Dave Dombrowski Believes Corey Knebel Can Fill the Phillies Closer Role
Earlier today, the Phillies signed relief pitcher Corey Knebel, former Los Angeles Dodger, to a one-year deal worth ten million dollars. Before this move, the Phillies were one of eight teams in the MLB that had yet to spend a single dollar in free agency.
The move led us to believe that Corey Knebel would fill the role of Hector Neris, a late-game reliever, but not necessarily a closer. But after the signing, it seems like the Phillies and Dave Dombrowski believe that Knebel will be getting the ball in the 9th inning for the Phillies in 2022.
“We think he can close games. I think that’s why he signed here. We did not promise him that. We just told him that he’d be a back-end person for us. But we think he has the stuff and he’s healthy, and when he has been that, he has the stuff to do that and he has the makeup to do that. So that’s how we would envision him being for us. We told him we think he can do it. We signed him with that thought process (of being the closer).”- Dave Dombrowski on Knebel
It’s not that Corey Knebel can’t be a closer for this ballclub. Matter of fact, his best season in the majors actually came as a closer. Knebel posted a 1.78 ERA in 76 games as the Milwaukee Brewers closer in 2017, with 39 saves, and 48 games finished. He allowed just 6 HRs in those games, with 126 strikeouts. The stats are there for Knebel, it’s just the matter of him finding that closing power again, after his Tommy John surgery in 2018, and playing just 42 games combined from 2019-2021.
Corey Knebel tops around 97 mph with his heater, but it’s his off-speed arsenal that makes hitters look silly. Specifically, his curveball, which is the second and final pitch of his arsenal, has some wicked movement to it (2792 spin rate, specifically). Knebel posted a 29.7 K% in 2021, and a 40.8 K% in 2017, his All-Star closing season. There have been videos flying around Twitter about some of Corey Knebel’s best curveballs, and I continue to watch every single one, and get more excited every time that he is now on my baseball team.
The Phillies have always had an issue in the past with “true” closers. We know Hector Neris, now Houston Astro, wasn’t a true closer, after seeing his difference in stats once moved to a 7th/8th inning guy last season. Ian Kennedy didn’t really work out, and although he wasn’t terrible, Corey Knebel would be a much better option if he is moved into that role.
The CBA lockout is coming tonight at 12:00 AM, and there are zero signs saying that an agreement will be reached before that time. The Phillies have been linked to Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Kevin Kerimaier, Nick Castellanos, and a few more players, but the odds of getting these deals done by tonight aren’t high. The most realistic one to potentially be finalized by tonight is Schwarber, who has been mentioned as an interest of the Phillies on multiple different occasions. We know everyone wants Kris Bryant, but it’s been made known that he is not worried about signing before the lockout, so we might have to wait on that.
Who knows man. The MLB is a mess right now, and if an agreement is not made by midnight tonight, we’ll officially be “locked out”. Corey Knebel is officially a Philadelphia Phillie. Go get Schwarber and Bryant tonight Dave, there’s still time left on the clock (but not much).
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images