5 Free-agent pitchers who could be the Phillies’ closer in 2022

Sep 29, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi talks with relief pitcher Hector Neris (50) as he removes Neris from the mound during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi talks with relief pitcher Hector Neris (50) as he removes Neris from the mound during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /
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Who will be the Philadelphia Phillies’ closer in 2022?

Unlike many teams who are playing their offseason to-do lists close to the vest, Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has made his intentions abundantly clear:

Sign at least one slugging outfielder and multiple bullpen arms, including a closer.

The Phillies have some players who can fill the outfield spots, but the bullpen and closer roles were glaring issues in 2021, with the club tying the all-time MLB record of 34 blown saves in one season, originally set by the 2004 Colorado Rockies. More than once, the Phillies bullpen actually blew multiple saves in the same game.

Understandably, Dombrowski didn’t mince words on the aspect of his team’s play that kept them out of contention more than almost any other issue:

"“If I had to say one thing, I’d probably say I’d like to have somebody that can close a game for us, and count on it.”"

So, here are five free agents with closing experience who could be the Phillies’ new end-game:

1. Hector Neris

Despite entering free agency, the longtime Phillies’ closer – and longest-tenured Phillie before he hit free agency this month – could absolutely return in 2022, just not in his previous role.

Dombrowski made it clear that the Phillies “prefer to bring [Neris] back,” but “as a non-ninth-inning guy.”

It makes sense after Neris‘ chaotic season, which included him setting a new franchise record for career strikeouts by a reliever while also having his ERA skyrocket from 1.54 in April and 2.38 in May, to 8.22 in June and 6.94 in July.

Ultimately, Neris fared better as a set-up man, posting a 1.65 ERA over 21 eighth-inning appearances, as opposed to his 5.20 ERA over 30 ninth-inning spots.

Apparently, Neris is “open to” returning in a different capacity. And of course, having multiple bullpen guys with closing experience is always better than the alternative, which was the Phillies’ reality in 2021, when Neris was struggling in the role.

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