Not only did the Phillies fail to make the playoffs in 2020, but their postseason drought is also now the longest in all the National League. It has been 9 years since the ballclub has played a meaningful game in October, and the faithful are starting to grow restless. It comes as no surprise that ownership has decided to make a change.
General Manager Matt Klentak lost his job after last season, and the front office has since undergone a makeover. Dave Dombroski was brought in to serve as the President of Baseball Operations, and Sam Fuld was promoted to the GM title. Dombroski and his team have spent the last several months making moves to gear up for the upcoming season, bolstering the team in the process.
With that being said, there are still a few glaring holes on the roster, most notably in the bullpen and off the bench. Here are 5 names the Phillies should consider bringing in with Spring Training fast approaching.
Jose Alvarez (LHP) Alvarez spent the last 2 seasons as a reliever with the Phillies and has pitched rather effectively. His 2020 campaign ended prematurely after taking a line drive off the groin, and his production was sorely missed. The southpaw could serve as a veteran of sorts to a largely inexperienced bullpen group.
Tyler Clippard (RHP) Few bullpen arms have logged as many innings as Tyler Clippard over the past decade, but that’s for good reason. The guy flat out knows how to pitch, and get hitters out late in games. He would be a welcome addition to the backend of the bullpen.
Matt Joyce (OF) The veteran outfielder has spent the past few seasons in the NL East, with Atlanta and Miami. A power threat from the left-hand side, Joyce could take the spot occupied by Jay Bruce, who did not resign. Joyce also has connections with GM Sam Fuld, being the two played together in Tampa Bay.
Jason Kipnis (UTL) The longtime Cleveland Indian spent his first season in the NL last year with the Cubs and helped them capture a NL Central title. Kipnis, a two-time all-star, may not have the bat-speed he once had in his prime, but I feel as if he still has something left in the tank.
Brad Miller (UTL) “Bamboo Brad” had a stint with the Phillies in 2019, and was well-liked by fans and teammates alike. Miller is a strong utility man, who can play multiple positions. Our bench could use his bat from the left-hand side.
After months of anticipatedly waiting, the Phillies got their guy. Yesterday, J.T. Realmuto signed on a 5 year contract worth $115.5 million. The deal will make Realmuto the highest paid player at his position, going by average annual value (AAV). The man who many believe to be the best catcher in baseball, or BCIB, will now be in town through the year 2025.
Since the beginning of 2015, only Yadier Molina has caught more games behind the plate than Realmuto. Given the length of the deal, one might question whether he will spend the entirety of contract behind the plate. With that being said, I would never bet against him. Realmuto has the stamina and athleticism that most backstops can only dream of. He runs the bases exceptionally well for a catcher, and his baseball instincts are unmatched.
Realmuto is a career .278 hitter, with 95 home runs in the big leagues. The two time all-star made his debut with Miami back in 2014, and has spent his whole career playing within the NL East. Despite having played 7 years at the highest level, Realmuto has never made the postseason. The Phillies are hoping that will change in 2021.
With Realmuto back in the fold, the front office will look to fill other holes on the roster. Adding a shortstop remains a hot topic, and Didi Gregorius remains unsigned. With a bunch of names coming off the board in recent days, (Galvis,Simmons,Semien), he remains the likely target. The team has also been linked to 2nd baseman Kolten Wong, and center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr, if they decide to go a different route.
In other news, the team added two arms on minor league deals in right-handers Bryan Mitchell and Ivan Nova. Both guys are familiar with manager Joe Girardi, having pitched with Yankees at the start of their careers. I would expect more minor league deals in the near future with spring training quickly approaching.
This past week, the Phillies announced the acquisitions of Archie Bradley and infielder C.J. Chatham. To free up space for the duo on the 40-man roster, reliever Victor Arano and outfielder Kyle Garlick were designated for assignment. In a recent turn of events, both players -Arano & Garlick- are expected to join the Braves organization. It has been reported that Atlanta has claimed the two off the waiver wire.
In my opinion, Arano is the bigger loss of the two. Despite being limited to less than 5 innings pitched since 2018 due to injury, he owns a career 2.65 ERA in the big leagues. If he can come back healthy, this may come back to haunt us, especially considering the fact he is now within our division. I felt like Arano, still just 25 years of age, could have had a place on this team if given the chance. Now a team that has dealt with its fair share of bullpen woes in recent years will look for production elsewhere.
Garlick, who will be 29 come opening day, was brought over last winter from the Dodgers organization via trade. He struggled in limited at-bat’s this past season and spent much of the summer at the team’s alternate site in Lehigh Valley. This was the case despite the Phillies shuffling outfield corps in 2020. Neither Adam Haseley nor Roman Quinn impressed enough to win the center field job, and Andrew McCutchen spent much of the year as a Designated Hitter. Regardless of all this, Garlick still could not find his way into the lineup.
The Braves 40-man roster, along with the Phillies, both stand full at 40 men apiece. Although this is the case, both teams could still have more up their sleeves before pitchers and catchers report next month. The Phillies remain engaged with free agent J.T. Realmuto, and the Braves front office has been very active this winter. Given their activity so far, it would come as no surprise if they aren’t done making moves.
The Phillies have signed right-handed reliever Archie Bradley to a 1 year, $6 million deal. Before the 2020 Trade Deadline, he had spent the entirety of his career pitching out in the desert with Arizona. Known mainly for his fastball and curveball combination, he also possesses a changeup and a sinker in his repertoire.
Bradley, a former first-round selection and top prospect as a starter, transitioned to a relief role while in the big leagues, and the results have been promising. Since being moved to the bullpen full-time in 2017, he has owned a 2.95 ERA over the span of 200+ appearances with the D-Backs and Reds. This acquisition may give Joe Girardi a new closer to lock down the 9th inning, should he choose to use him in that capacity. Girardi may also elect to use him in more high leverage situations, which the Phillies had quite a few of this past summer. Having someone like Bradley who can get out of a tough jam, and even pitch multiple innings when called upon, will be a breath of fresh air for our pitching staff.
Bradley marks the 3rd reliever of note the front office has brought on board for next season. In 2 separate deals, the team acquired left-hander Jose Alvarado from the Rays, as well as right-hander Sam Coonrod from the Giants. The trio will look to bolster the team’s relief core, which was historically bad last season. When the 2020 season came to an end, the Phillies had a bullpen ERA north of 7. If they are going to make the Postseason in 2021, history cannot repeat itself.
This offseason is far from over, and there are still multiple holes on the roster. However, with all things considered the signing of Archie Bradley could very well work out in the Phillies’ favor. If he performs anywhere close to how he has the last 4 seasons, the team will most definitely be getting an upgrade.
According to multiple sources, the Phillies have shown interest in starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez. The veteran right-hander will be 37 years of age on Opening Day and has spent the last 3 years competing within the NL East. A few of his career accolades include helping the Nationals capture their first World Series crown in 2019, and winning an AL ERA title with the Tigers back in 2013. Sanchez also has a no-hitter to his name with the Marlins in 2006.
Dave Dombrowski, who is now the Phillies President of Baseball Operations, helped acquire Sanchez via trade during his time with Detroit. It should come as no surprise that the two -Dombrowski & Sanchez- are connected once more, especially considering the options in-house to fill out the back end of the rotation. Aside from the trio of Nola, Wheeler, and Eflin, the team will be counting on the likes of Vince Velasquez and the highly touted Spencer Howard to eat some innings. Adding an experienced arm could help take some of the load off the young guys.
It is safe to say the front office wouldn’t have to break the bank to sign Sanchez either. He is coming off a disastrous 2020 campaign and his best days are most likely behind him. With the slow-moving state of the Free Agent market, a minor league deal could very well be all it takes to bring him on board. A smaller signing such as this one would allow the Phillies to have more flexibility financially when building the rest of their team this winter, and beyond. J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius remain unsigned, and a potential return to Philadelphia is not out of the question for both players.
Adding a starting pitcher might not be amongst the team’s top priorities at this moment, but someone like Anibal Sanchez could serve to bolster the back end of our staff. There is an old saying that goes, “You can never have enough pitching”. At the very least, Sanchez could serve as a depth guy and is worth taking a chance on.
