As I’m writing this, the Philadelphia Phillies have made two major additions to their bullpen this offseason. They traded for Jose Alvarado, a hard-throwing lefty from the Tampa Bay Rays, and signed Archie Bradley, one of the top free agent relievers on the market. While Dave Dombrowski and company still have some major work to do in terms of getting their bullpen up to MLB standards, adding Alvarado and Bradley to the likes of Hector Neris, Connor Brogdon, and even JoJo Romero has the Phils reliever room looking adequate.
Philadelphia Phillies could use multiple closers in 2021.
With that in mind, the Phillies newfound relief options now gives manager Joe Girardi a little more liberty in terms of who he uses in late-inning save situations. In 2020, Girardi’s hands were tied to choosing between Neris and Brandon Workman – both options proved to be disastrous. With the additions of Bradley and Alvarado, Girardi could turn to a philosophy that’s becoming more and more popular around baseball: using a “closer by committee” approach.
Neris, returning for his 8th season as a member of the Phillies, has obviously been the team’s main closing pitcher the last couple of years. He’s finished 168 games since debuting, and has recorded 72 saves. His experience and familiarity with the Phillies’ closer role makes him a prime candidate to at least see some action in the ninth inning of games. He needs to bounce back in a big way following a disastrous 2020 season, but he’s an option for Girardi at the end of ballgames nevertheless.
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Bradley, the Phillies marquee offseason signing thus far, is quite undeniably the team’s best bullpen arm at the moment, making him a prime candidate to close down games as well. He operated as the Diamondbacks’ primary closer in 2019 and 2020, and saw quite a bit of success in that role (24 total saves). Bradley hasn’t been a closer for the majority of his MLB career, but his strong resume would likely allow Girardi to trust him with the ball in save situations.
It also makes sense for Alvarado to see some ninth inning work, should a predominately left-handed lineup be up in the order. Alvarado’s high-velocity, high-moment sinker is a killer to lefty batters. Alvarado is also coming from Tampa Bay, the organization that really popularized basing their closer spot off of matchups, giving the recently acquired lefty some experience closing down ballgames without much forewarning.
Lastly, Brogdon could also see some ninth inning work on occasion. He flashed some serious potential for the Philadelphia Phillies down the stretch last season (just one hit allowed in 8.2 innings in September), making him a prime candidate to see a heightened role in 2021. Girardi furthering his development this season by using him in save situations makes a lot of sense.
Barring a deal for the likes of free agent closer Alex Colome (who the Phillies have been linked to) or even someone else, all signs point towards a club that could use multiple “closers” this upcoming season. After a 2020 campaign that saw the team post the worst bullpen ERA in the modern era of baseball, it’s hard to not view this as a better plan of attack moving forward.