Phillies make a strong and necessary move to upgrade the bullpen


The Phillies have made a strong move in the quest to upgrade what was the worst bullpen in the majors last season.

The team, multiple sources confirmed, reached agreement on a one-year contract with free-agent reliever Archie Bradley on Thursday. The deal, worth $6 million, is contingent on a physical.

Once signed, Bradley will become the first free agent signed by the Phillies in what has been a very slow-moving market this winter. Many teams have reeled in their spending after losing revenues during the 2020 season, which was reduced to 60 games because of the pandemic. Five weeks before the start of spring training, most of the top free agents remain unsigned, including All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. The Phillies are trying to re-sign him.

If Realmuto returns, he will find himself catching a fellow Oklahoman in Bradley, a 6-4 right-hander who was a first-round draft pick (No. 7 overall) by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011. 

Bradley came to the majors as a starter but transitioned spectacularly to the bullpen in 2017. He recorded a 1.76 ERA in 63 games that season. Over the last four seasons, he ranks eighth among big-league relievers in innings (233⅓) and 14th in ERA (2.82). His WHIP over that span (including one start) is 1.197 and he's registered 9.9 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings.

Bradley, 28, is the third reliever acquired by the club since Dave Dombrowski arrived as president of baseball ops last month. Previously, the Phillies picked up a pair of hard throwers, lefty Jose Alvarado and righty Sam Coonrod, in trades with Tampa Bay and San Francisco, respectively. Bradley is by far the most accomplished of the pickups and will give manager Joe Girardi another option in the late innings to go along with Hector Neris. Bradley has worked as a setup man and a closer in his career.


The Phillies' bullpen pitched to a 7.06 ERA in 2020, worst in the majors, and single-handedly prevented the club from making the playoffs. The Phils lost 21 games in which they held a lead at one point. That was most in the majors.

Bradley is a power pitcher. His fastball averaged 94.4 mph in 2020. He also uses a curveball and throws a changeup.

Bradley was one of the most sought-after relievers at the trade deadline last summer. He was dealt from Arizona to Cincinnati and pitched 7⅔ innings for the Reds down the stretch. He gave up just four hits and a run, struck out six and walked none. In a cost-cutting move, the Reds did not offer Bradley a contract in early December and he became a free agent. Now, he looks to be part of the solution in Philadelphia, where he will be reunited with Caleb Cotham, the Phillies’ new pitching coach. Cotham was the assistant pitching coach in Cincinnati last season.

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