Phillies Mailbag: Closer, Sixth Starter, Goeddel
This is our first in-season 2017 Phillies mailbag. Submit your questions to @FrankKlose or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Then tune in to the Sports Bash With Mike Gill on Tuesdays at 2:30 to listen to your responses.
Do you think Hector Neris will be the closer by the end of the year?
The Phillies officially named Jeanmar Gomez their closer the last week of Spring Training, but that seemed to be the plan all along. Hector Neris earned a couple saves down the stretch in 2016, after Gomez needed a break. I see you ask "at the end of the year" but I think the question is still too early to tell.
Neris, unlike Gomez, has a mid- to upper 90s fastball. In 2016, Neris struck out 11.4 batters per nine innings, a quality one often would want in a closer. But I think the Phillies are hoping to keep Neris from being anointed the closer anytime soon.
I think that the Phillies would consider Neris for the position long-term, but they do not want to make him the closer only to take it away. The Phillies have veteran Joaquin Benoit, who served as closer of the 2013 Detroit Tigers, who might fill the role next. The Philies have other promising arms in the organization such as Alberto Tirado, but the next closer might not even be in the organization yet.
When the Phillies are ready to win (and spend), I can see the Phillies signing a star offensive player, an ace pitcher, and a lock-down closer. Having a solid bullpen piece such as Neris certainly would not be bad to pair with a closer.
As for Gomez, I'll give him a pass for the Opening Day home run. Scooter Gennett is a Cincinnati native and was playing his first game ever with his hometown ball club. Let him have memory of the home run....the Phillies won anyway. I would put Gomez right out there tomorrow night in game two.
Who is the sixth starter the Phillies go to when they need one?
The Phillies are much better off than they were a year ago. Almost immediately the Phillies saw Charlie Morton go down with an injury. That meant that Adam Morgan, rushed into the starting rotation the year prior, had to be in the rotation. And then came premature promotions for Zach Eflin and eventually Jake Thompson.
This year, Morgan will focus on getting only a few outs at a time in the Phillies bullpen. The Phillies probably do not need to go to Morgan anytime in the near future, though they could pull him for an emergency start here or there. The rules now allow for a 26th player in a double header, and they likely have a Triple-A starter who could make a quick trip to Philly.
But in general, Jake Thompson should get the first call. Bothered by a nagging injury in Spring Training, Thompson did not make his first Grapefruit League start until the last week. Thompson will lead the Triple-A rotation and likely will come up first in the event of an opening in the Phillies rotation.
Zach Eflin is currently on the Major League disabled list. After getting knee surgery this offseason, Eflin never appeared in a Grapefruit League game. The good news is that Eflin had made a couple minor league starts by the time the Phillies headed north to Philadelphia. Eflin remains in extended Spring Training to continue his recovery and probably will be activated optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley soon. Eflin is probably next on the list.
Even beyond the two pitchers who appeared for the Phillies last season, Mark Appel, Ben Lively, or Nick Pivetta could pitch themselves into that conversation really soon.
Why would the Phillies let Tyler Goeddel go after keeping him on the roster all of last season?
The Phillies 40-man roster crunch was something we have spoken about at length. Frequently, I cited pitcher Luis Garcia and then Tyler Goeddel as two players possibly on the bubble. When the dust cleared, Garcia was optioned to Triple-A, though remaining on the 40-man roster and Goeddel was the one designated for assignment. I think two things are important to realize.
First, Goeddel's designation for assignment does not necessarily mean that the Phillies will completely lose out on value. The Phillies have 10 days to try to outright Goeddel to the minors, trade, release, or reassign him. The Phillies might try to work out a trade before they try to outright Goeddel, meaning they will have to pass him through waivers.
There is a slight chance that Goeddel could pass through waivers. While Goeddel batted just .192 last season, Goeddel was a consensus high Rule 5 draft pick. This means that Goeddel could be on another team's radar. Should someone have an open 40-man roster spot, Goeddel could report to a claiming team's minor league club.
I suggested in the past that the Phillies try to trade Goeddel rather than risk losing him. They still have a few days to do so, but some teams interested might just wait to claim him instead. We will have to see where that goes.
As for Garcia, the Phillies kept him around because he is the only relief pitcher on the 40-man roster. Since he had a contract option left, the Phillies can stash Garcia at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and call him up if the Phillies need to option a pitcher.
Granted, there are other arms they could have added to the 40-man roster in a pinch such as Colton Murray, who had a very nice spring, and Michael Mariot, who has made 44 Major League appearances. But Garcia has plenty of experience and a high-90s fastball, which was good enough to keep him around. I am sure we will see Garcia at some point.