Tag Archives: Daniel Hudson

NL East Division position comparison: bullpens

My evaluation of the National League East Division teams has moved on from the position players to a ranking of the pitching staffs of each ball club. I began earlier today with a look at the projected starting rotations. Now, the bullpens will undergo that same evaluation and ranking.

The performance and even the make up of Major League Baseball bullpens are extremely difficult to evaluate at this time of year. Many teams enter spring training with as many as half of their projected relief pitcher spots up for grabs. Injuries will also take their toll on the relievers, both in the spring and then during the season.

As I evaluate each club, I will list the handful of arms that I feel are most likely to be impactful for that team during the season. This will include the projected closer as well as any quality setup and match-up arms.

I will give mention during the team write-up to any pitchers who could begin the season in the bullpen, but who may ultimately end up impacting the rotation as starting pitchers due to injuries. In parentheses after their names you will find a designation for whether they are left- or right-handed.

Combine the starting pitching rankings from earlier today with these bullpen rankings, add them to the examinations of each of the other positions around the diamond which took place over the previous ten days, and you will get a good idea of where each team stands entering spring training.

Early next week, I will take a look at the managers, giving them that same evaluation and ranking treatment. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida on February 11, just 10 days from now, for the opening of Phillies spring training.

NL EAST – 2020 BULLPEN RANKINGS

  1. Atlanta Braves: Mark Melancon (R), Will Smith (L), Shane Greene (R), Sean Newcomb (L), Darren O’Day (R), Luke Jackson (R), Chris Martin (R), A.J. Minter (L), Touki Toussaint (R), Jacob Webb (R)

The two-time defending NL East Division champion Braves possess an embarrassment of pitching riches. That extends to their bullpen group. Smith is an especially solid addition as a southpaw, signing as  free agent back in November after two strong seasons in San Francisco, including an NL All-Star season a year ago. Right-hander Patrick Weigel could emerge from the minors this season to help out if needed. The Braves also have veteran Felix Hernandez and youngsters Kyle Wright Bryse Wilson competing for the fifth-starter job. Any or all of them could impact the bullpen if not being used in the rotation at the majors or at Triple-A. There is still more pitching depth nearly ready among their top prospect group. Atlanta appears to be well-insulated from any type of pitching injury issues.

2) New York Mets: Edwin Diaz (R), Dellin Betances (R), Seth Lugo (R), Jeurys Familia (R), Justin Wilson (L), Robert Gsellman (R), Paul Sewald (L)

It would be hard for me to believe that young closer Diaz, who turns 26 during spring training, won’t bounce back from a somewhat down season in 2019. Even during a year where his ERA ballooned to 5.59 and his WHIP to 1.379, Diaz had a 15.4 K/9 rate and a 99/22 K/BB ratio across 58 innings. If he cannot beat out Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello for a starting rotation nod, Steven Matz will contribute out of the pen as well. Betances, Lugo, and Familia all have closer stuff. Wilson is leaned on heavily as a southpaw arm. He could get help in that regard from prospect David Peterson during the season. The health of former Yankees stud Betances, who turns 29 during spring training, will go a long way towards the New York pen maintaining this ranking during the season.

3) Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris (R), Seranthony Dominguez (R), Jose Alvarez (L), Francisco Liriano (L), Adam Morgan (L), Bud Norris (R), Victor Arano (R), Ranger Suarez (L), Robert Stock (R)

The Phillies bullpen has the potential to finish anywhere from second to fourth on this list by the end of the 2020 season, which can also be said for the Mets and Nationals relief group. If I had more confidence in Dominguez being and remaining healthy for the full season, I might even have ranked them ahead of New York already. New skipper Joe Girardi has a ton of arms with which to work and to sort out during spring training. Those could ultimately include arms like Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin, and Enyel De Los Santos, all of whom will try to win the fifth starter job at the outset. The Phillies might have  the deepest selection of lefty relievers in the division. If only they had a strong starting southpaw for their rotation. If the team can stay in contention, they just might finally get some value out of David Robertson late in the season. They also bought a lottery ticket in former Nats closer Drew Storen this winter.

