Phillies

Phillies still after Zach Britton, hot on Andrew Miller's trail, sources say

Phillies still after Zach Britton, hot on Andrew Miller's trail, sources say

LAS VEGAS — The Phillies lost out on another starting pitching target Wednesday when J.A. Happ turned his focus on returning to the New York Yankees.

Happ, 36, was seeking a three-year contract and the Phillies were reluctant to do that.

Earlier this offseason, the Phillies lost out on Patrick Corbin when he spurned their five-year offer for a six-year deal with Washington.

So what are the Phillies going to do to upgrade their starting pitching rotation?

Could they stand pat with the guys they have?

It's possible.

In that case, they would attempt to improve their "run prevention" by upgrading the bullpen.

According to sources, the Phillies remain very much in pursuit of accomplished left-handed relievers Zach Britton and Andrew Miller. Both pitchers are getting a lot of action from teams and the Phillies, according to sources, are right in the thick of the chase. Britton has been a longstanding target of the Phils, but two sources suggested on Wednesday night that the Phils were hot on Miller's trail, as well.

Stay tuned on that one.

The Phils would love to add a high-end lefty reliever because most of their back-end, high-leverage relievers (Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter) are right-handed.

Both Britton and Miller have closer experience. The Phils did not have a defined closer last season. Landing a Britton or a Miller could lead them to consider defining a closer.

"I think when you have a Mariano Rivera type on your team, you use him as a closer and that helps shape the rest of your bullpen," general manager Matt Klentak said. "I think if we have that guy, whether we develop that player or acquire that player from elsewhere, I think we would use a dedicated closer. We have a very deep and high-floor bullpen with a lot of players who have different strengths, complementary strengths. I think that lends itself to the type of bullpen management we implemented last year. I'm very open to having a closer but I'm not going to force that if the personnel doesn't dictate that."

Though he said it was not imperative that he add a starter, Klentak is going to keep trying to do that. He'd still like to get a lefty. Robbie Ray of Arizona remains a trade possibility.

"Our starting pitching was the strength of our team last year," Klentak said. "I know that it faltered at the end. I'm not trying to hide behind that. I know that they struggled late. But for most of the season, the starting rotation was the strength of the team. For us to make an acquisition, we have to be very confident that it is moving the needle and that it's a sound investment. I'm not certain where we'll wind up on that.

"There's always been some chance that it comes through a trade. But I'm hesitant to say it's likely. There's still a bunch of free-agent starters available. There's still several guys on the trade block. And I'm still pretty comfortable with the group we have."

More on the Phillies

Phillies free-agent target: Cole Hamels

Phillies free-agent target: Cole Hamels

Leading up to baseball's winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game's top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.

Today, we check in on someone Phillies fans know well, veteran lefty Cole Hamels.

The vitals

It feels funny typing those words — veteran lefty — but that's just what Hamels is now. He turns 36 in December. Hard to believe for those of us who remember the squeaky-voiced teenager who showed up at Veterans Stadium for a news conference after the Phillies selected him 17th overall in the 2002 draft. Six years later, Hamels was MVP of the National League Championship Series and World Series as the Phillies won it all in 2008. 

Hamels was traded to Texas as the Phillies ramped up their rebuild in the summer of 2015 and now he's a free agent who still has something to offer. One-hundred fourteen of his 163 wins have come in a Phillies uniform. Will he come full circle and win a few more for the Phillies now that the rebuild is over?

Why he fits

Hamels is no longer the top-of-the-rotation pitcher he was during his prime in Philadelphia, but the Phillies need pitching up and down their rotation and he would make a lot of sense as a stabilizer at the back half of it. He had a 3.81 ERA for the Cubs in 27 starts last season but missed a month with an oblique injury suffered in late June. Hamels was quite good before the injury, recording 2.98 ERA in 17 starts. He struggled and pitched to a 5.79 ERA in 10 starts after returning from the IL.

With an offseason to heal, Hamels will be healthy as he joins some team this winter and he should be able to deliver 150-160 innings. He did not receive a qualifying offer from the Cubs so he would not cost a draft pick.

Once upon a time, Hamels grew up as a young pitcher in Philadelphia under the tutelage of Roy Halladay. Hamels is a serious student of the craft of pitching. It would be poetic if he returned to Philadelphia and served as a mentor to some of the Phillies' young arms, and fans would certainly welcome his return as part of a pitching staff upgrade.

Why he doesn't fit

The only way we see a reunion not being a fit is if the market for Hamels gets extremely competitive and his price becomes more than the Phillies want to commit to a 36-year-old pitcher. The Phils will need a starting pitching upgrade beyond Hamels, but he'd be a solid second wintertime addition.

The price tag

As far back as May, Hamels talked about his desire to finish his career in Philadelphia. He recently told MLB.com that he'd be open to a one-year contract. That's not exactly strategy out of the Negotiating 101 handbook and it hasn't stopped agent John Boggs from seeking a multi-year deal. Hamels made $20 million with Cubs last season. It's difficult to see him getting that much, but not difficult to see him getting something in the neighborhood of $17 million per season.

Scout's take

"He's no longer that middle-to-top-of-the-rotation guy, but a one-year deal should probably entice every team in the game. He really knows how to pitch. You look at the No. 4 guys in the league. If he's healthy, I'd have solid confidence in him in that role."

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

More on the Phillies

At the Yard podcast: Early free-agent signings and disappointing prospects

at_the_yard_fullscreen.jpg
NBCSP

At the Yard podcast: Early free-agent signings and disappointing prospects

How will Yasmani Grandal's contract affect J.T. Realmuto's? Why did Tuesday's roster moves represent such massive disappointment? Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discuss on the latest At the Yard podcast.

• Grandal vs. Realmuto

• Phils have a new hitting coach

• Reassessing the third base market

• Will Rendon beat Arenado's number?

• Phillies left 2 massive busts unprotected in Rule 5 draft ... and you might not want to hear the names of who they passed on

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19