By Tom Alvord
The Philadelphia Phillies exit the All-Star break with a 44-44 record and find themselves just 3.5 games back of the first place New York Mets. Less than 2 weeks ago there were questions on whether the Phillies would be buyers or sellers heading into the July 30th deadline. However, after winning their last 3 series and 7 of their last 10 games overall, many believe those questions has been answered.
The Phillies are in a prime position to take advantage of the lackluster NL East due to Ronald Acuna’s unfortunate season-ending injury and the Mets’ inconsistent play so far. Between the Phillies’ bats heating up, the lineup finally at full strength, and owning the second easiest remaining schedule in baseball; the path for the first playoff berth since 2011 is there for the taking.
The Phillies are far from a perfect team, we know that. Atrocious defense, constant managerial blunders, ice-cold hitting streaks; we’ve seen it all. However, the biggest issue for the Fightins this year has once again been the bullpen. The Phils’ relievers have the 8th worst bullpen ERA so far this season according to fangraphs.com. It’s easy to see why given the Phillies’ top 2 guys, in Hector Neris and Jose Alvarado, having ERAs of 4.72 and 4.54 respectably. Nevertheless, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Joe Girardi has recently gone away from relying on Alvarado and Neris, in high leverage situations, and put his trust into Archie Bradley and Ranger Suarez.
That being said you can never have enough bullpen help, especially if you are the Philadelphia Phillies. We also know that the John Middleton going over the luxury tax is just as unlikely as a Bryce Harper home run with runners on base. According to spotrac.com the Phillies have roughly $3.85 million available before they dip into the dreaded luxury tax. So, with that being said here are 6 realistic names that will help the bullpen substantially but still keep John Middleton and his wallet happy.
1: Richard Rodriguez RHP Pittsburgh Pirates
Perhaps the most prized trade deadline closer not named Craig Kimbrel available at the moment, and for good reason. Rodriguez has been a rare bright spot on the 34-win, last place Pittsburgh Pirates this season. He sports a 2.29 ERA with 12 saves in 35.1 innings pitched. Rodriguez is also under team control through the 2023 season, making him a perfect acquisition for both the present and the future. Unfortunately between his low salary ($1.7 million in 2021) and contenders like the Padres and Dodgers being linked to him already; the asking price may be a bit too steep for our beloved Phils.
2: Ian Kennedy RHP Texas Rangers
Kennedy has been a household name in the MLB as both a reliever and a starter throughout his 15-year MLB career. He hasn’t missed a beat this year in his age 36 season accumulating a 2.67 ERA and 15 saves in 30.1 innings. Kennedy signed for $2.1 million this past offseason and is a free agent after the year, making him potentially affordable for Philly. High leverage situations are nothing new for this vet, having saved 30 games for the Royals just 2 years ago, which is exactly what a team like Philadelphia needs.
3: Kendall Graveman RHP Seattle Mariners
When you look at the AL West standings and see that the Mariners are 5 games over .500 you may be asking yourself why is his name on this list? However, the Mariners know what they are, a young rebuilding team that is not a true contender. Graveman would be a perfect trade chip this deadline due to him only making $1.25 million and hitting the open market after this year. The 30-year old Graveman has 8 saves with a miniscule .95 ERA and .60 WHIP in 28 innings pitched so far this year, making him a prime target for Dave Dombrowski.
4: Andrew Chafin LHP Chicago Cubs
No, it may not be the Cubs reliever you were hoping for, but Andrew Chafin is a damn good consolation prize. Chafin is having one of the best seasons of his 8-year career, this year, with a 1.42 ERA and 35 Ks in 38 innings. He is also tied for second, in the majors, in holds this season with 17. The affordable lefty is on the books for $2.25 million this year and has a $500,000 buyout after the season. Chafin also has some first-class facial hair that would fit perfectly in the Phillies’ clubhouse.
5: Bryan Shaw RHP Cleveland Indians
Poor Indians fans. Even after shipping Francisco Lindor out of town earlier this year, Cleveland finds themselves just 4.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot in the AL. But Cleveland wouldn’t be Cleveland if they didn’t sell assets, and according to Jon Heyman that is exactly what they’re planning to do. Enter 33-year old veteran Bryan Shaw. Shaw is having a nice bounce-back year in 2021 and is a free-agent after this season. Between making just $1 million this year and having a 3.05 ERA with 11.0 K/9 in 38.1 innings, Dombrowski would be ignorant not to make a phone call to Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff.
6: Joakim Soria RHP Arizona Diamondbacks
Soria was one of the top relievers in the game in the late 2000s, finishing with at least 42 saves in 2008 and 2010 for the Kansas City Royals. He has re-found some of that magic again this season. On the surface his 4.07 ERA in 24.1 innings isn’t anything to write home about, but he has been lights out for the D-Backs since taking over their closer role. Soria has 6 straight scoreless outings with 7 Ks and only 2 hits allowed since June 30th. Joakim is on the books for $3.5 million this season and is a free agent in 2022, making him a perfect bargain target for the Phils.