4) Washington Nationals: Sean Doolittle (L), Will Harris (R), Daniel Hudson (R), Roenis Elias (L), Wander Suero (R), Tanner Rainey (R), Hunter Strickland (R), Ryne Harper (R), Javy Guerra (R)

The bullpen was a problem, perhaps the only real problem, for Washington during much of the 2019 season. Recognizing that fact and not wishing to go down that road again they inked free agent righty Will Harris. The Nats also re-signed free agent Daniel Hudson, who was outstanding after coming over in an early-August trade from Toronto last year. Hudson is forever etched in Nationals history after recording the final out in their World Series victory. A trio of youngsters vying for the fifth starter job – Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth – could also impact the bullpen. If they use Doolittle as the closer, the rest of the pen lacks an impact southpaw, where Elias is likely to be asked to handle the load, at least initially. Prospect arm Seth Romero could ultimately be the answer in that role.

5) Miami Marlins: Brandon Kintzler (R), Drew Steckenrider (R), Jose Urena (R), Jarlin Garcia (L), Ryne Stanek (R), Tayron Guerrero (R), Yimi Garcia (R), Adam Conley (L), Jose Quijada (L)

The Fish signed the 35-year-old Kintzler last week to serve as the closer, allowing a talented group of young arms more time to develop in the setup and match-up roles earlier in games. This is indeed a talented, albeit largely inexperienced, bullpen crew. When top prospect Sixto Sanchez is ready it will bump someone, likely either Elieser Hernandez or Pablo Lopez, to the pen. If enough of these pitchers take a step forward, the Miami bullpen could quickly become a legitimate strength and begin to shoot up these rankings.

 

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Dwindling free agent pool still includes players to help Phillies

When the off-season began for the ball clubs of Major League Baseball it was my belief that we were in store for a second straight winter of city tours.

At the very least, super agent Scott Boras was going to take the top pitcher, Gerrit Cole, and the top hitter, Anthony Rendon, around the country to a handful of cities for team visits in a repeat of what happened a year ago with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

As we now know, it never happened. This time around, the vast majority of free agents had a good idea where they wanted to play. Negotiations went down fast, with few team visits at all.

The Phillies got involved, as was anticipated. General manager Matt Klentak was able to land two new pieces in shortstop Didi Gregorius and the starting pitcher that everyone knew they needed in Zack Wheeler.

But even with those two additions, the Phillies appear to need a little more. They play in a tough division that includes a two-time defending champion in Atlanta, the defending world champions in Washington, and an improved New York Mets club. All three of those teams finished ahead of the Phillies in 2019.

It appears that Klentak is ready to hold third base for top prospect Alec Bohm, plugging in super-utility guy Scott Kingery for a few weeks until Bohm is deemed fully ready. And it looks as if Klentak wants to see what former first round pick Adam Haseley can do with an everyday opportunity in center field.

If those things are absolutely true, then the Phillies would not be shopping around for any more starting caliber position players. But they still have needs in the bullpen and on the bench, and another starting pitcher, preferably a left-handed veteran, couldn’t hurt.

So, considering those as the Phillies needs and knowing that the free agent market has seriously dried up, are there any players remaining available who could help the club, and who Klentak might actually still consider inking to a deal?

Earlier this week, Hall of Fame scribe Jayson Stark put out what he considered to be an All-Unemployed Team, with each of the players still out there as available free agents:

And just yesterday, former big-league general manager Jim Bowden published a piece for The Athletic on the top remaining free agents. He listed the Phillies as a “best fit” for two of those, third baseman Josh Donaldson and relief pitcher Will Harris.

Donaldson would appear to be a longshot at best. In fact, there is a very real possibility that the slugger will be manning the hot corner and hitting in the middle of the lineup for an NL East rival once again next year. Both the Braves, with whom he played in 2019 on a one-year contract, and the Nationals are considered the front-runners to land the services of the veteran.

Harris is an intriguing possibility. The 35-year-old right-hander is a veteran of eight big-league campaigns. He was a 2016 All-Star, won a World Series ring with the Houston Astros back in 2017, and has been one of baseball’s top relievers over his last five seasons spent in a Houston uniform.

This past year, Harris allowed just 42 hits over 60 innings with 62 strikeouts across 68 appearances. He also has 23 games of postseason experience on his resume.

Other free agents also still remain who at least fit the mold of what the Phillies could use. They include veteran left starters Drew Smyly and Alex Wood and relievers Steve Cishek, Daniel Hudson, Brandon Kintzler, and Hector Rondon.

