In an attempt to strengthen and deepen their bullpen and bench, the Phillies have agreed to terms on minor-league contracts for two longtime major leaguers.
Veteran reliever Brandon Kintzler and outfielder Matt Joyce, both of whom spent last season with the upstart Miami Marlins, will report to spring training next week and compete for spots on the opening-day roster, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski announced Wednesday.
Kintzler even eschewed a major-league offer from another team, according to a source, because of the potential opportunity to fill a late-inning role for the Phillies, who had the worst bullpen in baseball last season. The 36-year-old right-hander has a 2.55 ERA and 13 saves over the last two seasons with the Marlins and Chicago Cubs.
If Kintzler wins a spot on the major-league roster, he will make a $3 million base salary. He can also earn as much as $1 million in incentives.
“He’s somebody that comes in that’s an established bullpen guy that can come in and help us and battle for a job,” said Dombrowski, who credited general manager Sam Fuld and the Phillies’ four assistant GMs with heading up the talks with Kintzler. “We’re hopeful that he’ll contribute.”
In recasting a bullpen that didn’t get enough swings-and-misses last year, Dombrowski has acquired a bunch of hard throwers. Free agent Archie Bradley and trade acquisitions Jose Alvarado and Sam Coonrod crank up their fastball to the upper-90s. Former closer Hector Rondon, who signed a minor-league deal, also fits that description.
Kintzler is different. His fastball has averaged 92.6 mph with a 16% strikeout rate through his 11-year career. But he mixes in a slider and changeup and tends to get weak contact on the ground. If he makes the team, he would join Bradley, Hector Neris, and Alvarado as setup and closer options for manager Joe Girardi.
Joyce, 36, batted .252 with two home runs in 127 at-bats last season for the Marlins. He has been an effective left-handed bat off the bench, going 25-for-104 with seven doubles, three homers, a .350 on-base percentage, and a .744 OPS as a pinch-hitter since 2018.
“He’s a guy that has played that type of role,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a threat to come off the bench.”
Coincidentally, Kintzler was among the 2020 Marlins who credited former Phillies reliever Ricky Bottalico for helping spur them to a playoff berth. Bottalico, a studio analyst for NBC Sports Philadelphia, referred to the Marlins as “bottom-feeders” during a season-opening series. They rallied around the slight, even designing T-shirts with the “bottom-feeders” slogan.
“I don’t care if we’re bottom-feeders,” Kintzler said in an interview after closing out the Marlins’ first-round series sweep of the Chicago Cubs. “I want to thank Ricky Bottalico for that motivation in opening weekend in Philadelphia, by the way. He’s probably the one that sent the Phillies home for that.”
Kintzler and Joyce might finally get to thank him in person.
Didi goes for two
Within hours on Jan. 26, three free-agent shortstops -- Marcus Semien, Freddy Galvis, and Andrelton Simmons -- agreed to one-year contracts, seemingly setting the market for Didi Gregorius.
But Gregorius said he never fretted about getting a multiyear offer.
“Actually, I was not worried at all,” he said after finalizing a two-year, $28 million contract with the Phillies. “There are a lot of things you can’t control, but I control what I can and then talk to teams and see what they have to offer. I talked to the Phillies a lot and we got things going, and I’m back with the team. That’s the most important part.”
After playing on a one-year, $14 million deal in 2020, Gregorius was determined to sign for two years, especially with Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story, and Javier Baez possibly highlighting a star-studded shortstop class next winter.
The Phillies traded right-hander Jose Quezada to the St. Louis Cardinals for cash considerations, freeing up a spot on the 40-man roster that was swiftly occupied by Gregorius. Quezada was the last of three players acquired early in the offseason by interim general manager Ned Rice. Reliever Ian Hamilton and infielder Kyle Holder were designated for assignment and traded, respectively.