Phillies

MLB free agency rumors: Phillies' offseason plan includes high-end lefty reliever, per source

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MLB free agency rumors: Phillies' offseason plan includes high-end lefty reliever, per source

Thanksgiving has come and gone, the winter meetings are two weeks away, but still no big splash from the team many believe is most poised for one.

Despite the lack of surface activity, the Phillies remain in stealthy pursuit of a number of difference-making free agents, from top position players such as Manny Machado and Bryce Harper to lefty starter Patrick Corbin, according to sources.

General manager Matt Klentak has kept his offseason plans close to the vest, though he has generally acknowledged an interest in Machado — the Phils did try to trade for him in July — Harper and Corbin.

In recent days, some more of Klentak’s plan has begun to come into light. Reporter Jon Morosi of the MLB Network mentioned the Phillies as having interest in lefty reliever Andrew Miller, a free agent. This jibes with a well-placed source telling NBC Sports Philadelphia that part of the Phillies’ offseason plan involves landing a high-end lefty for the bullpen.

Miller, 33, has been one of the game’s top lefty relievers the last half-dozen seasons, though he missed time with Cleveland in 2018 because of hamstring, knee and shoulder issues.

It’s quite possible that Zach Britton remains the Phillies’ top left-handed relief target. The Phillies tried to acquire him from Baltimore in a package with Machado in July. Britton ended up with the Yankees and is now a free agent.

Britton, who turns 31 in December, is a two-time All-Star who racked up 120 saves for the Orioles from 2014-2016. He led the American League with 47 saves in 2016 and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting that season. He saved 15 games in 2017 but was limited to 38 appearances because of a forearm injury.

Last offseason, Britton suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon. He returned to action in mid-June and pitched in 41 games for the Orioles and Yankees. He had a 2.88 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 25 innings with the Yankees.

The Phillies are very right-handed at the back end of the bullpen with Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter. They would like to add another lefty to go along with Adam Morgan, who led the team with 67 appearances last season.

Is this the winter they cash in on their longstanding interest in Britton? Or will it be Miller? Stay tuned.

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies add veteran depth in bullpen, infield with a flurry of signings

Phillies add veteran depth in bullpen, infield with a flurry of signings

Three weeks before the start of spring training, the Phillies were busy Wednesday finalizing minor-league contracts with three pitchers and a utility infielder.

The team announced the signings of veteran relievers Drew Storen, Bud Norris and Francisco Liriano, as well as veteran infielder Neil Walker.

Of the group, Liriano, 36, might have the best chance to impact the 2020 Phillies. The left-hander, a starter for the bulk of his major-league career, was used exclusively as a reliever with Pittsburgh last season. He pitched in 69 games and recorded an ERA of 3.47 over 70 innings. Liriano was particularly effective against lefty hitters, holding them to a .194 batting average (14 for 72.)

Storen, 32, and Norris, 34, are both right-handers with significant big-league time. Neither pitched in the majors last season because of health reasons. Storen was recovering from Tommy John surgery and Norris had a forearm injury. There are opportunities in the Phillies’ bullpen and both will be given a look in spring training.

Walker, 34, is an 11-year veteran who has spent much of his career as a regular second baseman, mostly with Pittsburgh. He has bounced around the diamond in recent seasons, particularly with the New York Yankees in 2018, where he played first base, second base, third base and both corner outfield spots. He played first, second and third with the Miami Marlins last season and hit .261 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 337 at-bats.

Walker, a switch-hitter, will vie for a spot as a reserve with the Phillies. Rosters expand from 25 to 26 men this season and that will allow the Phillies to carry an extra player on their bench. There are plenty of candidates for that job. Earlier this winter, the Phillies signed veteran infielders Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin and Ronald Torreyes to minor-league deals. The team is also bringing veteran outfielders Matt Szczur and Mikie Mahtook to big-league camp on minor-league deals. The competition for a spot as a reserve outfielder will also include Nick Williams and Nick Martini, both of whom are on the 40-man roster.

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