For bench bats there are players such as Starlin Castro, Brian Dozier, and Ben Zobrist. If the Phillies do consider a move on a position player who could start, center fielder Kevin Pillar might prove to be a nice fit.

At this stage it would appear that shoring up the pitching staff with a veteran back-end starter and at least one veteran bullpen arm are the best bets for possible additions.

However Klentak chooses to fill in his roster over the balance of the off-season, as the calendar flips to 2020 there remain players out there on the market who could help the Phillies in the season to come.  Those names may not be sexy, but every contending team needs key contributing-level players as well.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies December 2019 mailbag

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No one in baseball is more under the spotlight this off-season than Phillies general manager Matt Klentak.

 

Back on Christmas Eve Eve, I asked my social media followers to shoot me out any questions that they might have on the Phillies.

As you might expect, the majority of those ended up in reference to moves the club has made and might still make during this current off-season.

Following are a representative sampling, along with my responses, presented in a question (Q) and answer (A) format.

 

Q: Sean Fitzpatrick (@SeanFit91141350 on Twitter) asks “I’m questioning the configuration of the infield as it stands now. I dont see either Segura or Kingery as a legit third base option, and which one plays second? Do we bring in an outside option?

A: As we sit here in the week between Christmas and New Year’s the Phillies 2020 infield configuration appears that it will feature Rhys Hoskins at first base, Jean Segura at second, Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and Scott Kingery at third base. Kingery is likely keeping the spot warm until top prospect Alec Bohm is ready, at which point Kingery would return to a super-utility role. That assumes he is not needed at another position due to injury.

Q: Robin Heller (@flower_auntie on Twitter) says “I am wondering about who will play third base and how they will address the holes in the rotation!

A: As for third base, see the above answer – though there remain rumors that the Phillies could consider a trade for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. The starting rotation is currently projected to be made up of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez.

It doesn’t appear as though GM Matt Klentak feels that there are “holes in the rotation” – though you and I would disagree with him. Arrieta needs to prove that he can stay healthy and produce past May. Eflin and Velasquez have been consistently inconsistent.

Wheeler was a great signing. But we went into this off-season believing that the Phillies needed two new starting pitchers of the type who had proven to be winners at the big-league level. There is still plenty of time to bring in another arm via free agency or trade.

Among free agents remaining, perhaps Klentak would consider taking a shot on Alex Wood, if the 28-year-old southpaw keeps hanging out on the market and his price is reasonable. The Phillies have also been linked to Arizona lefty Robbie Ray.

Q: Dan McElhaugh on Facebook asks “You (Phillies) need to address the bullpen and get another starter. What are you doing about it?

A: I addressed the starting pitchers above. However, you also have to consider that top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is close to big-league ready and will likely impact the rotation at some point in 2020. He is probably going to start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and assuming health and success there we should see him by the second half of the season, at the latest.

The bullpen is a tough question. There actually are the makings of a decent group here. But much of that depends on them being healthier than last year’s group. Right-handers include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Edgar Garcia, Trevor Kelley, Robert Stock and possibly even Nick Pivetta or prospect Adonis Medina.

Among lefties the club currently has Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Austin Davis, and Cristopher Sanchez. You could even see minor league starters Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, and JoJo Romero slide into a pen role.

There are a number of veteran relievers remaining on the free agent market including Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Francisco Liriano, and Fernando Rodney. Any of them would help upgrade the bullpen. Klentak may be waiting to see if any can eventually come dirt cheap.

Q: JBFazz1213 (@JBFazz1213 on Twitter) stated “Very Disappointing if the Phillies don’t sign Dellin Betances because of the Luxury Tax.

A: As we now know, the Phillies indeed did not sign Betances, who received a one-year deal at $10.5 million guaranteed from the division-rival New York Mets which can rise to $13 million based on incentives. He also received two player option years, though if he proves himself healthy it is likely that Betances re-sets his value and returns to the free agent market next fall.

Having previously pitched his entire career in the Big Apple with the Yankees, he has a number of ties to New York. Likely of most importance were that the doctors who treated his shoulder injury and his Achilles injuries are located there. Those injuries, especially the September Achilles, are likely most of the reason that the Phillies and any number of other ball clubs in need of bullpen help were not involved.