Since being acquired from Miami in February of 2019, fans and teammates alike have considered J.T. Realmuto to be amongst the best catchers in baseball, or BCIB for short. His offensive capabilities paired with his strong defensive presence behind the dish would surely present many teams with an upgrade should he sign with them. The Phillies are not the only team in the mix. Numerous clubs would love to have his services, especially considering the drop off in the rest of the market. Both the Nationals and Blue Jays have been linked to the Silver Slugger in recent weeks. Should he sign elsewhere, the organization’s depth at catcher could be in question.
The clear front runner to take over the starting role at the big league level would be Andrew Knapp. Knapp, a switch hitter, has spent the better part of the last half-decade as the team’s back up. Despite a solid offensive showing during the shortened 2020 campaign, the 29-year-old has never shown much with the bat. His offensive woes aside, the pitching staff has raved about his game-calling, and he has worked well with quite a few of our starters throughout the years. He has worked incredibly well with Zach Eflin, who has attributed some of his recent success on the mound to Knapp. I would be very surprised if someone other than Knapp or Realmuto was behind home plate come Opening Day 2021.
Outside of Knapp, the Phillies seem to be high on another switch-hitter, 21-year-old Rafael Marchan. The young backstop made his MLB debut this past summer, but has yet to play in a minor league game above A-Ball. I feel he could benefit from some more time in the minors, where he could develop his game. Another name to keep in the back of our minds is Christian Bethancourt. The former Braves farmhand hasn’t accumulated a big-league at-bat since 2017 with San Diego. Despite this fact, the Phillies re-signed him to a minor league contract earlier this winter. He could have a chance to crack the 26-man roster, especially if Realmuto leaves town.
In my lifetime, I have been blessed to see some of the best catchers in franchise history suite up for the Phillies. Mike Lieberthal and Carlos Ruiz are just a few that come to mind. However, even they don’t compare to the type of player that Realmuto has been, and may continue to be for years to come. Retaining J.T. has to remain a top priority, especially when the options in-house, and in free agency are lacking.
Having been a Phillies fan my whole life, being born and raised right here in the greater Philadelphia area, I have seen the good, the bad, and most certainly the ugly. In my 19 years of existence, I saw the franchise fulfill its ultimate goal of winning a World Series championship. Players such as Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley went on serve as role models for the whole Delaware Valley
Unfortunately, I also saw that same core group of players that won a title age into less productive versions of themselves and fall into the basement of the division. The organization is still recovering from their previous mistakes, and are in the midst of a 9-year postseason drought.
Regardless of the past, there is still a lot to be thankful for as a lifelong Phillies fan. As I assess the ball club heading into the off-season, 2021 and beyond, there are still many areas that need improvement, but overall fans should be pleased with much of what we have in the fold already.
Here are 10 reasons in the year 2020 to be thankful as a Phillies fan.
1. Mick Abel: In my opinion, the Phillies’ biggest downfall amongst their scouting department is the inability to find and develop quality arms that can come up and make an impact at the big-league level. Except for Aaron Nola, the last decade would be a perfect example of that. However, one guy we can count on for the future is Mick Abel. After spending their 1st round selection on Abel this past summer, it appears the Phillies are high on the high school righthander, and for good reason. The kid is an intriguing prospect, with plus stuff.
2. Alec Bohm: Was Bohm’s first year in the big leagues fun to watch or what? The only thing that could’ve made it better would have been a Rookie of the Year Award to top it off, or if fans were in the stands to witness it. Neither of those happened, but the future is incredibly bright for the power-hitting 3rd Baseman. He will enjoy hitting at Citizens Bank Park for years to come.
3. Connor Brogdon: Switching gears back to another arm, another reason Phillies fans should be thankful is the emergence of reliever Connor Brogdon. Unlike Abel, Brogdon was a late-round pick and had to work his way up to the majors. That just makes his story even more incredible. He debuted in 2020 while showing flashes of potential in the backend, and could very well line up for a bullpen spot next season.
4. Joe Girardi: After coming off his debut season as Phillies manager, Joe Girardi is looking to become the first skipper since Charlie Manuel to lead the team back to the postseason. Like many, I believe he can be the man for the job. His impressive resume helped him land his position last winter, and he is looking to add on to it moving forward.
