Dellin Betances is exactly what Phillies need and exactly what they don't need

Dellin Betances is exactly what Phillies need and exactly what they don't need

The Phillies are closing in on the luxury tax and, no matter which words are used to answer questions about the tax, it appears the Phils only want to exceed the threshold if it is for a difference-maker.

A healthy Dellin Betances would be a difference-maker. It's just more complicated than that for a Phillies team that has had horrible luck with veteran relievers in recent years.

Betances is the most intriguing arm left in a weak class of free-agent relievers. From 2014-18, he was elite. Like, top-five-reliever-in-the-game elite. We're talking 70 appearances per year over a five-year span with a 2.22 ERA and 234 more strikeouts than innings pitched. He had a 98 mph fastball and a sick knuckle-curve.

Had Betances stayed healthy in 2019, he would have likely signed a three- or four-year deal with a high AAV this offseason. But he didn't. He missed more than five months with a shoulder injury, debuted on Sept. 15 and partially tore his Achilles' tendon.

How can a team be certain Betances is healthy enough to contribute in a significant way in 2020? How can a team be certain his velocity dip of 3 mph in a small sample size last season was not the warning sign it appears to be?

Betances is a prime candidate for a one-year, prove-it deal. It won't be for as much money as Didi Gregorius ($14 million) or maybe even Blake Treinen, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers after a disappointing follow-up to a stellar 2018.

Betances is likely looking at a one-year deal in the $8 million range. The signing team will want a team option for Year 2 in case Betances pitches well, but that might be a sticking point on his end.

The worst-case scenario for the Phillies if they sign Betances is another season lost to injury, the same as they experienced with David Robertson and Tommy Hunter, and to an extent Pat Neshek. 

The best-case scenario for the Phillies if they sign Betances is a return to his elite form, which would allow the Phillies to lock down the eighth inning in front of Hector Neris or the ninth if Betances could wrestle away that job.

The Phillies right now do not have hard-throwing right-handed relief options beyond Neris they can feel great about heading into 2020. Seranthony Dominguez is a major X-factor because they need his bat-missing abilities and upside late in games. But can his elbow hold up after he chose to forego Tommy John surgery yet still missed the season's final 100 games?

Because of the injury concerns and the Phils' recent track record, this is not a perfect fit. But it's a pretty good fit, it would fill a need, and there are ways to get below the tax with a trade of someone like Vince Velasquez. The Phillies would just need to feel really, really good about Betances' medicals.

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Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Every one of the 15 minor-league prospects that the Phillies have invited to big-league spring training camp has a story.

Zach Warren’s is unique because (in his heart) he was a Phillie before he was technically a Phillie.

Warren grew up in Vineland, New Jersey, in the “glory era,” as he correctly called it, when the Phillies were racking up National League East titles, going to two World Series and winning one of them. Young Zach rooted for Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but his eye always drifted toward the work being done by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, not surprising because Warren was a left-handed pitcher on the rise in those days.

After successful runs at St. Augustine Prep in South Jersey and the University of Tennessee, Warren is still a pitcher on the rise. Three strong seasons in the Phillies’ minor-league system earned him an invite to major-league spring training camp next month in Clearwater.

At the Phillies’ prospect-education seminar last week at Citizens Bank Park, Warren recalled the pinch-me moment when he got the phone call from Josh Bonifay, the Phillies director of player development, telling him he’d been invited to big-league camp, and following up that thrilling news with a phone call to his dad, Geoff.

“I had dropped off my car to be worked on in Vineland the day before,” Zach recalled with a laugh, “and my dad was a little unhappy because it was dirty and had no gas. I told him the news and that cheered him up.”

Warren, 23, is one of a handful of left-handed relievers coming to big-league camp on non-roster invites. Most, if not all, will open the season in the minor leagues, but team officials, including new manager Joe Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price, clearly want to get a look at what they have for future reference. The Phillies, under general manager Matt Klentak, have been aggressive running relievers in and out from the minors so it’s likely several of these relievers will get a shot in the majors this season. And if they throw strikes and get outs – well, they’ll stick around.

Warren, 6-5 and 200 pounds, was selected in the 14th round of the 2017 draft. He features a mid-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup. He has racked up double-digit strikeouts-per-nine innings in each of his three pro seasons. He spent the last two seasons working late in the game, including closer, at Lakewood and Clearwater. In 116 2/3 innings the last two seasons, he allowed just 76 hits and 34 earned runs (2.62 ERA) while striking out 180 and walking 66.

The 2020 season will be a prove-it one for Warren. He projects to make the jump to Double A Reading and be an important part of that club’s bullpen. Double A is the level where they separate the men from the boys. Have success at the level and you can rise quickly to the majors.

“I’m not thinking too far in advance, where I’m going to be and things like that,” said Warren, showing a healthy perspective. “All I can control is working on what I need to work on to get better and becoming the best player I can be. My ideal blueprint for this season is to make strides and get better and help my team win games and get to the playoffs.”

First-timers in big-league camp are like sponges. They soak up the experience and try to learn from the players who’ve walked the miles they hope to one day walk. Warren has a healthy respect for Adam Morgan, another lefty reliever and SEC product from the University of Alabama, and is eager to speak with him.

“I want to learn from Adam Morgan,” Warren said. “He was up as a starter and had to go to the minors to learn, adapt and change, and he developed and got back. I think there’s a ton I could learn from someone like that.

“I’m just looking forward to learning from everybody. I think it’s going to be a great experience and I can’t wait to get down there and get going.”

With a clean car and a full tank of gas, of course.


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Brian Dawkins schools Phillies prospects on how to handle boos

Brian Dawkins schools Phillies prospects on how to handle boos

A group of Phillies prospects was in town this week for the organization’s annual prospects education seminar.

One of those lessons came from a legend.

Brian Dawkins, the most motivational athlete this city has ever seen, shared with the group his thoughts on playing in Philadelphia and responding to the passionate fan base.

“Playing in Philadelphia is different,” Dawkins said. “If you get on the field, there is a 99.99 percent chance you will be booed. The thing I always knew though was that you may boo me that one time but I’m not gonna make the same mistake again.”

The group included Alec Bohm, the Phillies’ top offensive prospect, and Cristopher Sanchez, a pitching prospect with a 100 mph arm profiled here by Jim Salisbury.

Check out the video here if you’re seeking some extra juice at the gym or just want to see Weapon X drop some jewels.

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