Going into the 2019 season the Phillies bullpen looked to be a strong point of the team. Seranthony Dominguez was coming off a solid rookie season, Tommy Hunter had a strong 2nd half in 2018, Victor Arano was coming off a good 2018 season, and they signed David Robertson who was as consistent as it gets appearing in no less than 60 games in a season in the previous 9 seasons. Fast forward to the 2019-20 off-season and the bullpen has turned into a giant question mark. Arano and Dominguez are both coming off serious elbow injuries, David Robertson will miss the season with Tommy John Surgery, and Tommy Hunter was also injured for most of the season and is now a free agent. The team also declined options on Jared Hughes and Pat Neshek and outrighted Mike Morin, Blake Parker, and Edubray Ramos who are all now free agents.
As currently constructed the Phillies bullpen appears to be Hector Neris, Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Ranger Suarez, Dominguez, and Arano. The Phillies recently claimed flame throwing right-hander Robert Stock from the Padres. Stock had a good 2018 with the Padres before getting injured last season and dealing with control issues. He is more of a project than anything. The team could also put Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta in the bullpen if they sign a starter or two this winter but they could also be trade bait. Outside of Neris and Alvarez you’re really not knowing what you’re getting from any of those guys. Some upgrades need to be made to the bullpen for 2020. The free agent reliever market is not particularly deep this off-season but there are some interesting names out there and they could also add a reliever via trade.
Take the risk and sign Dellin Betances
Coming off an injury filled 2019 that saw Betances only make one appearance after coming back from a shoulder injury and then partially tearing his Achilles in his first appearance back. Andy Martino of SNY reported that Betances is expected to be fully recovered from his Achilles injury in December. The risk is there with Betances coming off two serious injuries and heading into his age 32 season though I think he is worth the risk for the Phillies. Betances had an incredibly dominant 5-year stretch from 2014-18 where he had a 2.22 ERA and had a strikeout rate of 40.3% in 373.1 innings. Joe Girardi relied on Betances greatly when he was managing the Yankees and I’m sure he’d love to have him in his bullpen with the Phillies. I think a one-year deal or a one-year deal with an option that kicks in after a number of appearances could be a great get for the Phillies.
Sign Drew Pomeranz
Signing Pomeranz as a starter would be an absolute disaster for the Phillies but in this scenario the Phillies are signing him as a reliever. Pomeranz turned into a key piece of the Brewers bullpen down the stretch after coming over from the Giants at the trade deadline. When used as a reliever in 2019 Pomeranz pitched to a 1.88 ERA, 1.92 FIP, 0.84 WHIP, and a 47.2 K%. The Phillies already have Morgan, Alvarez, and Suarez as lefties in the bullpen so they don’t exactly need another lefty in the bullpen but Pomeranz has the makings of a dominant reliever and one that can get out both lefties and righties. Pomeranz is also heading into his age 31 season which makes him a little younger than some of the other free agent relievers available.
Trade for Reds Closer Raisel Iglesias
Iglesias is coming off a down 2019 where he had a 4.16 ERA and 12 losses for the Reds. Iglesias also posted career highs in K% and K/BB ratio and also had his lowest BB% since 2015. A .316 BABIP was a career high for Iglesias so it looks it there was more bad luck involved than him just being bad. After trading for Trevor Bauer at the trade deadline the Reds should be looking to contend in 2020 but they were open to moving Iglesias at the trade deadline so I think he could be had for the right price. The price will be the biggest sticking point for a team like the Phillies whose prospect system isn’t great.
Sign Will Harris
Since his first season with the Astros in 2015 Will Harris has been one of the best relievers in baseball. In his 5-year stretch with the Astros Harris has a 2.36 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and a 9.6 K/9 in 297 IP. Harris is going into his age 35 season so that is a concern but he’s really good and doesn’t look to be slowing down. A 2-year deal with an option could be an enticing over for Harris and a great signing for the Phillies bullpen.
Omission: Will Smith
With Aroldis Chapman signing an extension with the Yankees Will Smith is the best reliever on the free agent market. Smith also received a qualifying offer from the Giants and therefore has draft pick compensation attached to him. As I said earlier with Iglesias, the Phillies prospect system is not great so I can’t see them being willing to forfeit a draft pick for a reliever. Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon are different stories where the Phillies will be more than willing to surrender a draft pick to sign one of those three but I can’t see it for a reliever.
With the Phillies not knowing what they are going to get from most of the relievers they currently have in the bullpen for 2020, whether it be because of injury or inconsistency, I think getting some guys with some history of consistency is essential to the team’s success next year.
Graduate from Indiana University of PA. SMWW Certified Scout.