Q: Wally Potter on Facebook asks “Why does the Phillies farm system have a bad history of producing quality starting pitching ? More specific within the last 40 years.”

A: Back in July of 2019, Dan Roche of NBC Sports Philadelphia did a nice piece on this very subject. In that piece, Roche listed the top 10 homegrown Phillies pitchers over the last four decades as ranked by Baseball-Reference WAR value.

Those ten arms belong to, in order, Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola, Kevin Gross, Randy Wolf, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, Don Carman, Kyle Kendrick, Hector Neris, and Ricky Bottalico.

It’s not a bad list, but there is a major and obvious flaw. Nola and Neris are “now” arms on the current roster. Hamels, Myers, Madson, and Kendrick were all pitchers with the 2008 World Series champions and were with the club for a number of years around that magical season.

What you are left with are Gross, Carman, and Ricky Bo as the only pitchers developed out of the Phillies farm system from the late-1970’s through the mid-2000’s who had any real impact on the ball club.

Roche estimates that the Phillies have drafted upwards of 1,000 pitchers over the last 40 years and stated “Even by blind luck, a team should be able to do better than the Phillies have.

The answer to the “why” is difficult to explain. That poor history comes under various regimes led by eight different general managers and a number of higher executives.

Perhaps that poor homegrown pitching record is beginning to change. If you make the history just of the last dozen years or so, you get seven of the above 10 names. You also get arms such as current top pitching prospect Spencer Howard and former top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, the centerpiece of the J.T. Realmuto deal.

Q: d dask (@DocD19 on Twitter) wanted me to “Ask Matt Klentak if he is allergic to southpaws?

A: I am not sure regarding the topic of Klentak’s allergies. But I get it. Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu were all available as free agents this time around. Any would have been a perfect fit for the Phillies rotation – especially our old hero Hamels on a one-year deal. The exact reasons why the GM didn’t get any of those arms to Philly is perplexing, to say the least.

Q: DDNAGS (@DDNAGS1 on Twitter) opined “They will not win with the current roster. Ask Matt Klentak when he is going to get off his big ass and make a couple trades? We don’t need all these scrubs he always signs.

A: Well, that’s simply wrong. Klentak signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen last off-season. He signed Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius this off-season. They had a .500 roster prior to the recent moves and on paper appear to be improved. So, it would seem that, given health, they are already good enough to “win with the current roster.
Now, if you are talking about winning enough to reach the playoffs, maybe even contend for a division crown, and beyond that, a world championship, I get it.
It is my contention that the Phillies need a more proven center fielder, a left-handed veteran starting pitcher, another veteran bullpen arm with a successful track record, and another bench bat with pop from the right side similar to what Jay Bruce brings from the left. Let’s see what the GM does between now and the start of the season.

Q: PhilliesCurveballMachine (@phillies_the on Twitter) asks “Will a “culture change” in the clubhouse under the new coaching staff really make a difference in the team’s intensity/ focus/ “hustle” this season? And will this translate into wins? Why/how?

A: When you talk about a “culture change” inside the Phillies clubhouse, you specifically mention the change of managers from Gabe Kapler to Joe Girardi. Honestly, we’re not going to know how the club responds. But I expect that a proven winner with a championship pedigree will be more influential and regarded more positively than a rookie with a cheerleader personality.

There is another major change inside the clubhouse, with a pair of starting players gone in Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. This year should find Realmuto, McCutchen, and Harper stepping into even more vocal leadership roles. I don’t know about you, but that prospect elicits more confidence from me.

I am expecting that Girardi will simply not tolerate any lack of hustle. He is not only going to be willing to make an example out of any player, but also have the confidence and support from management to bench anyone for any reason.

This comes from the popularity of his hiring, the unpopularity of the general manager, the fact that Girardi is just beginning what should be at least a three-year run in the dugout, and his own confidence based on his experiences as a championship-winning player and manager.

Now, will this change in style and substance result in more victories? I think it will have some effect. However, the team has to stay mostly healthy, especially where its biggest stars are concerned, and needs to receive actual improved performance from a few players. Any more positive attitude needs to be backed by positive performances.

Q: Andrew (@Andrew201711 on Twitter) asks “With the roster as it stands , I don’t see the Phils doing any better than third place …. your thoughts ?

