The 2023 Major League Baseball Hot Stove season has been officially lit and there are plenty of relief pitcher logs to toss onto the fire. The current list of free agent relievers includes a handful of high-priced veterans as well as many less expensive options. Somewhere out there are going to be difference-making bargains to be had.

In 2022, the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen began the season looking for all the world like it was again going to prove an Achilles heel in the club’s attempts to return to the postseason for the first time in over a decade.

As the summer arrived, a metamorphosis took place and the pen suddenly became a strength. By the end of the regular season the Phillies bullpen mix had allowed the fourth-fewest home runs in all of baseball. In the postseason the club’s relievers produced a 2.62 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.

The day after the World Series concluded, the Phillies saw a large group of pitchers become free agents. That group included back-end starting pitchers Kyle Gibson and Noah Syndergaard as well as veteran relievers David Robertson, Brad Hand, and Corey Knebel. Later in the week, starter-turned-reliever Zach Eflin declined a mutual option before the club had a chance to make the declination on their end.

Those six pitchers combined to make 131 relief appearances in the 2022 campaign for the Phillies, tossing 114.1 innings this season. Those games and innings are going to need to be replaced over the winter.

Coming to spring training with an inside edge on 2023 bullpen berths will be right-handers Seranthony Dominguez, Connor Brogdon, Andrew Bellatti, and Nick Nelson. The lefty arm of Jose Alvarado will almost certainly be offered arbitration and should also be returning.

There will be others from within the organization who should see action down in Clearwater and who, with a strong spring, could force themselves into the conversation. These could include the righty arms of Sam Coonrod and Francisco Morales as well as a parade of southpaws in Damon Jones, Cristopher Sanchez, Michael Plassmeyer, and Erik Miller.

All three of the Phillies top prospects are pitchers. But all three of Andrew Painter, Mick Abel, and Griff McGarry are considered starting pitchers by the organization and will continue on that path into next year.

When considering free agency possibilities, the Phillies have plenty of money to spend. However, they will need to fill a hole in their middle infield created by the decision to not pick up the club option on Jean Segura‘s contract for 2023. Rumors have it that they will be aggressively pursuing one of the big four free agent shortstops: Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson.

In addition, the Phillies will need to add a veteran starting pitcher who they could get on a shorter-term one- or two-year deal. This will allow at least two of the aforementioned trio of top prospects to put the finishing touches on their development in the minor leagues.

But the bullpen will also need some investment. With so many veterans leaving, the Phillies will almost certainly be looking to bring in at least a couple of veterans to support Dominguez and Alvarado at the back of the bullpen.

The higher-end options on the market (2023 ages in parentheses) are Kenley Jansen (35), Taylor Rogers (31), Craig Kimbrel (34), and Aroldis Chapman (35). Jansen and Rogers will likely command deals in the range of $13-14 million annually, while Chapman and Kimbrel should come in at around $6-7 million per season.

Here is a partial list of available relief pitchers as of this writing who will get lesser deals.

Right-handers: Trevor May (33), Will Harris (38), Mychal Givens (32), Michael Fulmer (30), Ian Kennedy (38), Craig Stammen (39), Trevor Rosenthal (33), Alex Colome (34), Seth Lugo (33), Adam Ottavino (37), Trevor Williams (31), Luke Jackson (31)

Left-handers: Will Smith (33), Zack Britton (35), Andrew Chafin (32), Matt Strahm (31), Matt Moore (33), Justin Wilson (35), Mike Montgomery (33), Sean Newcomb (29)

In addition, the pitchers who were with the club this past year and who are now free agents are also on the market and any of Robertson, Hand, or Knebel could theoretically return. Same with Eflin, should he not find a role and deal to his liking in free agency. The righty could decide that he wants to come back and be part of the Phillies back-end bullpen mix, a role that he filled in the postseason.

Also, the Phillies could bring in a reliever via trade. One scenario would be dealing either first baseman Rhys Hoskins or right fielder Nick Castellanos for an impactful bullpen arm or two. That scenario seems less likely than the club going the free agent route.

While I don’t see the Dave Dombrowski devoting big bucks to one of the bigger name, higher-priced pitchers, I do expect at least two or three free agent relievers to become prime targets for a deal at some point during this off-season.

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