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Why Hector Neris is a prime candidate for a reworked contract

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As baseball's offseason takes shape, we will take a look at each player on the Phillies 2020 roster and where they fit in the future. We'll go through the roster by uniform number, lowest to highest for position players, highest to lowest for pitchers, and alternate daily.

Today: Reliever Hector Neris

Career rundown

Neris has had a volatile career — high highs, low lows — but has remained one of the Phillies' go-to guys at the back-end of the bullpen. 

He has 72 career saves, including seasons with 26 and 28. His Phillies tenure, in totality, has been solid. He has a career 3.38 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings. 

His opponents have hit .224 in more than 1,400 plate appearances. Righties have hit .213.

The splitter has always been the source of Neris' success, though he's at his best when he can spot his fastball, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the split. 

Neris' opponents have a lifetime batting average of .178 in 694 at-bats ending in a splitter.

How he became a Phillie

Phillies scouts saw Neris in the Dominican Republic a decade ago and he signed with the team as an amateur free agent for $17,000 in 2010. 

The Kansas City Royals had rescinded an offer for Neris because they couldn't verify his age and identity. 

“They gave me back my contract because they doubted my documents,” Neris said in 2016.

He's been a Phillie ever since, debuting in 2014 and making 330 appearances over the last six seasons. 

 

2020 season

It was not an overly impressive two months for Neris, who finished with a 4.57 ERA and by far the highest walk rate of his career. He walked 13 batters in 21⅔ innings but did not allow a single home run, which kept his ERA from soaring to Brandon Workman levels.

As always, Neris was streaky. He allowed 10 runs and had an 11.12 ERA through eight appearances. Then he allowed just two earned runs in 14⅔ innings until the final day of the season, when he gave up two to the Rays.

Neris won two games, lost two games and was 5 for 8 in save opportunities.

What lies ahead

Neris was due $4.6 million in 2020 before salaries were reduced to 37% league-wide because of the lost games and fans from the pandemic.

He is getting more expensive. The Phillies hold a $7 million club option for Neris in 2021 with no buyout. He is a prime candidate to have his contract restructured to lower the AAV as it applies to the luxury tax. The Phillies could re-do Neris' deal, for example, to something like two years, $9-10 million, lowering the AAV by several million dollars.

The Phillies must substantially improve their bullpen this winter and part of that should be phasing the 31-year-old Neris into a different role. Neris should not be the closer or most reliable high-leverage reliever for a team with designs of contending. Can he be No. 3 in the pecking order of a contender's bullpen? Maybe.

He is still worth keeping around because the Phillies have so few legit bullpen options. Connor Brogdon and JoJo Romero will be back, and David Phelps might be, but it's all question marks after that.

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