A: For me the big thing right now is that factor of health. If the roster as currently assembled remains healthy, they can contend for a postseason berth. If they stay healthy, get improved performances from a few players such as Adam Haseley, Hoskins, and Arrieta, and if Klentak can make a couple of big in-season moves, they can win the division.

All of that said, the Braves are two-time defending NL East champions with a talented young core. The Nationals are defending World Series champions. Both teams have solid overall rosters. The Mets have improved their already tough pitching staff in both talent and depth this off-season. All three of those teams finished above the Phillies in the 2019 standings.

It is way too early for me to make any predictions. A lot can still change on not only the Phillies roster, but that of their division rivals. But right now you can make a legitimate argument for the club finishing anywhere from first to fourth in the National League East Division in the 2020 season.

That’s it for the mailbag this time around. I’ll open it up once again as spring training gets underway in February. Between now and then, you can always hit me up on social media: @philliesbell on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

A dozen inexpensive Phillies free agent bullpen possibilities

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New Phillies skipper Joe Girardi knows free agent reliever Dellin Betances well from years together in the Bronx

 

As last week’s baseball Winter Meetings drew to a close, Philadephia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak gave a few hints into his thinking for further additions this off-season.

As Klentak was quoted by Phillies MLB insider Todd Zolecki:

It’s important that we maintain balance to our payroll, have money rolling off every year so that we do have the opportunity to add every off-season, whether it’s in the form of free agency or trades. We are constantly looking at both the present and the future and making decisions accordingly.

The Phillies have made two relatively big free agent signings this off-season, bringing in Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius. Wheeler slots into the club’s pitching rotation as a co-ace with Aaron Nola, while Gregorius takes over as the starting shortstop, sliding Jean Segura to either second or third base…if not the trade block.

The biggest free agent names were rushed off the market at a much quicker pace than many anticipated. Starting pitchers Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Madison Bumgarner and third baseman Anthony Rendon all have their homes set for years to come. Fan favorite Cole Hamels signed on for a year with the division rival Atlanta Braves.

The Phillies starting rotation could still ideally use a proven veteran winner, preferably a left-hander. A couple remain on the market in Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel. However, it just doesn’t look as if Klentak wants to lay out the money or years that it would take to add that caliber of arm. Zolecki opined that the club could consider bringing back lefty Drew Smyly at some point.

More likely is that Klentak will keep an eye on possible additions to bolster the Phillies bullpen and bench groups. Both of those areas could use at least one more proven impact player added to the mix.

We could look in the area of adding some bullpen depth. Is that one player? Is that two players? Is that through a free agent signing or a waiver claim or a trade? I don’t know,” said Klentak per Zolecki.

The Phillies have already added veteran Josh Harrison and brought back Phil Gosselin as bench possibilities. Each will come to spring training and will compete for a depth role on the Opening Day roster. They will keep an eye on the market for bats such as Corey Dickerson, Kevin Pillar, Todd Frazier, Starlin Castro, Melky Cabrera, Kole Calhoun, Ben Zobrist, and Lonnie Chisenhall.

There remain a number of potentially impactful available free agent relief pitchers who the Phillies general manager could still be considering to fit into the 2020 bullpen mix. Let’s examine some of the names.

Will Harris: The 35-year-old right-hander just might be the most valuable reliever remaining on the free agent market this off-season. That fact might up his cost in salary and years, pushing him past what the Phillies are willing to spend at this stage. Over parts of eight seasons he has allowed 325 hits over 396.1 innings with 422 strikeouts. A 2016 NL All-Star, Harris has also proven durable, making 60+ appearances in four of the last five and five of the last seven seasons.

Dellin Betances: The right-hander will turn 32 years of age towards the end of spring training in March. Over parts of eight big-league seasons with the Yankees, Betances allowed just 228 hits over 381.2 innings with 621 strikeouts and 36 saves. His talent when healthy is undeniable. But that health is the question mark. Returning last September after missing the entire season with lat and shoulder injuries, Betances suffered a torn left Achilles tendon after just one appearance. He is likely to ink a one-year deal to prove his health and re-set his value for another run at free agency following the 2020 season.

