Phillies

Phillies

With the left side of the infield the clearest area for the Phillies to upgrade, you've heard all about Manny Machado, Adrian Beltre and Mike Moustakas. The trade market matches up nicely with the Phils' most pressing need. 

But they could also use some bullpen help. Every July, relievers are the most commonly traded commodity because typically, even the bad teams have a few valuable relievers.

Here's a look at which bullpen pieces the Phillies could pursue this month, split up into two tiers.

The elite tier

In my opinion, this is the only type of bullpen trade the Phillies should aim to make. Forget about the available setup men having decent seasons and go after actual difference-making, game-shortening bullpen pieces.

In this regard, three relievers on selling teams stick out: Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, Padres closer Brad Hand and Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez (formerly Felipe Rivero).

Acquiring any of these three closers would give the Phillies the ability to move Seranthony Dominguez into an all-purpose role, the way he was used when he first came up. The way the Brewers use Josh Hader, the way the Indians have used Andrew Miller in recent years.

While some teams are going away from the traditional closer, Phils GM Matt Klentak did say last month that the Phillies would love to have one. It's just that the elite closers are few and far between.

Iglesias is the best of this bunch. Right-handed closer with a big fastball, a wipeout slider and the ability to get more than three outs. Iglesias doesn't have trouble going three days in a row or coming in with one out in the eighth inning if needed. 

 

Since 2016, he has a 2.53 ERA with 217 strikeouts in 192 innings. Best of all, he's under contract through the end of the 2020 season. He'll make $14.5 million total over the next three seasons.

You may recognize Hand's name from his ineffective stint as a starter with the Marlins from 2011 through 2015.

Since getting to San Diego, Hand has been great — 2.66 ERA, 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings the last three years. Getting a late-inning lefty would give the Phils the ability to mix and match in the eighth and ninth innings, using Hand in whichever inning the most dangerous lefties are due up. Lefties have hit just .137 against Hand this season with four walks.

Vazquez broke out last season after claiming the closer's job, saving 21 games with a 1.67 ERA in 75 innings. He, too, is a lefty, and he's held left-handed hitters to 5 for 30 (.167) this season with one walk and 16 K's.

The fading Pirates would ask for plenty in return for Vazquez, a 27-year-old fireballer under team control through the end of 2021. He's one of the few relievers who'd be worth the high price tag in a trade.

The lesser tier

The reason I'm going for the elite tier of relievers if I'm the Phillies is that most of the available setup men are coin-flips — who is to say any of them would perform better in the final two months than who the Phils currently have?

Is a setup man you're bringing in really going to be a marked improvement over Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek or even Tommy Hunter, who's struggled a bit more than the Phils would have liked through the first week of July?

Reliever performance is incredibly volatile. A reliever who excels one year (or even one month) can easily the struggle the next because the sample sizes are so small and one bad outing skews the ERA.

This non-elite tier includes the following available relievers:

• Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates (SD)

• Ryan Tepera, Tyler Clippard and Seunghawn Oh (Tor)

• Zach Britton (not the same guy in 2018) and Brad Brach (Bal)

• Sergio Romo (TB)

• Joakim Soria (CHW)

• Jake Diekman (Tex)

• Brad Ziegler (Mia)

• Jared Hughes (Cin)

Acquiring one of these relievers, especially the older ones like Romo, Soria or Ziegler, would be less expensive for the Phils in a trade. But it also wouldn't be much of a meaningful boost to the bullpen. The hierarchy of the 'pen wouldn't really change, it would just add one more decent arm to a bullpen that has been mediocre much of the season but better of late.

If you're trading for a reliever, you might as well trade for an actual difference-maker who can help beyond just this season.

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