5. Bryce Harper: There is this idea portrayed by the national media that no major free agents in any sport would ever want to come to play in a city like Philadelphia. In the spring of 2019, Bryce Harper proved all of those people wrong and made the city of brotherly love his home for the next 13 seasons. His tenure with the team is just getting started, and it’s going to be one heck of a ride.
6. Spencer Howard: Although 2020 did not go as planned for Spencer Howard, he got his first big league start out of the way and got some key experience under his belt. That will most certainly come in handy in 2021 where Howard is likely to assume one of the five spots in our rotation. His future is bright. There is a reason the organization has held on to him in trade discussions.
7. Aaron Nola: Why wouldn’t you be thankful for one of the best young pitchers in the game? That is exactly what Aaron Nola is. He is a proven ace who fits our timeline well. Nola is the best starter the Phillies have had since Cole Hamels, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
8. JoJo Romero: Halfway through his 2019 minor-league campaign, Romero was demoted from AAA Lehigh Valley to AA Reading. The move served as a wake-up call for the then 22-year-old, who came into 2020 with an improved mindset and a different role. Now coming out of the bullpen, it appears the young lefty has found his niche.
9. Bryson Stott: Stott is an intriguing infield prospect both offensively and defensively. His glovework for his age is excellent, and could very well be the long term answer at shortstop. The 2019 first-round selection may still be a bit away from debuting in the majors, but when he gets there I believe he can make an impact.
10. Zack Wheeler: There’s no question Zack Wheeler has what it takes to be a front line starter. That is a huge reason why the front office signed them away from the division-rival Mets last winter to pair him alongside Aaron Nola. His first season with the team was strong, and as long as he can stay healthy, I would expect continued success down the road.
The biggest downfall of the 2020 Phillies was their bullpen. The relief core was historically bad and littered with arms who underperformed and were simply unfit for big-league competition. Thankfully, a new general manager is expected to take over and will be able to change the narrative.
Regardless of whether the team can retain star catcher J.T. Realmuto, they should still have some money to spend in free agency, and a large sum of that is expected to go towards the bullpen. With this in mind, here are 10 free agent relievers the Phillies should consider.
Baez has spent his entire MLB career with Los Angeles, helping them to 7 straight division titles and a World Series crown this past season. He’s been a key set-up man to Kenly Jansen, and in my opinion, has been one of the more underrated Dodgers over an impressive team run. If he were to leave Chavis Ravine, the right-hander would serve as an upgrade to the back of the pen’.
Upon being traded to the Cubs at the deadline, Chafin had spent his entire big league career in the NL West with Arizona. There, he evolved into a strong lefthanded option that could retire some of the top hitters in the game. Now entering free agency for the first time in his career, the 30-year-old would be a welcome addition.
Clippard has been the definition of consistency. He’s been doing it for a long time, and has brought a winning pedigree everywhere he’s played. Once a back-end guy for the Nationals, the veteran has spent the last few seasons in the AL Central with Clevland and Minnesota. The Phillies won’t have to break the bank to sign someone like Clippard, and he would make an immediate impact.
In his first major move as GM, Matt Klentak traded Giles to Houston after the 2015 season in a package that included Vince Velasquez. Since that point, Velasquez has fallen out of favor in the Phillies rotation, and Giles has established himself as a strong backend reliever with the Blue Jays. If “100 Miles Giles” were to sign here, he would assume the closer’s role that remained vacant towards the end of last year.
When it comes to free-agent relievers this winter, Hendricks is the king of the crops. In all, he is one of the best relievers in baseball. The Aussie has been a huge piece of the Oakland A’s, but he very well could leave town if a better offer comes his way. The Phillies have money to spend, so why not go after the best guy on the board?
The starter turned reliever has spent the last few seasons with the rebuilding Kansas City Royals. In 2019, he was the team’s closing pitcher, where he racked up 30 saves in 34 opportunities. Kennedy struggled in the unprecedented 2020 season. With that being said, he could be a bounce-back candidate to buy low on.
Melancon is a veteran with a proven track record who has a ton of exposure pitching late in games. He is more than capable of getting big outs and could serve as a mentor to a mostly young bullpen group. His age, 35, could be a turn off for some teams, however, I don’t see it being much of an issue. The guy flat out knows how to pitch.