Arodys Vizcaino: Another talented injury risk pitcher, Vizcaino underwent surgery to clean up his labrum and remove scar tissue in his right pitching shoulder last April. He just turned 27-years-old in November, so has age on his side. Over parts of seven big-league seasons mostly with the Braves, Vizcaino allowed 160 hits over 194.1 innings with 218 strikeouts and 50 saves. As with Betances, he would most likely be seeking a one-year deal to prove his health and re-set for post-2020 free agency.

Sergio Romo: The bad? He turns 37 years of age early in spring training 2020. The good? His record, experience, and health. Romo has allowed 488 hits over 623 big-league innings across parts of a dozen seasons with five different clubs while striking out 692 opposing batters. The right-hander has made at least 64 appearances in eight of the last 10 seasons and has 129 career saves.

Steve Cishek: The 33-year-old right-hander has a track record of both success, including recent success, and health. In parts of 10 big-league seasons, Cishek has allowed 429 hits over 556 innings with 584 strikeouts. He has enjoyed success against both righties (.199 career BAA) and lefties (.229 BAA), and made 150 appearances with the Cubs over the last two seasons combined: 93 hits in 134.1 IP with 135 K’s, a 2.55 ERA, and a 1.117 WHIP. He has 132 career saves and has made at least 60 appearances in six of last eight years (59 in 2015).

Daniel Hudson: Who was on the mound, striking out Michael Brantley for the final out to clinch the first-ever World Series championship in Washington Nationals franchise history this past fall? Hudson, that’s who. And the right-hander who turns 33-years-old in March 2020 has been solid over the last three years while pitching with four different teams: 151 hits allowed over 180.2 innings with 181 strikeouts.

Collin McHugh: A big question mark with the 32-year-old righty may be whether he is willing to remain in the bullpen, and if not, whether someone will give him more than one year on a deal to join their starting rotation. After four years of starting for the Houston Astros, McHugh mostly pitched out of their bullpen the last two seasons. He was fantastic during the 2018 run to Houston’s first-ever World Series championship. This past season he made eight starts after the club lost Lance McCullers Jr. and Brad Peacock to injuries. He has allowed 86 hits over 114 innings with a 139/39 K:BB and a 2.76 ERA as a reliever.

Tyler Clippard: The right-hander will turn 35 in February and has parts of 13 seasons of big-league experience. He has allowed just 578 hits over 816 innings with 905 strikeouts and 68 saves. A two-time All-Star, Clippard has been solid over the last two seasons as well, with a 10.3/2.6  combined K/BB ratio pitching with Toronto and Cleveland. He is actually more successful against lefties (.187 career BAA) than righties (.207 BAA).

Trevor Hildenberger: A side-arm, submarine-style right-hander, the 29-year-old Hildenberger was strong over parts of five minor league seasons in the Minnesota Twins organization, allowing 149 hits over 194.2 innings with 219 strikeouts, a 1.90 ERA, 0.914 WHIP, and 54 saves. Given a shot in parts of the last three seasons at the big-league level, Hildenberg was mostly hit hard and was unable to duplicate that success on a consistent basis. However, his 8.8/2.7 K/BB rate in MLB and his minor league record could make him an inexpensive addition to the mix in spring training and someone who could help at Triple-A Lehigh Valley until needed in Philly.

Addison Reed: The right-hander will turn 31 just two days after Christmas. Over parts of eight seasons in MLB with five different clubs and across both leagues, Reed has allowed 428 hits over 458.2 innings with 469 strikeouts. He also has 13 games of postseason experience, most of those with the 2015 NL pennant-winning New York Mets. He pitched with the Mets for parts of three seasons, so has that NL East experience going for him. Reed had a poor season last year with Minnesota, though he started late due to a sprained thumb which may have contributed to that down performance.

Jeremy Jeffress: An NL All-Star during a dominant campaign just two years ago with Milwaukee, Jeffress had an untimely poor 2019 season just as he was ready to hit free agency. When he is right, as he was in 2015, 2016, and 2018, Jeffress can help any bullpen. One problem? Jeffress is an epileptic. He has battled the disease since his first seizure at age 15. He also experienced trouble with drugs, rehabs, and suspensions while in the minor leagues. The talent will get someone to give him at least a minor league deal and spring training invitation.

