12 options to improve Phillies bullpen in free agency


The Phillies can do little else to fix their bullpen this season, but they will have a lot of options in free agency.

There are a dozen relievers with expiring contracts worth highlighting. The group includes an elite closer, several more high-quality ninth-inning options and a bunch of reliable setup men.

The Phillies need to fill multiple high-leverage roles. They can bring back Hector Neris ($7M) and David Phelps ($4.5M) on club options. It may be a tad more than you'd like to spend on those two but there's so little of substance behind them.

The bullpen needs an overhaul.

Starting from the top ...

Liam Hendriks (32)

Hendriks has been the best reliever in baseball since the start of 2019. He has a 1.71 ERA in 95 appearances with Oakland over that span with 154 strikeouts and 24 walks in 105⅓ innings. He's been taken deep just six times.

He leads the majors this season with 12 saves and 18 games finished.

Hendriks' fastball averages 97 and he has one of the tightest, nastiest sliders you'll see. Since the start of last season, Hendriks' opponents are 11 for 125 with one home run against his slider and curveball, a batting average of .088.

He is a prime example of the difficulty of projecting reliever performance year to year. He had a 4.72 career ERA before last season and now he's unhittable.

The A's have gotten tremendous value out of Hendriks but he's about to get paid in free agency. They won't be the team to do it. 

Why shouldn't he get at least $40 million over three years? That was the top reliever contract last offseason for Braves lefty Will Smith, who is very good but not on the same level as Hendriks these last couple years.


Blake Treinen (32)

Treinen was the closer the Athletics uncovered before uncovering Hendriks. He was awesome in 2018 with a 0.78 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. He saved 38 games.

The A's let Treinen walk in free agency after a shaky 2019 and he's bounced back in a big way for the Dodgers after signing a one-year, $10 million deal.

As Kenley Jansen's setup man, Treinen has a 2.25 ERA in 20 appearances this season. He's blown one lead all season.

Alex Colome (31)

Colome has been money for the 2020 White Sox, going 10 for 11 in saves with a 1.08 ERA. He's been reliable for a long time as both a setup man and closer. 

He's been a full-time reliever for the last five seasons and his highest ERA was 3.24.

Colome does not have as much swing-and-miss stuff as Hendriks or Treinen.

He'll be looking for at least three years.

Shane Greene (31)

Acquired by Atlanta at the 2019 trade deadline, Greene has been the Braves' best reliever in 2020. He's allowed two runs on 12 hits in 22 innings.

It is slightly worrisome that despite the results, his velocity has dropped consistently. His sinker averaged 95.3 mph in 2017 and has dipped every year since, down to 92.0 this season.

Jeremy Jeffress (33)

Jeffress ERAs by season since 2014:

2.81 2.65 2.33 4.68 1.29 5.02 0.98

Some really good seasons with a couple of clunkers mixed in. He's another late-inning reliever who relies on soft contact more than swings and misses. 

Everyone from Jeffress on down in this list is a reliever who could help the Phillies but who wouldn't make a big enough difference by himself.

Mark Melancon (35)

Melancon has a 3.19 ERA the last year-and-a-half with the Braves. He has more than a decade of experience getting outs in the eighth and ninth innings.

He's coming off of a massive four-year, $62 million contract. He'll want a multi-year deal but might have to accept one year with a team option.

Robbie Ray (29)

Ray will probably receive offers to start from rotation-needy teams. But he's just been so bad as a starter the last two seasons with a 4.91 ERA, 5.0 walks per nine innings and an average of 5.2 innings per start.

In addition to starting offers, he could receive offers to close. He's the kind of pitcher whose best option will probably be a one-year, prove-it deal. The question will be which role he thinks will be conducive to the most success and biggest future payday.

Brad Peacock (32)

An interesting swingman who has been really good for the Astros when he's been on. 

Peacock had a 3.15 ERA with 257 strikeouts in 197 innings in 2017 and 2018. He started 22 games and came out of the 'pen in 73.

He dealt with a shoulder injury this summer and only debuted this week. His fastball velocity has dipped about 3 mph from last season. Teams will certainly be paying attention to the radar gun.

Joakim Soria (36)

Despite the reliability, Soria has pitched for seven teams in the last seven seasons. He has a 3.46 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over that span. 


An assortment of breaking balls has kept Soria effective 13 seasons into his big-league career.

Kirby Yates (33)

Yates would trail only Hendriks on this list (barely) if not for the elbow injury that required surgery this summer. It was not Tommy John surgery; Yates had two bone chips removed.

He would have been in line for a huge three-year deal but there's so much less certainty now. It would be a pretty big gamble for a team to splurge on Yates without knowing the condition his arm will be in come spring training 2021.

Sean Doolittle (34)

Doolittle was excellent in 2017 and 2018 (2.24 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 11.4 K/9). 

He has been average since the start of 2019 (4.26 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 9.6 K/9).

He'd certainly help the Phillies' bullpen and give them a quality left-handed option, but the expectation should not be for him to come in and be an elite closer.

Tony Watson (35)

A southpaw who's been quietly successful for a decade. Since 2012, Watson has been good every year except 2019. He's bounced back for Gabe Kapler's Giants with one earned run in 16 appearances.