Phillies should only make a bullpen trade if they're getting an elite reliever

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Phillies should only make a bullpen trade if they're getting an elite reliever

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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Jake Arrieta confident in 'strict' protocols, sees unique opportunity for 'something special'

Jake Arrieta confident in 'strict' protocols, sees unique opportunity for 'something special'

A number of high-profile major-league players have opted out of the shortened 2020 season because of concerns about coronavirus. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey was the latest.

The opt outs, coupled with spikes in the virus in several states that have big-league teams, have fueled doubts that the season, due to start in 12 days, will even get off the ground.

Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta is not one of those doubters. 

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t execute a full season,” Arrieta said Saturday. “The protocols and safety guidelines we’re following here in Philadelphia are strict and for good reason. We have to take it upon ourselves to be safe. Limit interactions away from the field. We need to wear masks outside or in the clubhouse. That’s just what we need to do, be respectful and courteous to those around us.

“I don’t mean to be pessimistic. I feel like it will happen. It was scary to see Scotty (Kingery) get it and (Atlanta’s) Freddie Freeman get hit really hard the way he did. If it can happen to them, it can happen to any of us.

“There’s a lot on the line and we have an opportunity to do something special in a very strange year if we follow the protocols and I think everyone here is willing to do that.”

Arrieta was the Phillies’ pitcher the day the game was shut down by the pandemic back on March 12. He spent nearly four months at home in Austin, Texas with his wife and young son and daughter. His son, Cooper, teared up when dad left for the airport last week, but it was time to go back to work. Arrieta, 34, threw consistently during the shutdown. He got back on the mound with his teammates in Saturday’s intrasquad game.

Arrieta got 10 outs on 48 pitches. Half of the outs came on ground balls. He struck out one and walked one.

“Today was nice, very efficient,” Arrieta said. “The sinker was good. I threw some great cutters. Got a strikeout on a changeup.”

If Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler stay healthy and on track — Wheeler has the extra variable of a baby being due to arrive in a couple of weeks — Arrieta is likely to slot in third in the Phillies’ rotation. He is 18-19 with a 4.26 ERA in 55 starts over two seasons with the Phillies. He is healthy after having elbow surgery late last season. If you’re looking for X factors, or players who need to stand and deliver for this team to have success, Arrieta is right up there with Rhys Hoskins and others.
A good two-month run by Arrieta would help the Phillies’ chances greatly and springboard him into free agency this winter. 

The shutdown has hurt the sport’s revenues and that could soften the market for players like Arrieta next winter. 

For now, Arrieta is not concerned about that.

“If you look at (Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick) Mahomes’ deal, it shows that sports, and baseball is no different, will generate a tremendous amount of revenue regardless of what’s going on right now. We’ve seen certain TV deals be signed. Every free-agent class has obstacles. We can’t predict the future.

“We just have to play it out and see. There will be a lot of guys in the same boat as I am. I’ll handle that when time approaches.

“First and foremost, I’m concerned about the health and safety of our players and coaches and the people who provide everything they do for us, and trying to win some games.”

Arrieta will look to jump to 65 or so pitches in his next outing. He believes he will be ready to push 85 pitches in his first outing of the regular season. That could be as soon as two weeks from Sunday.

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After COVID-19 battle, Scott Kingery rejoins Phillies teammates

After COVID-19 battle, Scott Kingery rejoins Phillies teammates

Phillies second baseman Scott Kingery, who was hit hard by coronavirus, rejoined his teammates and went through a workout at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday.

Kingery took batting practice and did some fielding and throwing drills. He did not play in the team’s intrasquad game.

“I feel good physically,” Kingery said. “I’ll keep easing into things for a couple of days. I hope to get some live at-bats soon then get into a (intrasquad) game.”

It remains to be seen if Kingery will be ready to play when the season opens in 12 days. He believes he can be.

“I’m in pretty good baseball shape,” he said. “I’m just going to need to get into a live game and feel it out a little bit.”

Manager Joe Girardi said it was too early to tell whether Kingery would be ready for the opener. He said he would have a better idea where Kingery stood in a few days.

"I don't want him to end up on the injured list if his legs aren't ready," Girardi said.

The Phils have a number of veterans -- Josh Harrison, Logan Forsythe, Phil Gosselin and Neil Walker -- who can all play second base if Kingery isn't ready.

Kingery’s battle with coronavirus started on June 11. He has been healthy for more than two weeks but could not travel from his hometown of Phoenix to Philadelphia until he tested negative for the virus twice. His second negative test came back Wednesday afternoon and he took a red eye to Philadelphia that night. He arrived early Thursday morning.

Shortly after arriving in Philadelphia, Kingery was checked out by doctors. His exam included an EKG.

“They wanted to look at my heart and see if anything got messed up from COVID,” Kingery said.

All was good.

“It’s been a month-long process to get back on the field,” Kingery said. “I’m glad to be back.”

Kingery, who experienced shortness of breath when he was ill, experimented wearing a mask during drills in the field. He found it a little difficult to breathe with the mask. He’s not sure if he will continue to wear one in the field, but definitely will in the clubhouse and when around others.

Kingery knows how rugged coronavirus can be. He’s committed to following protocols.

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