David Robertson chose an unconventional path this offseason as a self-represented free agent, and as a right-hander who holds lefties to a .186/.268/.278 mark, he’s unconventional on the bump as well. It’s not surprising to hear, then, that Gabe Kapler’s plan to deploy him whenever the biggest outs are needed suits him just fine. Unconventional he may be, but he is also a modern reliever in every sense, from his ability to neutralize hitters from both sides of the plate, to his durability in multi-inning outings (23 such appearances since 2017), to his ability to miss bats (11.97 K/9 for his career). Despite the robust resume, Robertson isn’t worried about being used in a traditional closer’s role, so long as he gets important outs on the back-end, writes Scott Lauber of Philadelphia Inquirer. For the Phillies, that makes him a perfect fit in a bullpen that has a few guys capable of locking down the ninth. Per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris figure to share in those closing responsibilities with Robertson, giving second-year skipper Gabe Kapler the freedom to let situations dictate his bullpen management more so than strict role assignments. Dominguez, 24, slowed in the second half of his rookie campaign but showed tremendous promise overall recording 16 saves and a 2.93 ERA, while Neris, 29, saved 11 games last year while striking out a ridiculous 14.3 batters per nine innings. Neris has earned 39 saves over the last three seasons in Philadelphia. Robertson’s signing reverberates beyond just the ninth inning…
- Kapler’s ongoing modernization of the Philly bullpen makes Craig Kimbrel a somewhat odd fit, considering he is one of the few tried-and-true closers left in the MLB. Where Kimbrel does fit (besides previous Boston or Atlanta), however, is entirely (and unjustifiably) unclear, per Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston. Kimbrel’s case is yet another example of the widening gap between players and teams as front offices become increasingly wary of age decline while focusing their efforts (and their payrolls) on value spending. He may not be worth the 6-year, $100MM commitment reported to be the starting ask, but there ought to be more interest for a 30-year-old closer with a proven track record (1.91 ERA, 1.96 FIP, 2.16 xFIP) that is supported by underlying success (14.67 K/9 to 3.46 BB/9, 0.59 HR/9).
- With Robertson in hand and seven out-of-options relievers on their 40-man roster, thinning a now-overcrowded bullpen is next on Philadelphia’s offseason docket, per the Athletic’s Matt Gelb. Veterans Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter could be the odd men out if the Phils can find a trade partner. Along with the power trio of Robertson, Dominguez, and Neris, recent offseason acquisitions Juan Nicasio (from the Mariners) and Jose Alvarez (from the Angels) would seem to be locks for the pen on Opening Day. Hunter, specifically, was acquired because of his reverse-split ability to retire left-handers, which could now make him vulnerable given Robertson’s skills in the same area. Alvarez, projected to make only $1.7MM this year, would be the easiest to flip, but they probably prefer to move one of their higher-priced expirings like Hunter ($9MM), Nicasio ($9.25MM) or Neshek, who is guaranteed $8.5MM including a buyout for 2020.
- Unless the price for Dallas Keuchel drops significantly, the Phillies seem done shopping for arms, at least until midseason, per Gelb. Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta head the Philly rotation, but GM Matt Klentak believes in the high floor provided by the depth behind those two, both at the major league level and in Triple A. Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin round out the rotation, but the renewed health of Jerad Eickhoff provides further flexibility should one of the above trio stumble. Regardless, the Phillies like their current group, and any upgrade would need to be significant. Patrick Corbin provided that kind of upside, but with the former Dback now in Washington, there doesn’t appear to be another available starter the Phils deem worthy of a significant acquisition cost. The next few weeks of free agent hunting figure to focus on the big fish, after which offensive plan B’s or even a reengagement on Kimbrel would likely take precedence over adding another starter.