How can the Phillies fix the MLB’s worst bullpen this offseason?

The 2020 Phillies trotted out one of the worst bullpens in MLB history. Described as disastrous, or horrific, Phillies’ relievers combined for a 7.06 ERA which ranked last in MLB and second-last in MLB history. Unfortunately, the Phillies hold that record too. The 1930 Phillies had an ERA of 8.01.

Needless to say the newly hired President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombroski, and General Manager Sam Fuld has work to do.

The 2020 Bullpen was also last in the league in batting average, giving up an average of .315. In case you need some more stats that show how dismal the Phillies relievers were:

Opponents hit 42 home runs ranking the Phillies’ relievers third-worst in MLB.

They gave up 152 runs – 141 were earned for fourth and third-worst, respectively. Phillies relievers surrendered 246 hits for fifth-worst in MLB.

Klentak’s Reverse Midas Touch:

Former General Manager, Matt Klentak, did attempt to boost the relief pitching. However, this seemed to be the reverse Midas Touch, where everything he did seemed to backfire. Let’s take a look at his most disappointing signing – David Robertson.

The Phillies smartly declined Robertson’s $12 million option for 2021. The buyout cost $2 million. To sum this contract up, Robertson walks away from Philly with $25 million having only pitched in eight games.

I don’t blame Klentak for this signing. Injuries are part of sports and it’s just one of those things. Robertson was a premier relief pitcher for years. Prior to coming to Philadelphia, he had a record of 53-32 with a 2.88 ERA. In eleven years in the American League, he pitched in 654 games. Robertson owned a walks plus hits/ innings pitched, or WHIP of 1.145. He was an all-star in 2011 and a World Series Champion in 2009.

Then there is his time in Philadelphia, where his performances were lackluster at best. For a total of two years and $25 million, the Phillies got seven games pitched, a 0-1 record with a 5.40 ERA, and a WHIP of 2.10.

More Failed Klentak Moves

Klentak made a move to pick up another 33-year-old in David Phelps. Phelps again shined before coming to the City of Brotherly Love. For his eight-year career, Phelps had a record of 34-38 with a 3.95 ERZ. He also earned a WHIP of 1.319. As a Phillie, Phelps pitched in ten games with a record of 0-1 and a WHIP of 1.957. His ERA of 12.91 was significantly worse than any other stop in his career.

Another Klentak move that didn’t pan out was his move to pick up Brandon Workman. Workman, for his career, has a record of 25-20 with an ERA of 3.89 and a 1.32 WHIP. With the Phillies, he was 1-4 with a 6.92 ERA and a 2.463 WHIP.

Klentak just couldn’t seem to get it right. Personally, I feel he should have been axed after drafting a project with the first overall pick in 2016. However, he wasn’t even fired, just “re-assigned” within the organization. So where does Dombroski and Fuld go from here?

Manager’s Wishes

Before we touch on who can help, let’s take a look at what Phillies’s Skipper Joe Girardi wants out of his bullpen. In a zoom call with NBC Sports Philadelphia, Girardi stated the following:

He likes Velocity and variety, claiming that the ability to get right-handed and left-handed hitters out is more important than anything. He continued to say he likes guys who can give multiple innings. Girardi also said he likes roles in the bullpen. He feels that players want to know their job.

Girardi needs depth in the bullpen. Let’s face it, The Phillies’ starting pitchers outside of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler struggle to chew up innings. Last season saw all six starters combine for an average of just over five innings per game. Vince Velasquez and his 3.77 innings pitched per game was at the bottom of the pecking order.

Who can help the Phillies Bullpen?

First and foremost, John Middleton. Now, before we talk about the relievers, let’s remember the story of John Middleton crying poor. Yes, I get the lack of ticket sales hurt this past year. To lose $145 million is rough and I don’t doubt that it could affect your willingness to spend money. However, the Atlanta Braves lost more revenue than the Phillies yet they are spending money, not making excuses.

According to Sportrac.com, the Phillies’ current salary sits at an estimated $150 million. They are roughly $60 million under the luxury tax. There there is plenty of room to not go cheap. Plus, the luxury tax is not a hard cap, Middleton can go over it. It’s not something he wants to do.

So let’s just say that Dombroski and Fuld have $40 million to play with. What do they do? They still have to address losing their starting catcher, shortstop, and address the second baseman who has been a disappointment.

The obvious choice would be either Liam Hendriks or Brad Hand. Both would be a major upgrade to the closer position. Hector Neris has had an up and down career as the closer but, in my opinion, is suited better as a seventh or eighth-inning guy.

Hendriks will be the more expensive player, coming off of a one-year $5.3 million contract. The 31-year-old bet on himself and won. The market value for Hendriks is now at $15.5 million AAV.

On the other Hand, pun intended, Brad is coming off a three-year $6.5 million dollar contract. He has a market value of $8.4 million AAV.

Veteran Relievers on the Market that the Phillies should Consider

The Phillies have a group of young relievers and may be in the need of veteran presence in the pen.

Jeremy Jeffress is a relief pitcher who “could” come at a decent price. Jeffress has had a nice career – he holds a record of 32-12 with an ERA of 3.08. His career WHIP sits at 1.324. In 22 games last season, he went 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA and a WHIP of .943. Jeffress is coming off a one-year $850,000 contract and has a market value of $7.1M AAV.

Another option the Phillies could consider is bringing back Jose Alvarez. Because he only played in eight games because of injury, he had no record (0-0) but had a team’s reliever best ERA of 1.42. Alvarez could come at a discount and would be a good left hander to have out of the pen.

Regardless, there is pitching help out there for Dombroski and Fuld needs to get busy

Lastly, I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year. I wish the best for you and your family for 2021.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire

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