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So you want to build a better bullpen for 2018?

Gonna have to open up the wallet if you want the Phillies to get better on the back end.

New York Mets v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

There’s no getting around it. The bullpen for the Phillies in 2017 has been bad. How bad? Here’s some raw numbers: (stats as of Monday)

2017 Bullpen

Stat Total Rank in MLB
Stat Total Rank in MLB
ERA 4.44 21st
FIP 4.29 19th
WHIP 1.42 25th
K% 22.20% 20th
BB% 9.30% 18th
HR/9 1.22 t-18th
WPA -3.68 28th

The Phillies have had 17 different players record an out this year as a reliever, and we aren’t even into September, when teams usually have callups from the minors to get auditions for the following season. Amazingly, that list has the possibility to get to 25 before the season ends. It’s also a possibility that these numbers get a whole lot worse before the season. In short, the bullpen needs a makeover.

So, how can we do that?

First, let’s look at the current players in the bullpen. These are my thoughts are who will be here in 2017 and who won’t.

Definitely Returning

Hector Neris, Luis Garcia

Battling for a spot

Hoby Milner, Jesen Therrien, Ricardo Pinto, Drew Anderson, Alberto Tirado, Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan


Mark Leiter, Casey Fien

No real suprises here. The four that I have as definites have been the most effective. Even with his bouts of ineffectiveness, if there was a guy you’d want to be the closer, it would still be Neris. Garcia’s individual performance has finally stabilized to the point where he should be just about guaranteed a spot heading into spring training. That’s about it as far as guarantees at this point.

The battle between the kids for a spot in the bullpen should be fun to watch next spring, and those five have as a good a shot as anyone. As of now, Morgan probably has the best shot since he’s been a pretty effective LOOGY lately. Leiter and Fien are probably going to be casualties of a 40 man roster crunch (which we’ll discuss in a bit), so we’re going to have to cut bait.

That’s it. Two players you can pencil into the bullpen for 2018. There will be plenty of competition as you consider that there will be non-roster invitees, Rule 5 draft picks and other minor leaguers we haven’t even mentioned trying to head north.

So where should they turn? There are two avenues to go: trade and free agency. Trading for a reliever doesn’t make too much sense at this point unless that player has team control and a track record of dominance. It’s usually the avenue a team that is already in contention goes when they need that final piece to get them over the hump. With the volatility of relievers well documented, a team would rather spend money than prospect capital when it comes to the offseason. Instead, have a look at the free agent market for what is available this coming offseason. Does anyone jump out at you? Here are few that intrigued me with their numbers, also through Monday:

Possible FA targets

Wade Davis 43.2 2.27 3.38 32.0 13.3 1.19 0.82
Brandon Kintzler 55.1 2.44 3.71 15.6 6.0 1.05 0.65
Addison Reed 57 3.00 3.48 24.6 3.9 1.11 1.26
Jake McGee 45.2 3.55 2.91 28.4 7.1 1.09 0.79
Tony Watson 52 4.15 5.06 17.2 6.9 1.50 1.56

In my view, these are probably the best available arms that will hit the market, and each comes with his own issues. While Davis could bump Neris from the closer’s spot, how much would be cost the team, both in money and potential attached draft picks? Kintzler is having another solid season, both for the Twins and Nationals, but would he want closer money, considering he saved 28 games prior to being traded? The others all have had injury issues in the past, or their inconsistency has dropped an anchor on their value this season. Either way, money will have to spent if the route the team chooses to enter the market. Usually, free agent reliever deals are a crapshoot, and it seems like it will be even more this year. But if they want to improve using that avenue, they’re going to have to loosen the purse strings, especially in the case of Davis and Kintzler.

There needs to be improvement. With the rotation probably going even younger next season, innings will be needed from the bullpen. It’s up to Matt Klentak and company to make sure those innings are more effective than this season.