Phillies Mailbag: Bullpen, Bullpen, and Upcoming Prospects
We are back once again with our Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions about the Phillies and talk about them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill each Tuesday. Send your questions at any time to @FrankKlose on Twitter.
How can we fix the bullpen?
This is the difficult question right now for the Phillies. Where the Phillies biggest weakness seems to be is when starters exit games around the fifth inning or less. Granted, it is a small sample size, but part of the problem is that the Phillies simply do not know really who can fill those middle innings. Without the opportunity to see live action from many of the relievers, this has become difficult.
Making matters worse is that the Phillies will have to go to a sixth starter already. That means that Spencer Howard might get a shot by week's end. But it also means that Vince Velasquez likely needs to start again. Making Velasquez start removes the chance to get him comfortable in a relief role.
I think the biggest boost for the middle innings will come when Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are able to settle into a middle role. Ranger Suarez remains unavailable, but probably will help in this role if he is able to return to action. A report from Joe Girardi was optimistic, but he still could be "weeks away".
So far Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Hector Neris and Tommy Hunter are reliable. But with the many, many games the Phillies are going to have to play in a row, more help is needed. Hopefully it will be Velasquez and Pivetta that step up. If not them, they may never get it together.
What concerns you more: Matt Klentak's lack of attention to the pen, or John Middleton's unwillingness to tap the tax?
I think this question is a tough one. I think in some respects the Phillies tried on this one. David Robertson never gave them anything in the two-year contract he signed, sadly. It's unlikely he will help this year, but he was a veteran reliever the Phillies paid for to help stabilize the bullpen. Seranthony Dominguez is also a big loss. If both of them were around, one would have to feel better about the chances of the Phillies bullpen.
But the relief market this past offseason was filled with question marks. It was so thin that two major risks: Dellin Betances and Blake Treinen, signed for north of $10 million. It's too early to decide whether they are going to pay dividends. Steve Cishek could be helpful for the Chicago White Sox at $5.25 million, but he is up and down.
None of these might be worth exceeding the tax.
Other than these two, the options the Phillies had were very limited. Aside from trading top prospects for a top closer, there might not have been a trade option, either.
The Phillies signed a few to minor league deals. But of Drew Storen, Bud Norris, Anthony Swarczak and Francisco Liriano, perhaps Liriano impressed the most. Liriano will be sitting out the season. It's unclear if he contributed to the decision to release him, but he has told teams who have called since his Phillies release that he is not interested.
So while I think the bullpen could have used some additional help, I really cannot say there was something out there the Phillies should have done. The luxury tax could be passed if a trade puts the Phillies over the hump, but right now in these circumstances, it might not be worth it.
The Phillies might actually exceed the limit, anyway.
Other than Howard and Bohm, who’s the next call up from Lehigh Valley?
I think most of the players that had a shot to make the Phillies beyond those two have already been seen. But there's a name I gave this past Spring for a question like this one that I will bring up again: Damon Jones.
Jones is a lefty who looked good last year. I had my eye on him some during Florida Spring Training and it seems like he has some skills from the left side. The Phillies have several lefties in Alvarez, Morgan, and also Austin Davis and Cole Irvin. If one of those arms is subtracted, he could enter the conversation.
Don't rule out Adonis Medina or Jojo Romero, too. They're in the camp and if they take a hit to starting depth, the Phillies could consider them.