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Six free-agent relievers who can be part of Phillies' bullpen remake | Extra Innings

Pandemic or no pandemic, supply and demand will shape the free-agent reliever market. And there won't be a shortage of pitchers for the Phillies to choose from.

As the top relief pitcher on the free-agent market, Oakland A's closer Liam Hendriks could be a Phillies offseason target.
As the top relief pitcher on the free-agent market, Oakland A's closer Liam Hendriks could be a Phillies offseason target.Read moreMarcio Jose Sanchez / AP

In normal times, every major-league front office would gather next week for the general managers meetings, a three-day appetizer to the weeklong winter meetings in December.

But you already know these aren’t normal times.

Neither the GM meetings nor the winter meetings will be held this year. Not in person, at least. Free agency is underway, but business is expected to be sluggish. The Phillies may need a catcher, shortstop, center fielder, and an entire bullpen. First, though, they must hire a pitching coach and bullpen coach.

Oh, and they’re operating with an interim GM and showing little urgency to make a permanent hire.

“For the time being, most of the decisions this franchise has to make are internal right now,” team president Andy MacPhail said Friday in a doozy of a Zoom news conference. “About 90 percent of them, as it relates to what happens with our workforce, as it relates to our current personnel.”

Sit tight. It’s going to be a long winter.

You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every Thursday during the Phillies offseason. If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber. Thank you for reading.

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Phillies won’t lack options to rebuild bullpen

If the Phillies do nothing else in the offseason, they have no choice but to rebuild a historically bad bullpen that proved most culpable in their failure to reach the postseason for a ninth year in a row.

Their timing couldn’t be better.

Not only is the free-agent market almost certain to be depressed because of COVID-19′s impact on teams' finances, but it’s flooded with reliever options. As always, supply and demand will determine the shape of the market, and if most clubs spend less on players this winter, it will be a buyer’s delight.

Here is a look at six relievers who figure to draw interest from the Phillies:

Liam Hendriks: If any reliever is going to cash in, it’s the 32-year-old right-hander, who has 5.3 wins above replacement, a 1.79 ERA, and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings for Oakland over the last two seasons. He may be in line for last year’s Drew Pomeranz contract (four years, $34 million with San Diego). The real steal, of course, would be finding the next reliever as undervalued as Hendriks was went he cleared waivers in 2018.

Brad Hand: Since 2016, he’s the only reliever to work at least 300 innings while posting a sub-2.75 ERA. One potential red flag: A dip in average fastball velocity from 93.6 mph in 2018 to 91.4 mph this year. Still, it was stunning that the 31-year-old lefty wasn’t claimed on waivers last week after Cleveland let him go to save $10 million. At that price, he’d be a bargain.

Alex Colome: His strikeout rate dropped from 26.5% in 2018 to 22.1% in 2019, and 17.8% this year. But his hard-hit rate slipped, too, from 37.6% and 41.2% in 2018 and 2019, to 32.8% this year. Given those trends, is success sustainable? The 32-year-old was definitely good in 2020, posting a 0.81 ERA and 12 saves for the White Sox.

Blake Treinen: It’s doubtful he will ever repeat his dominance of 2018, when he posted a 0.78 ERA as Oakland’s closer. A 6.75 ERA in seven NLCS and World Series appearances for the Dodgers probably won’t help the 32-year-old, either. But his 97-m.p.h. sinker generates a lot of ground balls, which would be a good look for seventh and eighth innings at Citizens Bank Park.

Trevor Rosenthal: For as many relievers as the Phillies signed to minor-league fliers last winter, how did they miss this guy? After missing 2018 with Tommy John surgery and enduring an awful 2019 season, the 30-year-old bounced back with a 1.90 ERA and 41.8% strikeout rate in 23 appearances for Kansas City and San Diego. His fastball is back to its pre-injury average of 98 m.p.h., too.

Trevor May: If the name is familiar, it’s because the Phillies drafted him in 2008 and traded him four years later for Ben Revere. Since 2018, the big 31-year-old has a 2.89 ERA and 33.5% strikeout rate in 112 relief appearances for Minnesota. His 96-m.p.h. heater and nasty slider will play in the late innings, too.

The rundown

Sign J.T. Realmuto? OK, but it’s going to be costly. Bob Brookover makes the case that not signing him won’t be the end of the world as long as the Phillies fill their other needs.

Didi Gregorius is chasing a multiyear contract in free agency, but there was at least a chance he would have accepted the $18.9 million qualifying offer. That’s why the Phillies didn’t give it to him.

MacPhail says he will step aside if the Phillies want to hire a new president of baseball operations. John Middleton must take him up on that.

Can teams draw meaningful conclusions about players based on a 60-game season? I asked several evaluators, including Pat Gillick, about an inexact science that is even more challenging in 2020.

The disassembly of the Phillies' bullpen has begun.

Ruben Amaro Jr. has interviewed for the Los Angeles Angels' GM job, while Sam Fuld is a candidate to manage the Boston Red Sox.

Important dates

Monday: Alec Bohm will learn if he’s NL Rookie of the Year, 6 p.m.

Tuesday-Thursday: NL/AL Manager of the Year, Cy Young, MVP announcements, 6 p.m.

Nov. 17-19: MLB owners meetings will be held virtually.

Dec. 2: Deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players.

Dec. 7-10: Winter meetings will be held virtually.

Stat of the day

Over the years, the Gold Glove has been a largely subjective award, voted on by managers and coaches. This year, because teams were limited to divisional play, MLB utilized a metrics-based formula to nominate Gold Glove finalists and determine the winners.

Cue the debate about the reliability of defensive metrics.

There’s little denying, though, that Cesar Hernandez has become a better second baseman since his formative years with the Phillies. And in his first season with the Cleveland Indians after being non-tendered by the Phillies, he led American League second basemen in innings and posted six defensive runs saved en route to winning his first career Gold Glove.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.

Question: Looking forward to a winter of following the Phils’ moves in Extra Innings. My question: With Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis and Maikel Franco gone, and Obudel Herrera in limbo, what’s the status of the Phils' Latin America pipeline? They seem to be falling behind the competition in their scouting there.

– Bernard A., via email

Answer: Many thanks, Bernard, for the question and for reading! First, I would direct you to a story that Bob Brookover wrote last November about the Phillies' inability to unearth an international superstar such as Juan Soto or Ronald Acuna Jr. It’s an enormous organizational problem, and it will need to be addressed by the next leader of the baseball operations department.

With the exception of catcher Rafael Marchan and right-hander Adonis Medina, both of whom got big-league cameos late in September, few of the Phillies' top international prospects have played above A ball. It didn’t help, then, that there wasn’t a minor-league season for right-hander Francisco Morales, shortstop Luis Garcia, outfielders Johan Rojas, Jhailyn Ortiz, and Yhoswar Garcia, and others to continue their development in 2020.

But when they do return to the field, keep an eye on Garcia, who signed in March for $2.5 million. The Phillies are hoping that the 19-year-old center fielder, nicknamed “The Drone” because of his speed and defensive skills, will swiftly ascend the prospect ladder.