms in Sam Coonrod and Jose Alvarado. Coonrod, acquired from the San Francisco Giants, pitched to a 3.58 ERA in 33 games in 2019. Despite his struggles in 2020, Coonrod’s walk rate decreased and his strikeout rate increased — all the while closing out a few games for the team.
Alvarado, on the other hand, was dominant in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, tallying more than 100 strikeouts and giving up only two home runs in 93 innings pitched. Injuries have hampered the left-hander over the last two years, but both Joe Girardi and Dombrowski saw him first-hand in American League East matchups and know what he is capable of.
New Phillies right-hander Archie Bradley will make a significant impact in 2021.
The most notable and most recent addition is Archie Bradley, one of the top relief arms on the market. Bradley is a legitimate bullpen piece that can set up or close out ballgames — something the Phillies really struggled with in 2020 and years past. Since becoming a relief pitcher in 2017, Bradley has pitched to a 2.95 ERA with 28 saves and 258 strikeouts in 221 games. After starting his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he most recently pitched for the Cincinnati Reds in 2020 and is familiar with new Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham.
Phillies bullpen options who are on track to return next season.
Already on the Phillies roster, JoJo Romero and Connor Brogden impressed late last season as two young arms. Hector Neris will be back. Other names include Ranger Suarez, David Hale, and Victor Arano. The Phillies also recently avoided arbitration with Vince Velasquez, who has been used as both a starter and reliever in recent seasons.
It is certainly nice to see the bullpen becoming a priority for the 2021 season. Bradley and Neris could be a serious set-up and closer combination, while Coonrod and Alvarado look to have bounce-back seasons, and Romero and Brogden further develop. Remember, if the Phillies had just a league-average bullpen in 2020, they would have easily been a postseason team.
Hopefully, the Phillies add one or two more names from the options left on the reliever market, which include Jose Alvarez, Alex Colome, Keone Kela, Roberto Osuna, and Ken Giles, among several others.