Phillies

12 more realistic reliever options for Phillies in free agency

Phillies

Over the last three weeks, we've broken down a slew of potential Phillies free-agent targets — starting pitchers, relievers, catchers, bench guys.

This week, we're taking a look at the best of the rest. Monday was starting pitchers, today relievers. Below, you will not find pitchers we've already individually profiled like Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand and Alex Colome.

Sean Doolittle (LHP)

Tremendously successful late-game lefty from 2012-18. He had a 2.83 ERA and 0.89 WHIP over that span. His opponents hit .195.

The last two seasons, Doolittle has a 4.26 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. His opponents have hit .265.

Doolittle’s fastball velocity was a concerningly-low 90.7 mph in 11 appearances this season. As recently as 2018, it averaged 94.4.

The 34-year-old missed most of the summer with knee and oblique injuries. He’s likely to leave D.C. and sign a one-year, low-cost, incentive-laden contract elsewhere.

Mark Melancon

A dozen years in the bigs, half of them with an ERA under 3.00 and at least 66 appearances. He’s been a reliable late-game option for the Braves, Nationals, Pirates, Giants and Astros. He’s finished 15 playoff games for three different teams.

Melancon, 35, just completed a four-year deal worth $62 million, an enormous contract for a reliever. He had a 3.57 ERA during that contract. With the game in a depressed financial state this offseason, he may have to settle for something like $3-5M for one year.

 

Tony Watson (LHP)

What an underrated career this guy has had. Almost like the left-handed version of Melancon, a guy who quietly gets it done year after year with a repertoire that is not overpowering.

Watson, 35, has a 2.80 career ERA in 10 seasons. His ERA has been above 3.38 one time since 2012. That one season, 2019, was the only year of his career he was hit around by lefties.

The Phillies have a need for left-handed bullpen help with Jose Alvarez and Adam Morgan free agents. Watson is one of the best out there. He might get a two-year deal because lefties are always in such high demand.

Kirby Yates

Yates is an interesting bounce-back candidate coming off of a season lost to an arm injury. He had elbow surgery in mid-August but it was not Tommy John; it was a procedure to clear out bone chips in his throwing elbow. It carries an expected recovery period of 6-8 weeks, giving Yates more than enough time to work towards opening day 2021.

Yates grew into a lockdown closer in San Diego as he added a nasty splitter to his fastball-slider mix. In 124 combined innings in 2018 and 2019, Yates had a 1.67 ERA with 191 strikeouts and 30 walks. He went 53 for 57 in saves.

Had Yates remained healthy this summer, he’d likely have entered the offseason as a Top 5 free-agent reliever. Instead, he’ll be looking to reestablish value. He'll pitch at 34 next season.

Jake McGee (LHP)

McGee came up as a potential closer in Tampa Bay and had two dynamic seasons (1.95 ERA in 2012, 1.89 in 2014) before his performance predictably slipped in Colorado.

In a rare misstep for the Rays, McGee was traded with German Marquez to the Rockies in January 2016 for Corey Dickerson.

McGee couldn’t wait to get out of Colorado. The 34-year-old signed with the Dodgers three days before the 2020 season opened and pitched extremely well, posting a 2.66 ERA with 33 strikeouts and three walks in 20⅓ innings.

McGee is strictly fastball-slider and, this season, he threw his fastball 95% of the time. It averaged 94 mph compared to the 90 mph averages of the lefties referenced above.

Brad Peacock

Shoulder issues limited Peacock to three appearances in 2020. Any team interested in the 32-year-old right-handed swingman will obviously want a look at that shoulder before committing.

Peacock was very effective for the Astros from 2017-19, starting 37 games and appearing out of the bullpen 81 times. He had a 3.46 ERA in those 288⅔ innings with 353 strikeouts.

Peacock, if healthy, could make sense for a team like the Phillies that needs both starting pitching depth and bullpen help.

Joakim Soria

Another late-game right-hander who’s been around forever. 

The 36-year-old Soria had a 2.82 ERA in 22 appearances with better than a strikeout per inning for the A’s this season. 

He’s taken a step back from his prime but is still effective and would have been the best pitcher in the Phillies’ bullpen if he was here in 2020.

Most of these older relievers will likely have to settle for one-year deals.

Ian Kennedy

Kennedy shifted to the back of the Royals’ bullpen in 2019 and the results were there. He saved 30 games with a 3.41 ERA and better command numbers than he’d had as a starting pitcher in quite a while.

 

Kennedy, 36 in December, was phased out of that closer’s role in Kansas City this summer and allowed 14 runs in 14 innings.

Jeremy Jeffress

Topsy-turvy few years for Jeffress, who went 8-1 with a 1.29 ERA and made the All-Star team as a Brewer in 2018, then had a 5.02 ERA with Milwaukee in 2019 but rebounded with a 1.54 ERA with eight saves for the 2020 Cubs.

Jeffress is 33. His fastball velocity has slipped a bit, like every pitcher above him on this list, but it still averages better than 93 mph.

It’s the offspeed stuff that has helped lead him to that success in two of three years. Hitters were 6 for 54 this season against his splitter and curveball. 

Yusmeiro Petit

Not a household name but a guy who helps every team he pitches for because of his stamina and ability to pitch in the middle innings or late.

Petit, 36, spent the last three seasons in Oakland. He made 180 appearances and had a 2.73 ERA with a 0.94 WHIP. 

Prior to that, he had three solid seasons as a starter/reliever for the Giants and one strong year in the Angels’ bullpen. 

Petit is mostly fastball-changeup to lefties and fastball-curveball-cutter to righties. His heater averaged only 88 mph this past season but he’s continued to get it done with finesse and savvy.

Greg Holland

Back in a familiar setting in 2020, Holland rebounded after two dismal seasons in a row.

Holland was again pitching at the back end of the Royals’ bullpen this year and he had a 1.91 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 28 appearances.

Now 35, he has tons of experience closing with 212 career saves but still should not be expensive to sign this offseason. 

Keone Kela

At 27 years old, he’s far younger than anyone else on this list.

Kela made just two appearances this season because of a positive COVID test and shoulder inflammation. In the prior five seasons with the Rangers and Pirates, he had a 3.23 ERA with 11.0 K/9 in 228 appearances.

Unlike the names above, Kela is a pitcher a team could sign to an affordable three-year deal as he enters his prime. He goes mostly fastball-curveball with a heater that averages a tick under 97 mph. As long as he can prove to teams this offseason that he still has that velocity after dealing with shoulder issues, he should be a hot commodity.

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