Peacock got his start within the division with Washington but was traded early on in his career to Houston. With the Astros, he both started and came out of the pen’ in a long-relief role. Not only are the Phillies lacking quality arms, but they are also lacking a quantity of arms. Peacock is someone who could eat up some innings, and preserve the big boys late in games.
Petit has been a reliable arm for numerous teams throughout his lengthy big league career. He spent last season with Oakland, as a crucial part of their bullpen. The 2014 World Series champion could provide length and postseason experience to a relief core that desperately lacks both.
Wilson has experience pitching within the NL East, having spent the previous two seasons with the Mets. The lefty is also familiar with manager Joe Girardi, having pitched for the Yankees in 2015. The 33-year-old isn’t a marquee name, but he’s coming off another solid season with a strong career resume. He could take the role of Jose Alvarez, although I hope the team resigns him as well.
Barring any unforeseen transactions, it appears the Phillies will have Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler as their one-two punch atop of their rotation for the 2nd consecutive season. In 2020, the duo failed to disappoint. Aaron Nola had another strong season as the team’s ace, and Zack Wheeler’s first year with the team was a success. Now, who will follow these two in the rotation is still up for discussion.
Zach Eflin, who made a ton of strides to improve his game last season, is a clear front runner to grab one of the final three spots. One would like to think Spencer Howard could be part of the 2021 rotation as well. The right-hander with electric stuff debuted with the team this past summer and is viewed to be a part of the club’s long term plans. After that, the team does not appear to have many viable options.
Jake Arrieta’s huge 3-year deal came to an end at seasons close, and he is likely to pitch elsewhere in 2021. Nick Pivetta, who has been a candidate to pitch in the rotation in years past, was dealt to Boston and is no longer in the organization. Beyond that, your best bets are looking like Vince Velasquez and Adonis Medina. Although Medina has shown some flashes in the past that have made him an intriguing prospect, I feel he could benefit from some more time in the minor leagues.
With this in mind, the team may be better off looking elsewhere to get some starting pitching help, whether that would be via trade or free agency. Today, we’re going to be looking at 10 Free Agent starters the Phillies should consider this winter, not named Trevor Bauer.
Although someone like Bauer could be a real difference-maker, the guys I present to you today would cost much less, and would help to bolster the pitching staff nonetheless. Let’s get started.
The journeyman lefty spent last summer with Milwaukee and helped them get back to the playoffs for the 3rd consecutive calendar year. Since making his MLB debut back in 2009, He has been a solid backend starter for numerous clubs, 6 to be exact, in both the American and National Leagues. Anderson will turn 33 next February and could serve as a mentor of sorts for a team that will employ its 4th different Pitching Coach in 4 seasons.
Once a prospect in the Phillies’ minor league system, Gonzalez has put together quite a solid major league career. The southpaw has experience pitching within the NL East with the Nationals, and postseason experience recently with the Brewers. His stuff is not going to blow anyone away, however, he could prove to be a modest upgrade for a team that lacks left-handed pitching depth.
You know I had to include him on this list. Hamels made just 1 start in 2020 due to injury and could be looking to rebuild his value on a deal much smaller than the one he signed last winter. It is safe to say the 08’ World Series MVP will not be getting $18 million in free agency this time around, and the idea of bringing him back on a minor league deal is at least considering.
Happ won a ring here back way back in 2008 and was dealt away in a trade that netted Roy Oswalt back in 2010. Over the past decade, the southpaw has put forth a great deal of effort to fine-tune his game and remain a big-league starter. His best days are most likely behind him, however, a reunion could make sense for both parties.
The more film I watch of Rich Hill on the mound, the more he reminds me of Jamie Moyer, especially during the later part of his career. Hill is a perfect example that age is just a number. He will be 41 on Opening Day, and a handful of teams have already shown interest in his services. I feel the like Phillies should be one of them.
Kluber, or as I like to say, “Klubot”, is just a few years removed from being a front line starter on a championship-contending team. I thought a change of scenery would have done him well in Texas if it weren’t for a campaign-ending injury that cost him the season. He has a very strong track record and could be a bounce-back candidate assuming he stays healthy. Regardless of where Kluber signs, I expect him to be back in 2021.
