What role will new Phillie David Robertson fill and does his arrival mean a trade is coming?

What role will new Phillie David Robertson fill and does his arrival mean a trade is coming?

The Phillies signed a very good late-game reliever in David Robertson on Thursday.

OK, in what role will he pitch?

General manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler were reluctant to tab one person as their closer last season, but they've indicated they may be willing to do that if they were ever to come up with an accomplished closer.

Robertson, who has saved more than 30 games three times in his career, has the résumé.

Will he be the guy?

Klentak was noncommittal.

"He's going to pitch high-leverage innings for us," Klentak said. "That's what he's been doing for most of his career and he's been doing it very consistently, very effectively for a long time. I don't expect that that will change.

"Obviously, the fact that he has experience pitching the ninth inning is something that was very appealing to us. I expect that he will pitch the ninth inning at times but I also know with Seranthony Dominguez and others back there, that we are likely to continue to use guys in a variety of roles late in the game. But make no mistake, we are signing David Robertson to get big outs for us late in the game."

Does Robertson have a preferred role?

"I don't," the pitcher said. "As long as I get opportunities to pitch at the back end of games, I'm happy. Sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth inning …

"I'm willing to pitch any point in the game. Baseball is heading in that direction. There will always be lockdown closers, but there's a good mix of guys like me who will pitch anywhere."

Before signing Robertson, the Phillies pursued Andrew Miller, a lefty who has been very successful bouncing around the late innings, pitching wherever needed in high-leverage situations. Miller signed with St. Louis.

In addition to Robertson and Dominguez, the Phillies are likely to consider Hector Neris as a candidate to close games. He lost the feel for his splitter in 2018 and his confidence suffered. But after a stint in the minors, he came back and dazzled, striking out 35 of the 69 batters he faced over the final six weeks.

However it shakes out, the trio of Dominguez, Neris and Robertson will be busy late in games.

The addition of Robertson gives the Phillies some serious right-handed depth in the bullpen. They could hang on to it because it always seems to come in handy or look to package some of it in a trade. A veteran such as Tommy Hunter or Pat Neshek could be used in a trade.

"I don't know how aggressive we're going to be in shopping our players because we like the group we have right now," Klentak said. "I think if we go into the season with the group we have plus the depth we have, we're setting ourselves up to have a real advantage in the bullpen throughout the year. Having said that, we also know that there may be opportunities to deal from that group to address other areas and we're going to be open to that. I would not say that we are actively engaged on that at this point, but it's something we'll be open to."

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2019 a crucial season for Phillies outfielders Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera

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2019 a crucial season for Phillies outfielders Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera

Earlier in the week, we looked at three Phillies pitchers entering make-or-break seasons, players who will need to push their careers forward in 2019 to maintain the role they want and/or currently have.

On to a couple hitters:

Roman Quinn

Quinn came up at the end of July and had a nice six-week run with the Phillies, hitting .345/.375/.560 with six doubles, three triples, two homers and seven steals. He also added a new dynamic in center field, with better speed, instincts, range and a stronger throwing arm than Odubel Herrera.

He went ice cold to end the season, going 5 for 47 with 21 strikeouts in his final 16 games, but the real make-or-break aspect of Quinn's upcoming season won't be the avoidance of a slump but the avoidance of a long-term injury.

Quinn will be 26 on May 14. The most plate appearances he has had in any season is 382 in 2014. In three of the four seasons since, he hasn't reached 300.

Quinn has dealt with so many injuries throughout his career. He's been through a torn Achilles, a torn left quad, a concussion, a strained ligament in his elbow and torn ligament in his right middle finger. 

It's not as though Quinn would face being released if he can't stay healthy this season. Even at 26, he's still inexpensive and cost-controlled for at least another five seasons. But this is the first real opportunity he's had to start on opening day. The Phillies are relying on him, maybe not to play every day but to play a lot in an outfield that also includes Andrew McCutchen, Herrera, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr. (If the Phils sign Bryce Harper, a trade of an outfielder would be the next logical move.)

If Quinn can play 120-plus games this season, reach 350-400 plate appearances and exhibit his trademark speed and defense with pop sprinkled in like it was last August, he can change the course of his career and what the Phils can realistically expect from him. He can turn himself into an everyday player for the Phils and a top-of-the-order table-setter.

Odubel Herrera

Herrera is already down in Clearwater working out. Smart move. He understands how important Year 5 is for him. 

Herrera is coming off by far his worst season as a major-leaguer. After hitting .288/.344/.430 from 2015-17, he hit .255/.310/.420 in 2018. He did set a career-high with 22 homers, but nearly every other offensive number plummeted. Herrera hit only 19 doubles after hitting 42 the prior year, and he stole only five bases, two years after swiping 25.

Aside from that, Herrera had a series of gaffes on the basepaths and in the field, the kind that can swing games and frustrate teammates. His level of concentration needs to improve, and already being in Clearwater in mid-January as opposed to living it up somewhere else is a good sign. It shows he's focused more on the 2019 season than soaking up every last bit of his offseason.

Herrera's value is lower than it has been the previous three years, but all it would take to reset that conversation for a while is a strong first half. In 2016, he had an excellent first half that led to an All-Star appearance. In 2015 and 2017, he had strong second halves, hitting .329 and .323. When he's going well, Herrera is able to take pitches but also be a bad-ball hitter who uses all fields. When he's not going well, Herrera gives many at-bats away and can be as easy to retire as Ryan Howard used to be during a cold spell.

"Consistency" is an oft-used word in sports that applies to very few athletes. Rare is the player who goes through an entire season without straying too far one way or the other from his baseline. Almost everyone is inconsistent, to a degree. Herrera's inconsistency is more dramatic, and if it remains that way this season in a healthy Phillies outfield, he could very easily lose out on playing time to Quinn, McCutchen and Williams. It's just a different situation in the Phils' outfield than it was the last four seasons with more ready-to-go talent.

We've seen enough of the good Herrera to believe he has the offensive skill set to hit .300 with 30 doubles and 20 homers in a season. For the Phillies to truly contend in a tough NL East, they will need a season like that, regardless of whether they land one of the free-agent superstars.

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At The Yard Podcast: Latest on Harper, Machado and one eye on Mike Trout

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At The Yard Podcast: Latest on Harper, Machado and one eye on Mike Trout

On this edition of At The Yard, Corey Seidman and Jim Salisbury discuss the latest with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado's free agency. Which rumors are true? Which rumors are just noise?

What is the potential of the starting rotation? What could the outfield look like with or without Harper?

Also, we're keeping one eye on Mike Trout. When should the Phillies begin their pursuit of the best player in baseball?

1:00 - The latest on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
4:00 - Jim thinks the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees and Cardinals are in on Harper and/or Machado.
10:00 - Are the White Sox serious contenders for Machado?
15:00 - The guys answer questions from the audience.
19:00 - Difference Machado would make defensively.
25:30 - Opening day outfield without Harper.
31:30 - Is baseball's offseason too slow?
35:00 - Keeping an eye on Mike Trout.

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