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Phillies: 2022’s Priority for July

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful decide if their club is a winner, a loser or a .500 team, they are the same every season whether they’re atop the division, in the pack’s middle, or near the basement. They’re all three!    

 

Deadline Acquisition:

For Phillies fans, there’s now and there’s then. And they’ll change their thinking based on whether it’s April 1 or July 20 even if their positions are diametrically opposite. Regardless, some locals will demand top talent despite the exec’s yardstick: the standings and July’s record.  

Put Another Way:

“Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he's losing; nobody wants you to quit when you're ahead.” - Jackie Robinson

At this point, many believe the Fightins are a disappointment with the New York Mets comfortably atop the National League East, but they’ll need more than Pete Alonso for power. And they have rotation injuries again. So, either the Phils and/or Atlanta Braves could topple them or effectuate a three-club race. 

During March, the signings of Kyle Schwarber and Nick Costellanos were fuel for wishful thinking. And many wanted Didi Gregorius and Alec Bohm off the squad despite the additions. In fact, some may believe they’ll fail and confirm their preseason suspicions.     

The humidors have affected the power of many sluggers, but warmer weather will correct this issue until September. And selling low on Bohm and eating Gregorius’ contract  have proven patience is a front-office asset. But imagine the howls if Bohm was hitting .300 for another franchise.  

The five-man staff was more solid coming into ‘22 than some thought. Unfortunately, one bad outing can sour fans on some players. And a few even doubted Zack Wheeler despite the fact he hadn’t faced major league batters in an abbreviated spring training due to offseason shoulder soreness and COVID-19 protocols.   

Like relievers, management expects the rotation to have four acceptable (bend, don’t break) appearances out of five: 75-80 percent for a full 162. And these hurlers are totally capable of averaging –averaging– six innings or more per start with a 3.99 ERA or less. No, memories of the four aces don’t include bad performances.              

The much maligned relief corps is automatically 30th to some before they even threw 2022’s first pitch. And because any bad outing is the required proof for doubt, some have floated the idea of replacing the whole bullpen. But Dave Dombrowski, PBO (president of baseball operations), understands the impossibility. 

Phillies and NL East Bullpens:

(through May 22)

TEAM

ERA

NL #

MLB #

Mets 

3.63

6

14

Braves

3.29

4

8

Phillies

4.06

10

23

Marlins

3.23

6

Nationals

4.12

11

24

Realistically, Corey Knebel gives manager Joe Girardi a dependable (not perfect) closer, and Seranthony Dominguez is proving to be the best eighth-frame option. Granted, the pen is more of a shortcoming than the offense or rotation, but it’s not 30th either. So, picking up a piece or two will be the likely objective.            

How does Knebel fare compared to the top closers? Well, his save rate is 80 percent and elite arms are at 90 percent for a full campaign. But they also earn $14 million or more per summer, and Knebel is making $7.5 million less than Aroldis Chapman. Yes, bang for the buck!     

Phillies Closer vs. Other Firemen:   

(stats through May 22)

CLOSER

AGE

TEAM

SAVE

BS

PER.

DEAL

Aroldis Chapman

34

NYY

9

0

100%

$17.5 million

Liam Hendriks

33

CWS

13

3

81.3%

$18 million

Raisel Iglesias 

32.5

LAA

9

1

90%

$14.5 million

Kenley Jansen

34.5

ATL

10

1

90.9%

$16 million

Edwin Diaz

28

NYM

10

2

83.3%

$10.2 million

Craig Kimbrel

34

LAD

9

0

100%

$16 million

Josh Hader

28

MIL

15

0

100%

$11 million*

Corey Knebel

30.5

PHL

8

2

80% 

$10 million

*  Arb 3 of 4 years

 

Dominguez has eight good performances, seven passable outings and two clunkers: 88.2 percent acceptable. However, some armchair GMs would have replaced the entire bullpen, including Dominguez. He, though, could continue extinguishing fires in high-leverage situations.           

For the seventh and/or eighth innings, southpaw Brad Hand and righty Connor Brogdon are the best choices to protect a lead. Apparently, Brogdon needed a full spring training to be ready for summer, and he has enough difference between his 94.7-mph fastball and 83.5-mph changeup to be effective.   

At the trading deadline, Dombrowski could realistically have interest in a closer or setup man on an also-ran team. And his eighth-frame options could be David Robertson, Mark Melancon, Ian Kennedy and David Bednar. Though, Bednar will have many suitors and the high Pittsburgh Pirates’ asking price.  

Phillies Potential Setup Targets:

(stats through May 22)

CLOSER

AGE

TEAM

SAVE

BS

PERC

DEAL***

David Robertson

37

CUBS

5

0

100%

$3.5 million

David Bednar*

27.5

PIT

8

0

100%

$0.72 million

Mark Melancon 

37

AZ

9

1

90%

$7 million

Ian Kennedy**

37.5

AZ

3

100%

$4.8 million

* 4 Holds        ** 5 Holds       *** ⅓ of Total Will Be Remaining for August and September.


Keep in mind, Kennedy would be the second or third go-to for the seventh and eighth innings. Plus his cost for two months would be $1.6 million, and the red pinstripes could also add another reliever. Presently, he has a 3.93 ERA, three saves and five holds, plus JT Realmuto has caught him. 

Melancon would cost $1.7 million for August and September, but he inked a two-year pact with a buyout. Unfortunately, the Arizona Diamondbacks will still owe him $8 million for 2023. And even though he had one clunker, costwise, he might not be a good fit here.    

Bednar had a 2.23 ERA for 60 ⅔ innings in 2021 and has a 0.87 ERA for 20 ⅔ frames this season: He’ll draw max interest. Moreover, he has a 96.8-mph four-seam fastball, and he won’t be a free agent until after 2026. But, sometimes, the extra pressure changes things: He’s not performing for a contender.    

Although the Fightins had signed Robertson before his injuries, he has bounced back as a ninth-inning fireman. And he has a 1.88 ERA with five saves in five chances, plus he’ll only run $1.2 million. Yes, Girardi is familiar with him, and Dombrowski may have interest for two months. 

The offense may again be relying on the long ball after playing in Los Angeles’ warmth, but how will they do in September? Rotation-wise, the staff and Bailey Falter won’t require any swaps, barring unexpected situations. But the pen will need an arm or two. Bednar and/or Robertson?

 

NEXT:

Humidor-delayed Hittin’ Season

PITCHG  CHANGE   JOE         6a01348829760c970c026bdf05c705200c-800wi

 

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