Leake was one of the first players to opt-out of the shortened 2020 campaign, and the D-Backs really missed his presence on the mound, and in the clubhouse. The veteran excels at generating weak contact off the bat, which is important as he only tops out in the low to mid 90’s, and that’s on a good day. I feel he could be a nice addition to our staff, even if it is just for one season.
Before you click off the article or ask “Why?”, Nova makes an intriguing case to be an under the radar type signing. His first manager in the big leagues was Joe Girardi with the Yankees, so right of the bat, there is some familiarity between the two. If nothing else, he could be an innings eater for a team that dreads turning the ball over to their bullpen, and who could blame them?
Tanaka might be a bit pricey compared to others on this list, but there is some validity behind that. Since coming over from Japan in 2014, Tanaka has been a mainstay in the Yankee rotation, and he is coming off another solid season. One could make the argument in 2020, he was their best starter besides Gerrit Cole. A 1-2-3 punch of Nola-Wheeler-Tanaka heading into next season could be a force to reckon with.
Wood pitched during the World Series clincher for Los Angeles and has spent the majority of the past 6 seasons in Dodger Blue. It looks like injuries are thankfully an issue of the past, although are still worth taking into consideration. He has a good thing going with Dave Roberts and company, but if he were to look elsewhere, the lefthander would slot nicely into the Phillies rotation.
When the Phillies traded for Silver Slugger Award winning catcher J.T. Realmuto ahead of the 2019 season, he had only two years of team control under his contract. With this in mind, the obvious decision would have been to sign him to an extension so he stays in town long term. After all, the man who many believe to be the best catcher in baseball was entering his prime, fit our timeline well, and with all things considered, we gave up a lot to get him via trade.
Jorge Alfaro is still a young and upcoming catcher in this league and could project to be the Marlins starter at that position long-term. The biggest loss in the trade was dealing away right-handed pitcher Sixto Sanchez. The 22-year-old made his MLB debut this summer and pitched in the postseason with the Marlins. His stuff is on the mound is filthy, and he has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez. It is bad enough we gave these players away, but it’s even worse they now compete within our division. Sixto especially could come back to haunt us for years to come. He would have been a great starter to pair with Nola atop of our rotation.
Switching gears back to J.T., since the team failed to get an extension done, he will now be entering free agency. The Phillies can give him a qualifying offer, in which they would receive a draft pick in return if he were to sign elsewhere. At the moment in time, I feel there’s a good chance that this may happen. The Mets have a new owner that is willing to spend big, and they have a hole at the catcher position. Their starter from this previous season, Wilson Ramos, regressed both offensively and defensively. Their crosstown rival the Yankees could also make a play for Realmuto. Both teams from the Big Apple have money to spend and could drive up the price. Not a good sign for a team like the Phillies, who have been reluctant to go over the luxury tax in recent years.
If J.T. were to sign elsewhere, the only other catchers on the 40-man roster would be switch hitter Andrew Knapp and the 21-year-old Rafael Marchan. Although Knapp is coming off a solid season, neither of which I would feel comfortable with as my everyday catcher heading into 2021. There is a good chance that the team may look elsewhere to bring in another backstop, whether that would be through trade, or via free agency. I know most, if not all Phillies fans, want to re-sign Realmuto to rationalize the deal to give up Sixto Sanchez. However, knowing what it may cost to keep him in town, the team may consider going in a different direction. I would hate to see them turn a bad trade into an even worse one if the contract turned out to be a bust. A multi-year deal worth over 20 million dollars per season is a large asking price for a catcher playing the entirety of the contract on the wrong side of 30, no matter how talented they may be.
The Phillies may be better off investing those funds into improving other areas of the ballclub. I am sure the team has at least entertained the idea of resigning Didi Gregorius, and the pitching staff without a doubt could use an upgrade. Pitching in this day in age is not cheap, and the Phillies could use at least a couple of bullpen arms to improve upon their disastrous results from last season. No matter who the Phillies have behind the dish next season, they will be entering play on Opening Day with the longest playoff drought in all of the National League. Not only that, the best pitching prospect they have had in recent memory will be throwing against them on the mound for years to come. The J.T. Realmuto trade could come back to haunt the Phillies in a variety of ways, especially if he were to end up signing with the Mets this winter and stays within the NL East.