As the hours count down to a potential freeze on transactions, the Phillies are hoping to lock up a couple of free agents who would address some needs in 2022.
According to baseball sources, the Phils were in full pursuit of slugger Kyle Schwarber and reliever Corey Knebel late Monday night. Interest in Knebel was first reported by The Athletic.
Talks with both players were serious, sources said, but the team appeared to be further down the road with Knebel, a 30-year-old right-hander who saved 39 games for Milwaukee while making the National League All-Star team in 2017.
If the Phils can complete a deal with Knebel, he could fill a late-inning role for the club in 2022 and possibly get a look at closer. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has listed closer as an offseason priority, but hasn’t ruled out filling the position with more than one reliever. Signing Knebel would not preclude the team from adding more bullpen help. The club has had talks with free agent Mychal Givens and could pursue a top closer like Craig Kimbrel or Josh Hader in a trade.
Knebel had Tommy John surgery in 2019, made it back with the Brewers in 2020 and was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers last winter. He pitched in 27 games for the Dodgers in 2021 and had a 2.45 ERA and 0.974 WHIP. He missed three months with a lat strain.
Schwarber, who will turn 29 in March, hit 32 homers and drove in 71 runs for Washington and Boston in 2021. He could fill a hole in left field for the Phillies and his strong on-base skills could make him a candidate to see some time in the leadoff spot, though Dombrowski has prioritized a middle of the order run producer and Schwarber fits that description.
Stay tuned on both fronts. Things are moving quickly on the free-agent front as the business side of the game braces for a lockout that could come when the collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players expires late Wednesday night. A lockout would put a freeze on all transactions.