Phillies Mailbag: Closer, Catching Situation, Gaping Holes?
We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Send your questions to the 97.3 ESPN text board at 609-403-0973 or send them to @FrankKlose on Twitter. Each week on Tuesday afternoon we answer your questions on the air during the Sports Bash with Mike Gill.
With the move the nationals made getting their closer and with the recent struggle of the Phillies bullpen. Do you see the Phillies making a similar move soon or closer to the end of July?
On Monday afternoon, the Washington Nationals acquired closer Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals. The Nationals sent third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez, outfielder Blake Perkins and pitcher Yohanse Morel to Kansas City to land the closer, who probably will not close, at least at first. Herrera joins 2017 acquisitions Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and Brandon Kintzler in the bullpen.
The Nationals are without Kintzler, who left the game June 9 with an injury. While Kintzler did not believe the injury to be serious, Herrera will give the Nationals an extra arm in the deep bullpen that also includes reliever Shawn Kelley. In other words, the Nationals have some depth, even down a solid reliever.
Herrera would have been a nice addition for the Phillies, certainly. I think the Phillies would be best-suited if Seranthony Dominguez was able to get important outs within the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, with a closer still ready to come in for the ninth inning, much like the Andrew Miller and Cody Allen tandem the Cleveland Indians employed in their 2016 World Series run.
But adding another arm is easier said than done. This offseason there will be some free agent options available, including Allen himself. Craig Kimbrel is also available, if the Phillies want to outbid the Red Sox for their closer. But the long-term acquisition probably comes this offseason.
For now, the Phillies need to mix and match until an opportunity presents itself. I still think the Phillies are prepared to take their lumps this season in order to have as many available assets this offseason. You might see some more movement between Triple-A and the majors for now, but I think that is about it.
What do we do about this backup catching situation? It's not the #1 concern but usually they are at least good defensively
Unfortunately, the backup catching position continues to be a concern. Before the Phillies added Austin Davis (no relation to the quarterback), the Phillies had an open 40-man roster spot. But without a space available, the Phillies probably need to roll with Andrew Knapp for now.
The catching position across baseball is very thin right now. Looking around the league, there are many catchers hitting below .200. Even our old pal Erik Kratz is still going at 38 years old, because he is a better option than many others out there. But at this point, someone like Kratz would be helpful.
At one point, it seemed there were plenty of backup, veteran catchers available to stash on a Triple-A roster but the market has changed. The Phillies have Matt McBride at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, who is hardly catching, and Logan Moore and Nick Rickles. Of the three, only McBride has major league experience and he is not using it.
So while Knapp has struggled behind the plate and at the plate, it is hard to find an easy option to replace him. So for now, the Phillies will continue to have catching coach Bob Stumpo and receiving coach Craig Driver working with Knapp on his skills.
Are there more gaping holes in this roster than the Front Office thought?
Good question, Chris. However, at this point I think the Phillies are actually getting a good return from what they have and perhaps they have even fewer holes than they originally planned. At six games over the .500 mark and 3.5 games out of first place, it's easy to say that the Phillies are doing very well with what they have.
The Phillies have gotten nothing out of Jerad Eickhoff or Pat Neshek. I think heading into the season that Scott Kingery would be giving the club a bit more, even though he remains very promising. Vince Velasquez has had some good moments, but has not necessarily grabbed hold of the starting job given. Maikel Franco has not shown that he deserves third base long-term.
So in terms of "gaping holes", I think of all I mentioned, only the loss of Neshek has left to a "gaping hole". If Neshek is active and the Neshek of 2017, the Phillies may have a couple more wins that the bullpen was unable to maintain. But then again, maybe someone like Seranthony Dominguez gets his opportunity later and the Phillies do not benefit from his addition just yet.
All in all, this was to be the year that the Phillies figured a number of things out before they go for it in the deep free agent class of 2018-2019. I think the Phillies expected some holes, but identifying those holes was going to be very helpful in the long-term. So while it is frustrating for now, the club really needed an honest assessment of what they have so they can build for the future.
I really do think the Phillies are in a tremendous position to contend in 2019, but what happens or does not happen right now is a real bonus.