11/21/23 : Off Season Big League Roster Building
With the major league starting pitching rotation now solidified with the signing of RHP Aaron Nola the attention turns to filling out the support roles on the roster, likely adding more bullpen arms and a versatile bench option. The off-season big spending and heavy lifting are done - while some may hold out hope of a Japanese star pitcher signing with the Phillies I’m sorry to tell ya that it always was and still is highly improbable. Signing a player requires interest on both sides, the Phillies had genuine intentions however there are too many other organizations with history in Japan (which the Phillies have none of) involved. The organization has increased their scouting presence there but it’s still an uphill climb. As Mr. Dombrowski said during the Nola press conference yesterday the rotation is now considered set going into spring training. Adding depth certainly will be reviewed with the caveat that whomever might be added would likely need to also have minor league options available. Of course ya never know if an unforeseen opportunity might arise 🧐🤓 - fan and media chatter is what keeps the hot stove burning.
The Bullpen :
Last season the Phillies had 20 different pitchers make relief appearances. Bullpens historically have the most turnover and require more roster moves than any other area during the long grind of a professional baseball season. It requires flexibility at the triple A level as well with pitchers with minor league options an absolute need in order to keep fresh arms not only interchangeable but also not stagnant.
While there is a core group that usually remains at the big league level the entire season (barring injuries) and pitches in high impact innings “burnout” from one year to another is a historical fact. When teams go deeper into the postseason often times it’s the returning members of the bullpen corps that have a bit more of a struggle the following year. Depth is very important.
The Phillies don’t necessarily anoint a “closer” per se but over the course of the year someone usually steps foreword into a recurring role. Craig Kimbrel did so last year, in fact made the all-star team but then fatigued late in the year and in the playoffs, he made sixty-nine regular season appearances and another seven in the post season. Candidates who are currently under contract whom could do so this coming year include Orion Kerkering, Gregory Soto, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez and Jeff Hoffman. Those five are all high octane arms who figure to have high impact roles of some sort. Lefty Matt Strahm provides valuable flexibility as a “jack of all situations” including multi inning relief and the ability to start if needed. Right hander Dylan Covey recently signed a split contract (guaranteed an amount if in the minors) - he’s currently the bulk reliever however is out of minor league options.
Power relievers are the organization preference. Free agent RHP Jordan Hicks consistently registers over 100 mph, his past issues have been control and command along with injuries but the talent is top drawer. The 27 year old appeared in 65 games last season between St Louis and Toronto - he threw very well for the Blue Jays in particular after being traded there at the trade deadline. Spotrac estimates that Hicks will receive a two year deal with an average annual value of $3.5 to $4 million. By the way they were spot on for Aaron Nola - predicted $24.5 million per year. I believe the Phillies are interested in obtaining the services of Mr. Hicks. A re-union with Craig Kimbrel might also be in the offing, the 35 year old actually pitched relatively well for the majority of the 2023 season. The top name on the bullpen market is LHP Josh Hader - I will tell ya that I believe attempting to acquire him is not in the current plans.
There are quite a few “big arm” free agent minor leaguers that can be enticed with offers and spring training invites. A player like right hander Ronny Henriquez (Twins) might be considered, one who has both started and relieved with big arm capabilities. No minor league free agents have been signed yet by the organization that I’m aware of other than three returnees (RHP Tyler Phillips, INF Nick Podkul and C Aramis Garcia).
Pitchers currently on the 40 man roster who saw both big league and AAA level time last year include Connor Brogdon, McKinley Moore, Luis Ortiz, Yunior Marte and Andrew Bellatti. Michael Mercado was added to the mix in a trade with Tampa, all but Bellatti have options remaining.
Minor league relievers who are close to making big league contributions include Tyler McKay, Andrew Baker, Tommy McCollum, Tristan Garnett, Dominic Pipken, Jordi Martinez, Andrew Walling, Jack Dallas and Wesley Moore. For detailed notes read the minor league pitching series - here’s a link to article 20 which contains links to the other 19 articles in the series as well - https://www.philliesbaseballfan.com/post/11-17-23-annual-phillies-minor-league-player-notes-pitchers-part-twenty
The Bench :
I’ve watched Johan Rojas come up thru the organization and believe in his abilities. I will state here that I think he will earn the primary center field job in spring training with Brandon Marsh shifting to left field. That being said a versatile player that can play semi-regularly and is strong defensively in center field is a consideration to add. One who can somewhat share the role while also getting AB’s in other positions.
Free agent Kiki Hernandez is a possibility, the 32 year old is a strong defender in the outfield and also can do a good job in the middle infield, could gain AB’s by spotting multiple positions. Spotrac estimates his market value at $4.5 to $ 5 million a year on a two year contract. I believe there is interest.
Catcher Garrett Stubbs recently signed a contract with $400 K of it guaranteed. He comes into spring training with the edge on the backup receiver role but does have a minor league option available. Rafael Marchan will seemingly challenge for the role in spring camp, MLB granted an additional minor league option year on him so he remains eligible to be sent to the minors as well.
The remaining bench spots will likely be filled by players currently on the 40 man roster, outfielders Jake Cave, Simon Muzziotti and Christian Pache and infielders Edmundo Sosa, Rodolfo Castro, Weston Wilson, Kody Clemens and Darick Hall. There are currently two open spots on the 40 man roster.
Other Notes :
Per a note on X by Bob Nightengale of USA Today :
The Texas Rangers' World Series championship share (61 full shares) was $506,263.
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ National League pennant share (71 full) was $313,634.
Both teams were generous knowing this is life-changing money for the tireless clubhouse employees and support staff.
The other full shares by 2023 postseason teams:
Phillies: $171, 184
Blue Jays: $9,592
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️
Aaron Nola at yesterday’s press conference
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