Last year, right about this time, I jokingly tweeted about the Phillies’ bullpen, posing the question, “What would the over/under be on the bullpen’s ERA this season”. I said I’d place the line at a “generous 4.80”. As the season came to an end, I revisited that tweet and found that those who took the over would have won some money. The Phillies finished with the third worst bullpen ERA in the MLB, posting a 5.05 across 158 games. In other words, they were worse than the very low standards I had set for them.
Flash forward one year later, and the bullpen has slightly improved. It seems that the addition of Pat Neshek has helped quell the 7th inning issues that plagued the team last year. However, the bullpen still isn’t the definition of lights out. Through 18 games, the Phillies’ bullpen sits 21st in the league, posting a 4.52 ERA, seemingly lightyears behind the Yankees ‘pen, which boasts a 1.39 ERA during the first month of the season. While that incredible number won’t hold through 162 games, it seems the Yankees have something figured out that the Phillies haven’t.
It may be time to consider some outside help to address the fact that the back end has taken five of the team’s nine loses to this point in the season.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Yes, this is supposed to be a young squad that is still in rebuilding mode. The team isn’t going to go out and acquire Aroldis Chapman and empty out the budding farm system.
With that being said, here are three options the team could make in order to solidify the bullpen this year without breaking the bank.
Inquire About RHP Darren O’Day, Baltimore Orioles
Darren O’Day has fallen out of favor early this season in Baltimore. After Zach Britton went down with an arm injury, Manager Buck Showalter tabbed O’Day as the next man up. O’Day preceded to give up six earned runs in 1.1 innings pitched, prompting Showalter to turn to Brad Brach, who has been lights out since taking on the closer role.
Brach has picked up four saves and has yet to surrender a run. O’Day has since dropped his ERA from an abysmal 16.88 to a less-than-stellar 7.50, but, there’s a catch. The Orioles have reported that Britton’s MRI revealed no ligament damage, and he may be back sooner than expected. If he returns quickly, one would have to assume that Showalter will give him back the ninth inning, relegating Brach to the setup role in the eighth.
That leaves O’Day as the odd man out, and with $25 million left on his contract, the O’s may consider moving on from the 34-year-old. With cash to burn, the Phillies may want to move in on O’Day, who should have some solid innings left in his arm. The caveat of this trade would be O’Day’s no trade clause, which he’d have to waive. This deal wouldn’t hurt the Phillies’ system too much, and would provide a valuable, veteran arm in the back end of the bullpen.
Make The Move For An Astros Reliever
No, Phillies fans, it’s not to reacquire Ken Giles. That would cost them way too much, and I don’t think the front office has any intention of bringing back Giles. This move would be for his predecessor, Luke Gregerson.
Gregerson, much like O’Day, has lost his closer role in Houston to the aforementioned Giles after struggling down the stretch last season and into the early part of this year. Also like O’Day, Gregerson started the season poorly, and has slowly started to come around, lowering his 2017 ERA to 5.79.
The righty seemingly has been passed in the bullpen by Brad Peacock, Will Harris and Chris Devenski, and may become expendable if the Astros want to move on from the 32-year-old who is set to become a free agent in 2018. That’s where the Phillies could swoop in a pick him up for 70 cents on the dollar, hoping to reenergize his career that boasts a sub-2.90 ERA. Gregerson has been downright filthy against right handed hitters over the last three seasons, and could be a great addition to help Hector Neris in the eighth inning of games.
Continue The Trend, But This Time, Go To Chicago
Reclamation projects seem best left to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but, for our sake, let’s try and make it three for three in that department. This time, we’ll head to Chicago and pluck an arm from the defending World Series champs. I remember when Pedro Strop came up with the Colorado Rockies in 2008 and broke through with the Baltimore Orioles in 2012. Each time, I felt like he was 21-years-old. I still feel like Strop, who is now actually 31, is a young kid with some great potential.
Strop put it all together in Chicago over the last three seasons, posting a 2.65 ERA. He also punched out 212 batters in 176 innings. He’s struggled this spring, however, to a tune of a 5.68 ERA, as he’s been hindered by the free pass, walking six hitters in six innings. The Cubs, of course, are working on a title defense, and would be ill-advised to not use the hottest arms in the bullpen each night, which, right now, doesn’t include Strop.
With Koji Uehara pitching like his old self, and Hector Rondo, Mike Montgomery and Carl Edwards all paving the way to Wade Davis in the ninth, the Phillies may be able to inquire about Strop, who would become the team’s setup man instantly. Strop is under contract until the end of 2018, and has a club option for 2019, which could give the Phillies nearly three seasons with him. This would prove beneficial if he can be dominant once again, and bridge the gap from the starters to the future closer, whomever that may be. Strop’s biggest downside is the haul he’ll require, which will be greater than both O’Day and Gregerson. He will, however, provide longer relief, as he’s both younger and signed for longer than the other two.
Regardless of if the Phillies believe this is a rebuild year or not, one thing is certain. Their record will hinge on the back end of the bullpen. O’Day, Gregerson or Strop would be a significant improvement over Jeanmar Gomez or Joaquin Benoit.
Mandatory Credit: Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports