Phillies have an agreement to sign free-agent reliever Corey Knebel


The Phillies have landed their first free agent of the offseason.

Reliever Corey Knebel and the Phils have agreed on a one-year contract.

Knebel, a 30-year-old right-hander, is expected to work at the back end of the Phillies' bullpen, perhaps even getting time as closer. He saved 39 games and racked up 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings for Milwaukee while making the National League All-Star team in 2017.

Bullpen has been a major problem for the Phillies the last two seasons. It probably kept them out of the playoffs both years. The 2020 club recorded a bullpen ERA of 7.06, the highest ever in a major-league season, though that season was just 60 games. The 2021 bullpen tied a major-league record with 34 blown saves.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has made improving the bullpen his top offseason priority. Even with Knebel on board, Dombrowski is expected to continue to seek upgrades and perhaps a top closer. All-Star Craig Kimbrel of the Chicago White Sox remains available for a trade. The Phillies had interest in him before the Chicago Cubs traded him across town last summer.

Knebel essentially replaces Hector Neris, who signed with Houston. The Phils had interest in bringing Neris back as a setup man before he signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Astros.

The Phillies are banking on Knebel being healthy after a couple of seasons that were impacted by injury. He 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 0.97 WHIP. He missed three months with a lat strain but finished the season healthy. He allowed just five hits and one run while striking out 13 and walking just three in 10⅓ innings in September.


The agreement with Knebel comes as the game braces for a potential work stoppage that would put a freeze on all transactions. The collective bargaining agreement between MLB owners and the players association expires late Wednesday night and owners are expected to impose a lockout that will stop teams from conducting business on the big-league level.

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