Yesterday, 10 of the top 20 MLB free agents remained unsigned, and overnight… [drumroll]... none of them signed. The task, then, is simply to match the Phillies problem to one of the remaining top free agents.
It doesn’t matter that team president Dave Dombrowski has already said that he likes his team as is or that one of the weaknesses is already being worked on by his staff. Center fielder Johan Rojas is adjusting his offensive approach with guidance. It seems his offense in the postseason against top competition had some Phillies brass doubtful. Doesn’t matter.
Phillies fans can always find a problem.
Phillies problem: A closer. No matter how many times the Phillies declare that they can “make it work” with a closer-by-committee approach, a leading closer emerges. Last season that leading closer, Craig Kimbrel, didn’t work when it counted in the postseason, and he will now pitch for Baltimore. Well, he is a fading closer, and the Phillies knew that last winter.
So, sitting at No. 14 on the CBS Sports list of available free agents is the terrifyingly effective Josh Hader, yet another square peg who became uncomfortable in the round hole that is San Diego. Moreover, Hader may have gotten the lousy season every pitcher is bound to have out of his system in ’22. That year he split time between Milwaukee and San Diego, and upon arrival on the West Coast, his WHIP ballooned (1.625).
That figure returned to respectability last season (1.101), a full year with the Fathers. At 29, the only thing really keeping the Phillies from showing interest may be the expected cost of the hard-throwing Hader. He made $14.1 million last year, and while the Phils may be willing to beat that figure for the short-term, it seems unlikely they will outbid the New York teams for this left-hander.
Let’s say that doesn’t work out, then, although the Phillies could force it to.
Why not think outside the box a little? At No. 8 on that list ranking the free agents, we find Marcus Stroman.
Now, that ranking is undoubtedly a matter of a few factors. One, it’s assumed Stroman will want to start. However, is it nutty to sit down a player about to start his age-33 season one game over .500 for his career, and say, “Marcus, we want to do something different. It may help lengthen your career. And, dude, you've already made about $100 million"?
Two, Marcus is a groundball pitcher.
Three, the smallish right-hander doesn’t really have the stuff to blow away hitters anymore, but he has six pitches.
Maybe he could be a co-closer with Jose Alvarado, but not part of a “committee” as such. Let’s keep it to one or two. Let’s have that spring training competition. (Johan Rojas has to go through one.) A tie would be allowed – co-closers.
If all that doesn’t work out – and it very well may not because Stroman wants a starter’s money, or he’s signed but doesn’t appear to be a closer in March – then the Phillies go back to the closer-by-committee situation.
Don’t worry. A closer will emerge.
I guess. And Stroman would become a starter-reliever.
Phillies fans won’t be that happy, though. They distrust inertia, even short-term inertia.