Shawn Kelley: The righty will turn 36 at the end of April 2020 and has pitched in parts of 11 big-league seasons. He has allowed 412 hits over 464.2 innings with 521 strikeouts. Kelley pitched for two seasons in Yankee Stadium and has postseason experience with both the Nationals and Athletics. However, his best years were 2013-16, and two of his last three seasons were relatively poor. Again, someone will roll the dice on what should be yet another inexpensive, short-term deal for an experienced arm who has enjoyed MLB success.

Those are just 12 of a list that includes a few dozen relief pitchers currently available as free agents, all with varying degrees of big-league experience and success, all with a variety of health histories. The vast majority of them would come cheap. The Phillies are certain to add at least one of the currently available arms before spring training gets underway in two months.

 

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For the Pittsburgh Pirates, No News is Bad News

For the Pittsburgh Pirates and their passionate fan base, the 2016 season was one of extreme disappointment. After three consecutive playoff appearances, the beloved Bucs missed the postseason party.
The Pirates struggled to a record of 78-83 last season, good only for third place in the National League Central Division.
In each of the prior three years, Pittsburgh came in second place, with the team repeatedly falling just short of a division crown. The club finished within two games in 2014 and 2015 after falling three games short in 2013.
In 2016, the Bucs fell 7.5 games short of the second-place St. Louis Cardinals. But that was not their biggest concern heading into the offseason. Pittsburgh also finished a distant 25 games behind the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs in the division race.

PITTSBURGH ENTERED THE OFFSEASON WITH DECISIONS TO MAKE

At the very least, the Pirates management went into the offseason needing to figure out a way to close the 8.5-game gap between themselves and the two NL Wild Card teams.
Pirates
There was much talk about Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington pursuing pitching. At one point, the Pirates were reportedly hot after Chicago White Sox lefty Jose Quintana.
Talk was also hot at one point in regards to Pittsburgh trying to deal away former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen for prospects. This would possibly signal that the team was looking to contend a couple of years down the line.
Clearly, the Bucs needed to do something. The status quo was not going to work out. Huntington either had to pull off a deal or two aimed at pushing the current team back into Wild Card contention, or he had to start rebuilding.
In the end, the GM accomplished neither. The Pirates were unable to either acquire Quintana or deal away McCutchen.

OFFSEASON ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION DOESN’T ADD UP

The one positive accomplishment of the offseason was the re-signing of their own free agent starting pitcher Ivan Nova.
The losses from last year’s third-place club don’t seem all that big on the surface, but they absolutely took away from the team’s veteran depth. Reliever Neftali Feliz, pitchers Ryan Vogelsong and Jeff Locke, and bench position players Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce are all gone.
Coming into the fold is veteran right-handed pitcher Daniel Hudson, who turns 30 years old early in spring training. Hudson worked his way back from missing nearly three full seasons to become a reliable reliever the last two years in Arizona. Over 134 games he allowed 139 hits in 138 innings, with a 129/47 K:BB ratio.
If Hudson stays healthy, he could make up for the loss of Feliz as skipper Clint Hurdle‘s primary setup man.
But these were the only moves of any real significance made by a team that finished with a losing record. Replace the setup man and keep the pitching rotation together. That’s it.

CAN THE PIRATES CONTEND WITHOUT MOVES?

For the Pirates to get back to playoff contention, they are going to need a return to All-Star form from McCutchen.
Pittsburgh is also going to need a leap forward in production from a pair of youngsters in right fielder Gregory Polanco and first baseman Josh Bell.
Pittsburgh is also going to need all three of their potential young stud starting pitchers to stay healthy. Gerrit ColeJameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow making 30+ starts each would go a long way toward a Wild Card berth.
Even with all the right answers from their in-house players, the Bucs are not likely to catch the Cubs this season. They will need all those right answers just to battle for a postseason berth.

THE ‘CUTCH’ QUESTION

What if McCutchen continues to struggle, losing even more trade value? He turned 30 years old in October and is in the final guaranteed season of his contract. There is a reasonable $14.75 team option for 2018. How should the club approach that option if he deteriorates further?
If the Pirates were going to deal McCutchen, the offseason would have seemed the time to do it. A contender could then have watched him acclimate in spring training, and then plugged him into their starting lineup from the beginning.
The failure of management to generate any real news of significance this offseason, one way or the other, could come back to haunt the Pirates. Not just in the 2017 season, but possibly for years to come.