3 free agent relief targets still in play for the Phillies
At this point every Phillies fan is well aware that the bullpen was historically bad in 2020. A 7.07 ERA over 60 innings left them ranked dead last in ERA, WHIP, HR/9 and H/9. One of only 7 units to produce negative Wins Above Replacement last season, the bullpen single handedly kept the Phillies from reaching the post-season for the first time since 2011. (Now the longest streak in the National League)
For an organization nearing the luxury tax, this was a completely unacceptable result. Matt Klentak, the architect of that disastrous bunch, lost his job as GM and most of the arms in that bullpen have been removed from the roster.
New President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski and GM Sam Fuld have made several low-risk high-upside moves this winter to improve not only the bullpen, but also the starting rotation. I don’t think it is any secret that the front office is actively looking to add another quality arm before the start of spring training.
Today we will take a dive into a few quality relievers that are still on the market.
It was just a few season ago that Jake McGee signed a three-year $27million deal with the Rockies. His tenure in the high altitude in Colorado was a disaster from the start as he had his worst season as a pro in 2018. McGee bounced back in an injury shortened 2019 but his high salary simply did not match his level of production. The Rockies released McGee before the pandemic shortened 2020 season and the Los Angeles Dodgers smartly took a flier on him hoping he would return to form.
Over 20.1 innings McGee was 3-1 with a 2.66 ERA helping the Dodgers win their first World Series since 1988. One reason for McGee’s resurgence, other than leaving the thin air of Coors Field, may be his increased usage and velocity of his fastball. The 6’4 225 lefty threw 97% fastballs in 2020, a career high. The Phillies already added a lefty reliever in Jose Alvarez earlier this offseason, but could certainly still use another veteran arm. Dave Dombrowski has been specifically targeting relievers who despite recent struggles have shown previous success at the major league level. McGee fits that mold perfectly.
Shane Greene is another veteran with a track record of MLB success. Many Phillies fans will be familiar with Greene as pitched 50 plus innings for the division rival Braves in 2019 and 20. Unlike McGee, Greene has the ability to be used high leverage late inning situations. Greene is an absolute nightmare for right handed hitters, holding them to a .188 average and .267 OBP in 2020. His combination of sinker/slider would be perfect for forcing ground balls and keeping the ball out of the stands in Citizens Bank Park. Simply put, Greene is a pro who the Phillies would gladly like to steal from the hated Barves.
Surely multiple teams will be interested in Greene’s services in 2021. He made $6 million in 2020 and could command a similar price on the market this offseason. I would be willing to overspend on a one-year deal to land Greene. A backend of the bullpen featuring newly acquired Archie Bradley, Hector Neris and Greene would alleviate so many of the worries I had, as I watched lead after lead slip away from the Phillies last season.
Steve Cishek is another example of a veteran with a proven track record of MLB success who stumbled during the shortened 2020 season. Cishek is a lanky right hander who sports a wacky side arm motion. Last season in 20 innings of work for the White Sox he posted a 5.40 ERA, nearly double his career mark of 2.78. Cishek is much more of a situational pitcher than the aforementioned Greene or McGee.
The newly established rule forcing a pitcher to remain in the game to face three consecutive batters may have put a limit on Cishek’s future value. Cishek will turn 35 during the 2021 season and may not command a million dollar deal let alone a guaranteed spot on the opening day roster. But Cishek has a track record of success that should interest the Phillies. As long as he maintains his velocity and continues to miss bats at previous levels, Cishek could be a real steal.
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY