Phillies Mailbag: Swihart Might Be Worth a Claim
We are back once again with a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and talk about them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill every Tuesday. Send your questions anytime on Twitter to @FrankKlose or send a text to the text board at 609-403-0973.
Is there a better option than Knapp for backup Catcher?
Interestingly, the backup catcher has gotten some fans' attention in recent weeks. Despite generally playing just once a week to back up starter J.T. Realmuto, catcher Andrew Knapp had the attention of a few who asked mailbag questions. While I do not think Knapp is a huge concern, I do think that there is one option out there I would consider.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Boston Red Sox designated for assignment the contract of catcher Blake Swihart. Swihart was a first round draft pick in 2011, and it appears that Swihart, batting .231 for the Red Sox so far, was a casualty of the 6-11 start for the Red Sox. Fellow backstop Sandy Leon will replace him.
The Phillies could put in a waiver claim on Swihart in the attempts to acquire him via waivers. If that is the case, it would not cost the Phillies anything, other than who they might have to cut to make room for Swihart. That could come in the form of Mitch Walding, who is a candidate to clear waivers and remain at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Swihart is out of options and would have to play at the major league level. Knapp, meanwhile, can be optioned to Triple-A.
Swihart was once almost called "untouchable" back in 2015 when the Phillies were considering trades for ace Cole Hamels. An article on Boston's WEEI called the idea that the Red Sox would trade a talent for someone such as Hamels "always be laughable":
He has face-of-the-franchise potential and the Red Sox aren't giving that away, even if it takes five years for him to blossom. They're confident he'll be worth the wait.
Four years later, Swihart will not be a Red Sox player anymore.
So while Swihart has underperformed, maybe he is someone worth taking a flyer on. But if the Phillies have to use the switch-hitting Knapp for a while, that will be just fine. They could decided to upgrade down the line, but there are not many catchers available right now, and another team with a lesser record than the Phillies could claim Swihart right now.
Knapp has the minor league option so that would be a possibility. But having players available is more likely in July.
What do you think of Kimbrel at three years/$50 million?
It is fair to say that the Phillies have no clear closer at the moment. Seranthony Dominguez has lost fastball velocity and has been relegated to low-leverage situations. David Robertson is on the disabled list. So the Phillies will likely be connected to reliever Craig Kimbrel as long as he is available.
One problem with signing Kimbrel is that the competitive balance looms for many teams. In some ways it is not even about the money, but the way that the tax is structured that will keep teams like the Phillies from giving Kimbrel a deal such as this one. It is the average annual value that becomes a concern.
So a three-year, $50 million deal would put the Phillies $16.67 million closer to the competitive balance tax. It is not so much that they mind spending the money, but they probably do not wish to encounter a penalty levied due to exceeding the threshold that will hurt the club more later. Structuring a deal with a set budget will be difficult.
The Phillies have $18 million or so to work with. If the tax were tabulated by money spent, a club could back-load a contract, giving a smaller salary in year one and then escalating the deal later, when there is time to clear space. But the average annual value will have to be the lone consideration.
Right now, that is too close for comfort. But the later Kimbrel remains on the market, maybe it will become a possibility.
Do you think the Phillies could get Madison Bumgarner?
The Phillies were said to have done their "due diligence" on left-handed starter Madison Bumgarner by checking in with the San Francisco Giants. Like the 2014 Phillies, the Giants find themselves with an underperforming major league team, aging stars, and a thin farm system.
Under the guidance of new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, the Giants are expected to rebuild. That could include a trade of Bumgarner. The Phillies would be a team interested in a starter, particularly if Aaron Nola continues to struggle.
One attractive thing about acquiring Bumgarner is that he is only earning a salary of $12 million 2019. The aforementioned luxury tax concerns would be mitigated, as there would still be room to add other pieces. The Phillies would hope to be in on those discussions if they were to be had as he would be a nice fit.
Bumgarner has started the season 1-2 but his earned run average of 3.12 would lead to some victories for the Phillies. The Phillies have averaged over five runs a game.