Even after the moves to acquire Jose Alvarado and Sam Coonrod, fans were still clamoring for more bullpen help. The Phillies finished last year with a bullpen ERA of 7.06, one of the worst marks in history.
Well, fans got their wish on Thursday when free agent RHP Archie Bradley agreed to a one year deal to come to Philadelphia.
Bradley was non-tendered by Cincinnati just a few months after being acquired by the Reds at last year’s trade deadline. The Reds have been one of the most aggressive cost cutting teams in the MLB this offseason, and their loss will definitely be the Phillies gain. The Oklahoma native (you know who else lives in Oklahoma? JT Realmuto) is coming off another strong season, finishing 2020 with a 2.95 ERA, along with 18 strikeouts and 3 walks, in 18.1 innings of work. While his velocity lost a little bit last year (94.2 mph), Bradley turned in one of his better professional seasons to date. Many of the underlying ERA stats backed up his performance, and he had a personal-best 4.1% walk rate. Having spent time in Cincinnati, Bradley already has a relationship with new Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham.
To me, Bradley is best suited for a 7th/8th inning role, but he does have experience closing. He has 27 career saves, with 18 of them coming for Arizona in 2019. As a closer, Bradley is better than Hector Neris in the 9th inning, but still doesn’t scream ‘shutdown’ by any means. He’s got a lot of life on his fastball and uses his curveball to offset the heater, striking out a little better than a batter per inning for his career (9.28 K/9). As a single move, bringing Bradley in is a good move and he will surely be a welcome presence in a bullpen that lacked fire power last year.
Dombrowski has done a good job addressing the need for power arms in the bullpen this offseason. Paired with young guys like Connor Brogdon and Jojo Romero (who both averaged over 95 mph on their fastballs, albeit in less than 12 innings), these new names should be key members of a revamped bullpen this upcoming year.
This move goes from good to great if they make another corresponding move: adding a bonafide closer. In recent weeks, the freeze on the bullpen market has begun to thaw, and relievers are going off the board quickly. With Liam Hendriks signing a three year deal with the White Sox, there’s really only two names that fit the bill, and one is coming off injury.
Kirby Yates has been dominant for San Diego over the last couple seasons, but was able to throw in only a few games for the Padres in 2020 before going down with bone spurs in his elbow. Brad Hand, the other name, has been on the market since being waived by Cleveland and would add another power pitcher to the back end of the bullpen. I wrote a piece detailing his fit on the Phillies back in October.
Slotting one of those guys, preferably Hand, in as closer with Neris and Bradley handling the 7th and 8th innings makes the Phillies bullpen more capable on paper. The bullpen was singlehandedly the reason the team missed the playoffs last season, and rebuilding it was Dombrowksi’s first priority when he took the job. He‘s definitely thrown money and assets at fixing the issue, and there should be clear improvement from last year to this season (though you cant get much worse than a 7.06 ERA).
Brad Hand is reportedly looking for a two year deal in the neighborhood of $10 million per year. With Bradley’s deal and a hypothetical Hand deal, the Phillies should have around $40 million left to spend, including the planned payroll cuts. There are two big names still out there that played here last year(wink, wink), and $40 million just might be enough to bring them both back.
An offseason that started with so much pessimism is quickly becoming quite a productive one.
The excitement for 2021 is continuing to build.