Phillies: 6 bullpen arms to target in free agency this offseason

We all saw the mess that was the Phillies’ bullpen this season. Finishing 2020 with one of the worst statistical seasons by any bullpen in the history of the game, it has to be one of the key positions addressed this offseason. In a fashion that only Matt Klentak would be capable of, the trades that were made to patch up the already bad staff just made it worse. None of the pitchers that were brought in performed once they put on the red and white pinstripes, leading to, yet again, another disappointing end to a season resulting in no playoffs.

Whoever is in charge of the team, whether it’s Ned Rice or John Middleton, has to go out and acquire multiple arms to try and correct a longtime issue. While many of the pitchers currently in the bullpen are free agents this upcoming winter, the only one I am worried about resigning is Jose Alvarez. He has been the most consistent bullpen piece for the team over the last two seasons, and with Adam Morgan having surgery yesterday, it would make sense to bring back the lefty.

Other than Alvarez, some new faces need to be brought in to try and improve on last season’s performance. Here are a few names that would fit in with the Phillies, because they can’t afford to have a bullpen as bad as 2020 in 2021.

RHP Alex Colome

Colome, the long-time anchor of the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen, has performed well in his eight year career. In a strong season for the up-and-coming Chicago White Sox, Colome went 2-0 with a 0.81 ERA across 22.1 innings pitched. Averaging 94.4 mph on his fastball, Colome won’t overpower hitters, as he has only averaged 8.17 K/9 for his career. Instead, using his cutter, Colome induces a high number of groundballs (44.6% for his career), and limits the amount of flyballs hit.

Batters only hit flyballs off of Colome 23.8% of the time this season, and while that number is nearly impossible to replicate over a 162 game season, even numbers close to his career percentages will still be a nice fit in the bullpen.

In a stadium where the baseball can absolutely fly, Colome’s groundball tendencies would be a welcome addition to the team.

RHP Shane Greene

The addition of Shane Greene would work well for two reasons. The first reason being that he very good back of the bullpen arm. After toiling in the rotation for the first couple years of his career, the Tigers placed him in the bullpen and Greene responded well. The second reason is he has been an important part of the division rival Braves bullpen for the last two and a half season. In 2020 for Atlanta, Greene went 1-0 with a 2.60 ERA though 27.2 innings. Like Colome, Greene induces a ton of groundballs, and has done so at a 45.7% rate during his career.

Greene relies on his four pitch mix (fastball, slider, cutter and changeup) to keep hitters uncomfortable at the dish. Joe Girardi likes guys in his bullpen that can pitch multiple innings when called upon, and Greene is more than capable of that. Having a pitcher of Greene’s ilk to pitch in a multitude of situations would really help the entire bullpen.

Plus, strengthening our bullpen through means of weakening Atlanta’s would be a great way to kill two birds using one stone.

RHP Liam Hendriks

Liam Hendriks has put together a really strong two seasons as the closer for the Oakland A’s. In both of the last two seasons he pitched, Hendriks averaged over 13 K/9, striking out a career high 124 batters in 2019. While the strikeouts have been impressive, the fact that he’s throwing harder than he ever has is what should have the Phillies interested.

Early in his career, Hendriks was a low 90’s guy. In his time with the A’s, his fastball began sitting around 94 mph, and averaged 96.1 mph on his heater this season. His fastball is his main pitch, using it over 70% of the time, but he will pair that with a slider that has shown a history of being an out pitch.

Hendriks’ stuff would look very nice at the backend of the Phillies’ bullpen, that’s for sure.

RHP Trevor May

What a return to Philadelphia it would be for Trevor May.

Once upon a time, May was the top pitching prospect in our system. In 2012, he along with Vance Worley, were traded for everyone’s favorite single machine, Ben Revere. He never turned out to be the big time starting pitcher he was thought of as a prospect, May has turned himself into a very reliable arm out of the bullpen. His average fastball velocity has climbed every year he has been in the league, culminating in a career best 96.4 mph in 2020.

Like Hendriks, May has legitimate strikeout stuff, offsetting his power fastball with a slider and and changeup. His groundball percentages this year (25.5%) were concerning, but 2020 was an outlier to his career stats (35.9%). May would be a good 7th/8th inning option coming out of the ‘pen for the 2021 season.

LHP Tony Watson

Watson broke into the Majors with Pittsburgh in 2011, and has been one of the more consistent lefthander bullpen options in the league ever since. Last year with the San Francisco Giants, Watson went 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings pitched. While he doesn’t have the stuff he used to have, he has shown he can deal with a velocity dip.

Typically sporting a fastball that averages over 93 mph, Watson averaged 89.9 mph on his fastball in 2020. His fastball clearly lost some of the juice he previously had, but it didn’t change how Watson approached hitters. A contact machine, Watson pitches to induce groundballs, which I have already stressed the importance of in a ballpark like Citizens Bank.

I can see why the velocity dip would scare people off, but when a guy knows how to pitch like Watson does, a velocity dip isn’t the worst thing that could happen to them.

LHP Justin Wilson

Another pitcher that pitched within the NL East, Wilson is coming off a two year deal with the Mets that turned out to be a really nice deal for them. In 2020, following up on a season which he pitched to a 2.54 ERA, Wilson went 2-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 19.2 innings pitched. The first thought about lefties is that they are solely matchup guys, but Wilson has actually faired slightly better against righties in his career (.218 BA v .233 BA). With the 3 batter minimum role, it’s good to have pitchers who can get batters on both sides of the plate out.

Armed with a mid 90’s fastball, Wilson pairs it with a cutter and a slider, though he only threw the slider 3.5% of the time this season. While he strikes out a healthy amount of batters, he also induces a fair number of groundballs, as his career percentage of 46.8% is really, really good. Like Greene, taking Wilson away from a division rival makes the move that much better.

Plus, Wilson was a part of the Yankees in 2015, so Girardi is already familiar with the type of pitcher he is.

It will be interesting to see how the Phillies attack the bullpen this offseason. Multiple additions are to be made if they stand any chance of improving the staff.

As I’ve said before, this offseason is crucial in the future direction of this franchise. And the bullpen is one of the biggest holes on the team. Something needs to change.

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