Top 5 relievers left after Phillies miss out on Dellin Betances

Top 5 relievers left after Phillies miss out on Dellin Betances

Free agency is typically quiet during the period between Christmas Eve and New Year's but that wasn't the case this year, with the Mets signing Dellin Betances on Tuesday and the White Sox adding 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion on Wednesday.

The Betances move is the one that affects the Phillies. They, too, were interested in the elite reliever who missed almost all of 2019. Betances was out more than five months with a shoulder impingement, debuted on Sept. 15 and partially tore his Achilles' tendon. It did not require surgery, and there is some belief that Betances could be ready by spring training.

The structure of Betances' contract is complicated. He reportedly makes $7.5 million in 2020 with a player option worth $6 million in 2021. If Betances declines the option, the Mets will pay him a $3 million buyout instead. Thus, the total guarantee for Betances is $10.5 million for one year. If he exercises the player option, it probably means he was unhealthy in 2019. The player option is basically a safety valve for Betances that won't benefit the Mets.

It's easy to see why Betances wanted a deal like this. The $10.5 AAV is high, he gets protection from injury/underperformance, and he gets to test the market again next winter if he pitches well. 

The Phillies need relief help — they need it more than they are letting on publicly — but Betances was an imperfect fit for several reasons outlined here. The main reason is that injuries to veteran relievers with long track records have crippled the Phils in recent years. The two-year deals for David Robertson, Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek (totaling nearly $58 million) all worked out poorly. The Phillies simply couldn't do another eight-figure salary for someone who may be unable to contribute.

That doesn't mean you never sign another veteran reliever again. It just means it has to be the right guy, and it can't be at a prohibitive price. The Mets are basically paying for Betances' rehab and what they hope is a bounce-back year. It could very well play out that Betances isn't all the way back to his previous form until 2021, when he may not be a Met. He did miss an entire year.

If Betances does revert to his prior form, don't sleep on the Mets. Edwin Diaz, whose stuff was no worse during a struggle-filled 2019, could easily be himself again in 2020. If the Mets have the right versions of Betances and Diaz, their weakest area will turn into a strength and maybe they'll even win some of Jacob deGrom's starts!

With Betances off the board, the top five available free-agent relievers are:

RHP Daniel Hudson (33)
RHP Will Harris (35)
RHP Yoshihisa Hirano (36)
RHP Craig Stammen (36)
LHP Francisco Liriano (36)

Hudson, 33, was instrumental in the Nationals' World Series victory. He posted a 1.44 ERA in 25 innings down the stretch after being acquired at the deadline from Toronto, then made five straight scoreless appearances in the wild-card game, NLDS and NLCS.

Harris has been quietly excellent for the Astros for five straight years, making one All-Star appearance and pitching to a 2.36 ERA over 297 innings.

Hirano was bad in 2019 for the D-backs (4.75 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) but was great in 2018 (2.44 ERA, 1.09 WHIP). Relievers are volatile. You may sign a guy like this to a low-cost one-year deal and get nothing, or you might get a very strong year.

Stammen has been a reliable setup man in San Diego for the last three years. He's pitched at least 79 innings all three seasons and has a 3.06 ERA with a strikeout per inning.

Liriano is a well-traveled starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter-turned-reliever. He made 69 appearances with the Pirates last season and had a 3.47 ERA. He's always struggled with control.

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Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Every one of the 15 minor-league prospects that the Phillies have invited to big-league spring training camp has a story.

Zach Warren’s is unique because (in his heart) he was a Phillie before he was technically a Phillie.

Warren grew up in Vineland, New Jersey, in the “glory era,” as he correctly called it, when the Phillies were racking up National League East titles, going to two World Series and winning one of them. Young Zach rooted for Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but his eye always drifted toward the work being done by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, not surprising because Warren was a left-handed pitcher on the rise in those days.

After successful runs at St. Augustine Prep in South Jersey and the University of Tennessee, Warren is still a pitcher on the rise. Three strong seasons in the Phillies’ minor-league system earned him an invite to major-league spring training camp next month in Clearwater.

At the Phillies’ prospect-education seminar last week at Citizens Bank Park, Warren recalled the pinch-me moment when he got the phone call from Josh Bonifay, the Phillies director of player development, telling him he’d been invited to big-league camp, and following up that thrilling news with a phone call to his dad, Geoff.

“I had dropped off my car to be worked on in Vineland the day before,” Zach recalled with a laugh, “and my dad was a little unhappy because it was dirty and had no gas. I told him the news and that cheered him up.”

Warren, 23, is one of a handful of left-handed relievers coming to big-league camp on non-roster invites. Most, if not all, will open the season in the minor leagues, but team officials, including new manager Joe Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price, clearly want to get a look at what they have for future reference. The Phillies, under general manager Matt Klentak, have been aggressive running relievers in and out from the minors so it’s likely several of these relievers will get a shot in the majors this season. And if they throw strikes and get outs – well, they’ll stick around.

Warren, 6-5 and 200 pounds, was selected in the 14th round of the 2017 draft. He features a mid-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup. He has racked up double-digit strikeouts-per-nine innings in each of his three pro seasons. He spent the last two seasons working late in the game, including closer, at Lakewood and Clearwater. In 116 2/3 innings the last two seasons, he allowed just 76 hits and 34 earned runs (2.62 ERA) while striking out 180 and walking 66.

The 2020 season will be a prove-it one for Warren. He projects to make the jump to Double A Reading and be an important part of that club’s bullpen. Double A is the level where they separate the men from the boys. Have success at the level and you can rise quickly to the majors.

“I’m not thinking too far in advance, where I’m going to be and things like that,” said Warren, showing a healthy perspective. “All I can control is working on what I need to work on to get better and becoming the best player I can be. My ideal blueprint for this season is to make strides and get better and help my team win games and get to the playoffs.”

First-timers in big-league camp are like sponges. They soak up the experience and try to learn from the players who’ve walked the miles they hope to one day walk. Warren has a healthy respect for Adam Morgan, another lefty reliever and SEC product from the University of Alabama, and is eager to speak with him.

“I want to learn from Adam Morgan,” Warren said. “He was up as a starter and had to go to the minors to learn, adapt and change, and he developed and got back. I think there’s a ton I could learn from someone like that.

“I’m just looking forward to learning from everybody. I think it’s going to be a great experience and I can’t wait to get down there and get going.”

With a clean car and a full tank of gas, of course.


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Brian Dawkins schools Phillies prospects on how to handle boos

Brian Dawkins schools Phillies prospects on how to handle boos

A group of Phillies prospects was in town this week for the organization’s annual prospects education seminar.

One of those lessons came from a legend.

Brian Dawkins, the most motivational athlete this city has ever seen, shared with the group his thoughts on playing in Philadelphia and responding to the passionate fan base.

“Playing in Philadelphia is different,” Dawkins said. “If you get on the field, there is a 99.99 percent chance you will be booed. The thing I always knew though was that you may boo me that one time but I’m not gonna make the same mistake again.”

The group included Alec Bohm, the Phillies’ top offensive prospect, and Cristopher Sanchez, a pitching prospect with a 100 mph arm profiled here by Jim Salisbury.

Check out the video here if you’re seeking some extra juice at the gym or just want to see Weapon X drop some jewels.

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