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Phillies: 5 Free-agent Closers for 2022

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

For some Philadelphia Phillies fans, the offseason is a time to be an armchair GM with a wish list Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, would love. Realistically, though, it’s mostly wishful thinking to plug every hole with decent talent, let alone top-shelf stars.          

 

Priorities First:

While the Phillies may find a DH for the middle of the order and a solid center field defender for affordable prices, a top fireman will be an expensive and necessary expenditure. Yes, there is more than one closer available, but there are also many franchises to compete with for the best.            

IN OTHER WORDS:

“There are more teams looking for pitchers than there are pitchers. That's why it's pricey.” - Brian Cashman

With the first published estimates for arb-eligible players, I’ve adjusted the total available to $37.4 million AAV (average annual value) if the new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) has $212 million AAV as the CBT (competitive-balance threshold). But keep in mind, free agency will be slower because the current CBA ends on Dec. 1.    

If the Fightins go over the CBT during the winter, it will be by $5 million max allowing for $15 million AAV additional at the trading deadline. So, decisions will be to fill their biggest needs, and Dombrowski has stated they are a leadoff man, a center fielder, a right-handed heart-of-the-order bat and a closer.  

Revised Phillies AAV Projection:

AAV COST

PLAYERS

$142.9 million

7 stars and 14 MILB players on the 40-man roster and benefits.

$18.9 million 

*Arbitration projection for 7 players. 

$4.6 million

**Pre-arbitration projection for 7 youngsters.

$7 million

Early free-agent projection for Hector Neris.

$11.5 million

Accepting Odubel Herrera’s club option.

$184.6 million

TOTAL for 23 slots

$27.4 million

Balance to spend for a projected $212 million AAV.

* Zach Eflin, Rhys Hoskins, Jose Alvarado, Andrew Knapp, Ronald Torreyes, Seranthony Dominguez and Roman Quinn (out of options).

** Ranger Suarez, Alec Bohm, Connor Brogdon, Sam Coonrod, an outfielder, an infielder and a middle reliever.

With a $12 million AAV baseline each, the exec could acquire a fireman, a DH slugger, and a leadoff man in center for $36 million AAV total. Yes, Dombrowski’s ambitious agenda doesn’t sacrifice a more important need by replacing Herrera for a higher cost and similar production. He earned his spot!                     

Among the top hurlers, Aroldis Chapman ($17.5 million AAV), Josh Hader ($10 million arb estimate) and Liam Hendriks ($18 million AAV) are under contract. Yes, Hader blew a save due to Freddie Freeman’s bomb to win NLDS game 5, Chapman has struggled, and Hendriks has had blown saves.    

Phillies Potential Acquisitions:

  • Raisel Iglesias, 31.5: 65 Gms., 70 Inn., a 2.57 ERA, 34 Saves, 5 BS  and a 2.0 fWAR.
  • Mark Melancon, 36.5: 64 Gms., 64 ⅔ Inn., a 2.23 ERA, 39 Saves, 6 BS and a 1.1 fWAR.
  • Kenley Jansen, 34: 69 Gms., 69 Inn., a 2.22 ERA, 38 Saves, 5 BS  and a 1.8 fWAR.
  • Kendall Graveman, almost 31: 53 Gms., 56 Inn., a 1.77 ERA, 10 Saves, 2 BS, 11 Holds and a 1.1 fWAR.  
  • Mychal Givens, 31.5: 54 Gms., 51 Inn., a 3.35 ERA, 8 Saves, 2 BS, 11 Holds and a 0.1 fWAR.

Of the five free agents, Iglesias, Melancon and Jansen were exclusively ninth-inning firemen. But both Graveman and Givens were closers dealt to be eighth-frame setup men for contenders. So, they would be fallback options tops.                  

With a $12 million AAV average per inking, the red pinstripes could sign Iglesias for $14 million AAV and a DH for $10 million AAV. Last summer, the fireballer made $9.125 million in the third season of a $24.125 million pact. But although $14 million AAV may be slightly high, it could be necessary to outbid the competition.                              

