Phillies avoid arbitration, reach deal with Hector Neris

Phillies avoid arbitration, reach deal with Hector Neris

The Phillies have avoided a salary-arbitration hearing with Hector Neris, settling with the reliever for $4.6 million, according to a league source.

The deal includes a team option for $7 million in 2021, which would have been Neris’ final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency. The team option is a $7 million base salary but could rise with escalators.

The settlement with Neris comes days after the Phillies participated in their first arbitration hearing in 12 years, which went in their favor over J.T. Realmuto. 

Neris has a 3.29 ERA in his six seasons with the Phillies and last season set career bests in saves (28), WHIP (1.02) and opponents’ batting average (.186). 

The 30-year-old made $1.8 million in 2019.

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How many of Phillies' 9 arbitration-eligible players are worth keeping?

How many of Phillies' 9 arbitration-eligible players are worth keeping?

The Phillies, after Monday's flurry of roster moves, have nine players left who are eligible for salary arbitration this winter and while some of the decisions are no-brainers (J.T. Realmuto, Zach Eflin, probably Jose Alvarez), others are iffier and some are pretty clear non-tender candidates.

Realmuto made $5.9 million last season and should see that increase to $10.5-11 million in 2020 if the Phillies don't first lock him up with a long-term extension.

Eflin and Alvarez will see their salaries rise to about $3 million each. That is a fair price for a No. 3/4 starter and a decent lefty specialist.

Adam Morgan, who has one fewer year of big-league service time than Alvarez, is likely looking at a 2020 salary between $1.5 to $2 million. New manager Joe Girardi referenced Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez as key relievers who dealt with injuries in 2019, which made it sound like Morgan will indeed still be in the picture.

Hector Neris' salary will rise to the $5 million range. Worth it, even if he's in more of a setup role next season. 

The maybes

Vince Velasquez at around $4 million? It really depends on what else the Phillies think they can accomplish this winter. It would be illogical to expect Velasquez to turn into a different pitcher in Year 6 than he's been the first five. He has a 4.93 ERA the last three seasons with an untenable home run rate and a fastball that gets hit hard when not well-located.

If he's back with the Phillies in 2020, it will likely be as a reliever. They simply cannot afford to give him 15-20 more starts. Maybe a team with an awesome rotation like the 2019 Nationals or Astros could get away with having a low-efficiency, boom-bust option in the No. 5 spot but not the Phillies.

Andrew Knapp's situation is a bit more complicated. His 2020 salary through arbitration would likely fall a bit under $1 million, but the Phillies need to improve the backup catcher position. They can't run Realmuto in the ground and they need a viable backup who can either provide offense once every few starts or play above-average defense. Knapp knows a lot of these pitchers and is well-liked but there hasn't been enough on-field value and that's what matters, right?

The thing is, Knapp is worth keeping around as depth for $800,000 or so. If the Phillies do end up with a better backup, they could option Knapp. The Phils don't appear too confident Deivy Grullon can be Realmuto's backup in 2020.

Probably not

Cesar Hernandez keeps getting more expensive. He will be due upwards of $10 million through arbitration. He is not an eight-figure player, even if it's for only one year.

The Phillies will likely have to non-tender Hernandez. Is another team trading for him for the right to pay a league-average second baseman $10 million or more? Nope. At half the price, Hernandez would have much more value.

The Phillies were unable for years to trade Hernandez. It's hard to call it a missed opportunity without knowing the best possible offer they received for him. The front office never felt it was being offered fair value for Hernandez.

Maikel Franco, meanwhile, would be due between $5-7 million through arbitration and that's just too much for a flawed player who has lost his job two years in a row. The Phillies need to move on and improve at third base.

If it is decided that Alec Bohm isn't ready out of spring training (a strong possibility), the Phillies could go the stopgap route. Josh Donaldson and Mike Moustakas will be free agents. Anthony Rendon, too, though he'll be in the very highest price tier.

*Matt Swartz' arbitration projections factored into these estimates.

Which arbitration-eligible players should Phillies get rid of?

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Which arbitration-eligible players should Phillies get rid of?

Earlier this week, we took a look at the Phillies' 2019 payroll, factoring in guaranteed contracts, arbitration raises and players making close to the minimum to figure out how much money the Phils would begin the offseason with.

The conclusion was basically that the Phillies would be at $88-90 million if they get rid of Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco, or just over $100 million if they keep both.

Over at MLB Trade Rumors, the great Matt Swartz has forecasted arbitration salaries for eight years in a row. If not spot-on, his predictions are typically very, very close to what the player actually receives.

Let's go through the most notable projections to see who probably will and won't be back:

2B Cesar Hernandez — $8.9 million

If you're getting the Cesar Hernandez who hit .294 with a .372 OBP in 2016-17, maybe this is worth it. If you're getting the Cesar who hit .253 with a .356 OBP, 155 strikeouts and a reluctance to steal bases last season, it's not.

The Phillies have money invested in Scott Kingery, and although they like him at shortstop, it's hard to believe that's his long-term position.

Paying Hernandez nearly $9 million just doesn't make much sense given all the Phillies' other needs. The rising salary will also make a trade trickier.

RHP Aaron Nola — $6.6M


1B Justin Bour — $5.2M

This is an interesting case. Bour has value as a powerful bat off the bench. He succeeded in that role as a Phillie. But $5.2 million is too much to pay for a one-dimensional, part-time player.

The Phils will likely try to trade Bour. If they can't, he's a non-tender candidate.

3B Maikel Franco — $5.1M

Signing Franco and then trading him seems like the best route. Franco is coming off of his best full season in the majors but there are only so many starting jobs in the infield. If Rhys Hoskins moves back to first base, it will likely mean Carlos Santana plays third. Franco will be easier to move and could fetch more in a trade than Santana.

The Phils might be selling high, too.

RHP Vince Velasquez — $2.6M

Whether he's back as a starter or reliever, this feels like an appropriate price for Velasquez. If he becomes an above-average bullpen arm, this would be a solid move. Even if he posts a 4.50 ERA in 30 starts, $2.6 million is about right.

RHP Hector Neris — $2.0M

Likely back after an impressive second half. The only National League pitcher with a higher strikeout rate than Neris in 2018 was Josh Hader.

RHP Luis Garcia — $1.7M

Too much money for a replaceable reliever.

RHP Jerad Eickhoff — $1.7M

With how hard it is to find starting pitching, bringing Eickhoff back at this number would be worthwhile. If he reverts to his 2016 form, the Phillies have a mid-rotation piece at a low cost.

OF Aaron Altherr — $1.6M

As with Eickhoff, it's probably worth bringing Altherr back at this price. Altherr's 2018 was rough but he hit .272 with 19 homers and an .856 OPS in 2017. If he gets even 70 percent back to that type of production, he's a decent fourth outfielder.

Keep in mind, too, that if the Phils non-tender Altherr they'd still need to pay another outfielder something like $600K or $700K, so the difference in keeping Altherr could be less than $1 million. Worth it, given his skill set.

LHP Adam Morgan — $1.1M


INF Pedro Florimon — $800,000

Replaceable for about $250,000 less.

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