The Phillies have outrighted relievers Heath Hembree and Adam Morgan, Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic reports (via Twitter). Both were arbitration-eligible, and both have the service time to reject the assignment in favor of free agency, which is a mere formality at this point. Hembree was one of the team’s August trade pickups from the Red Sox. Morgan has been a longtime member of the bullpen but recently underwent flexor tendon surgery that is expected to sideline him for six to nine months.
Hembree, 31, was a stable member of the Boston bullpen for years but got out to an ugly start in 2020 and saw things get worse after the trade. From 2016-19, the right-hander notched a solid 3.60 ERA with 10.1 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 in 212 2/3 innings of work — plus 4 2/3 shutout frames in the 2018 postseason. He allowed six runs in 9 2/3 frames with the Red Sox prior to the swap, although nearly all of the damage against him came in one nightmare outing (four runs and zero outs recorded).
With the Phils, however, Hembree uncharacteristically yielded runs in eight of his 11 appearances on the mound, including a four-run drubbing in his final outing of the year. All told, he served up 13 runs on 17 hits — a staggering seven of which were home runs — and five walks with 10 strikeouts in just 9 1/3 innings. His struggles made him a clear non-tender candidate, and the Phillies opted to act early rather than prolong the decision.
Morgan, a 30-year-old lefty, was tagged for eight runs in 13 frames during an injury-shortened 2020 season. He broke into the Majors as a rotation hopeful with the Phillies, starting 36 games for the club from 2015-16, but struggled to find success in that role. Upon a full-time move to the ’pen in 2017, though, Morgan found a home as a regular member of the staff. From 2017-19, he tallied 133 2/3 frames with a 3.97 ERA and 4.08 FIP, averaging 9.6 strikeouts and 3.4 walks per nine innings pitched while also recording a solid 47.8 percent grounder rate.
The bullpen figures to be among the Phillies’ top priorities this winter — a new deal with J.T. Realmuto is surely their No. 1 goal — and moving on from Hembree and Morgan now gives them a bit more flexibility as they pursue those goals.