Inglesias is the youngest of the top three guns, has a three-pitch repertoire, doesn’t rely only on a fastball, and produced an 87.2 percent save ratio: 90 percent is elite level. Hopefully, a three-year deal will be enough, but other organizations may opt for 4-5 campaigns.            

Phillies Potential Closers:

Raisel Iglesias, 31.5: 

  • Four-seam Fastball: 41.7% (96.4 mph Avg. and 99.2 mph High).
  • Slider: 32.6%
  • Changeup: 25.7%

Mark Melancon, 36.5:

  • Cutter: 64.3% (92 mph Avg. and 94.1 mph High).
  • Curveball: 35.7%

Melancon settled last year for $3 million including a $1 million buyout with a mutual option of $5 million. And while the San Diego Padres may exercise their half, Melancon could probably get a two-summer contract at $14-16 million total. Previously, he earned $28 million for two uninspiring seasons.    

Many front offices didn’t expect his comeback of 2020 to continue in 2021, and the lack of offers was noticeable. In baseball, though, 86.7 percent for 45 save opportunities will make some teams recalculate Melancon’s value. Realistically, he used his two-pitch arsenal to its fullest potential. A risky signing? 

Even though Jansen earned $20 million in the last 162 of a five-campaign, $80 million pact, he will probably re-up with the Los Angeles Dodgers in that range. Ergo, he’s a top-tier closer and will likely continue cashing big checks, plus the Phils won’t spend so heavily on one spot.                   

Despite his earlier struggles with predictability, he then used his slider more effectively and kept hitters off-balance. Therefore, Jansen is dominant once again and will probably write his own ticket for three more years.                                        

Phillies Potential Closer:

Kenley Jansen, 34:

  • Cutter: 58%
  • Sinker: 26.5% (94 mph Avg. and 97.1 mph High).
  • Slider: 15.4%

For plan B, these two possibilities may be better in a setup role. Graveman was an MLB closer for the first time, and Givens was again the ninth-inning hurler for an also-ran. In August, both relievers were setting up in the eighth frame for contenders.    

Graveman is a free agent after having a $1.5 million contract with the Seattle Mariners in ‘21: an inexpensive arm. But although his closing experience was 10 saves in 12 chances for 83.3 percent, he could interest the Fightins for the seventh and eighth frames to strengthen the bullpen.     

Graveman had late-inning success and averaged around 97 mph with his sinking fastball. Moreover, Dombrowski could offer a $3 million pact with a club option and a $0.5 million buyout if he has financial wiggle room, which could be possible by picking up only one new regular outfielder.      

Phillies Potential Closers:

Kendall Graveman, almost 31: 

  • Sinker: 65.8% (96.7 mph Avg. and 99.7 mph High).
  • Slider: 18.5%
  • Four-Seam Fastball: 8.5%
  • Changeup: 7.2%

Mychal Givens, 31.5: 

  • Four-Seam Fastball: 46.7% (96 mph Avg. and 98.1 mph High).
  • Changeup: 37.7%
  • Slider: 15.6%

Givens has more experience than Graveman, and he made $4.05 million last summer. Ergo, he’s more of a backup plan if management doesn’t acquire a ninth-frame fireman. But he’ll likely receive $5 million proposals for each of two seasons.           

Despite a nice repertoire mix, Givens struggled with Baltimore and lost his ninth-inning gig in ‘20. But he capitalized on four solid months with the Colorado Rockies with 2021’s 2.73 ERA and eight saves in 10 opportunities: 80 percent. Unfortunately, he had a 4.22 ERA during the Cincinnati Reds’ stretch drive.        

Of these closers, he stranded all nine inherited runners in 2021. And he retired 18 first batters in his last 22 performances. Moreover,  this fireman recorded a 0.56 ERA: 16 frames in his last 15 outings with 18 punch outs. And who was this closer who allowed no earned runs in his last 8 ⅔ innings? Inglesias!

 

NEXT:

Foundation for 2022 and Beyond

 

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