Next Offseason Will Bring Closer Options for Phillies
Phillies closer Hector Neris has had a difficult time in 2018. After saving 21 straight save opportunities, Neris has blown three saves, including two last week. The move led to the Phillies considering Seranthony Dominguez for a second inning on Sunday, while Edubray Ramos closed the game out. While the Phillies are just a game out of first place on this May 14, it is hard to fault the Phillies for getting a closer this offseason. But options will soon be there for the taking.
The 2017-2018 free agent class was rather underwhelming when it came to relief pitchers. Yes, the Phillies signed two in Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter for a good chunk of change. But the market for established closers simply did not exist.
Wade Davis was the best name out there, and he got three years and $52 million from the Colorado Rockies. So far Davis has pitched pretty well (14 saves in 16 chances) but at 32 years old, the Rockies assumed a good amount of risk going forward; Davis is the highest-paid reliever per-season in the history of baseball.
Beyond that, Greg Holland, whom Davis replaced in Colorado, got a one-year, $14 million deal. Holland signed after the season began with the St. Louis Cardinals. In 14 games, Holland blew the only save opportunity afforded him and has a 4.76 earned run average.
It's hard to fault the Phillies for getting involved in either player.
Next offseason, however, the Phillies plan to be active. And there are many names from which to choose when it comes to a closer. Craig Kimbrel of the Boston Red Sox is set to become a free agent. Kimbrel turns 30 in a couple of weeks and has been one of the more-reliable closers in recent memory.
The Cleveland Indians got to the World Series on the backs of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Both relievers will be free agents this offseason. Allen turns 30 in November, while Miller turns 33 a week from today. Miller may not be a long-term option (he just returned from a disabled list stint, at that), but could help the Phillies immediately in 2019.
A pair of Mets will also be free agents: closer Jeurys Familia and once-Marlins closer A.J. Ramos. Either player would be more than serviceable. Either could be a solid (though not dominant) option should the Phillies plan to consider Dominguez for the role long-term.
We often hear, "If the Phillies kept Ken Giles...", suggesting that the former Phillies closer would solve all that ails the club. Lest we forget that the struggles Giles had in the World Series almost cost the Astros their title? Had the club lost, GIles might have gotten the blame, as Mitch Williams often did for the Phillies in 1993.
But Giles has had his moments of struggle in 2018, too. GIles now-infamously punched himself in the face after giving up four runs in a game to the New York Yankees a few weeks ago in which Giles took the loss. Giles has five saves in five opportunities this season, but has a 4.38 earned run average. So it is hard to say that the Phillies are missing out.
The Phillies were not expected to complete in 2018, and while it's nice that they are to this point, the club cannot be faulted for moving forward with what they have. Neris still has a lively arm and might even develop into a better reliever. Despite three blown saves, it might be premature to write Neris off just yet. Or at the least, he might be good enough until the Phillies go all in on one of the big names.