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TGP Roundtable: Do you think the Phillies need to sign Craig Kimbrel?

Phrozen and Ethan debate each other on the merits of signing the ace closer

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

As games happen during a Phillies’ season, we here at The Good Phight are constantly talking to each other in chatrooms. Watching the bullpen (and Aaron Nola!) melt down in real time, you can imagine what we were discussing. This lead to a spirited debate among the writers about whether or not the team should be spending on Craig Kimbrel, the best free agent still unsigned. So, Phrozen, our wonderful comment moderator, and I decided to take sides on this debate: should the Phillies sign Kimbrel right now?

Ethan: So my first question is why? Why do you think the Phillies need Kimbrel when they already spent so much money on Robertson, tendered contracts to Neris, Morgan, Ramos, et al? Do you really think that Kimbrel will make that much of a difference were he to sign now?

Phrozen: There isn’t a bullpen in baseball that wouldn’t be improved by adding Kimbrel. Some less than others, but think about it this way: Kimbrel doesn’t replace Neris or Morgan. He replaces Alvarez or Nicasio who could be cut or traded, or maybe even Ramos, who could be sent to AAA. But in the meantime, the top four of this bullpen, Neris, Dominguez, Robertson and Neshek, are all inconsistent. Neshek can’t pitch on back-to-back days. That’s not a recipe for dominance, it’s a recipe for more “unavailability” and more late losses. Kimbrel isn’t a panacea, but he would have given us significantly better odds in both last night and last week’s blown saves.

So my question: why not pursue Kimbrel? They have the salary cap room, they can easily find a roster spot. I’m not saying to sign him at any cost, and I am definitely not panicking in a “OMG SIGN HIM NOW SEASON OVER” type move; but why not at least pursue him? How does he not make us a markedly better team?

Ethan: I’m not sure that pursuing him at this point wouldn’t be an overreaction. Tuesday’s game (and the blown game in Washington) were definitely failures, but they were failures that usually don’t happen. Robertson rarely walks that many players in a week, let alone a game. While Tuesday we did see someone like Ramos making a bad pitch, when push comes to shove, I highly doubt we’d ever see Ramos in that high a leverage situation again. It was the perfect storm of more reliable pitchers being unavailable and better relievers than Ramos (Dominguez and Neris) being used prior to this in the game. I’m not saying you’re overreacting per se, but those on the Twitter machine are calling for signing Kimbrel at whatever the cost may be.

So I guess my ultimate question would be: is that blown save on Tuesday a case of the team needing Kimbrel or just getting unlucky in that situation and not having the “right guys” available?

Phrozen: I guess my response is that I’m not interested in pursuing Kimbrel just because of Tuesday’s debacle. I’m not interested in pursuing Kimbrel just because of Tuesday’s *and* last Wednesday’s debacles. I’m interested in pursuing him because the bullpen’s performance thus far as a whole has shaken my opinion of their overall quality. I had been optimistic that this was a playoff caliber bullpen, I no longer think it is. I think we have a solid lineup, a serviceable rotation, and a weak bullpen, albeit one with more good pitchers than most. That said, I have a limit. I don’t want Kimbrel “at any cost,” as some are demanding (or assuming I am?); I want Klentak and co to do their due diligence and find out what it would take. Perhaps they have--this has been a tight ship, after all--and we haven’t heard about it.

The blown save on Tuesday is more a case of Nola having a rough outing, rather than not having the right guys available. However, that the “big four” were all not available on only the fifth straight gameday is alarming. We have multiple stretches of 17 straight gamedays this year. How much worse is our already weak ‘pen going to look when half of them are unavailable in these periods?

Ethan: I’m ok with your desire to pursue Kimbrel and what his contract terms are. I think my hesitancy is that with the early season performances of Nola and Pivetta, and the track records of Arrieta and Velasquez, I’m more interested in the team spending whatever capital (monetarily) on the starting pitching. Relief pitching being so up and down, I’m almost certain that the bullpen as a whole will be fine. Robertson’s track record suggests that he’ll be fine. Dominguez probably needs a mechanical adjustment that will make him dominant once again and Morgan suddenly looks like a viable option again. Sure adding Kimbrel would make it even stronger, since adding a good reliever means subtracting a bad one, but I have to believe that Middleton and company have a budget for 2019 and they can’t just throw money at him with no regard for the bottom line. There is a reason they didn’t pursue Harper AND Machado. If they are going to spend some more free agent dollars (or trade dollars for that matter), I’d rather they get a starter.....but not Keuchel either.

Phrozen: Final thought: adding Kimbrel gives us arguably the best back-end bullpen in baseball, if not top few. I think our rotation is solid, if unspectacular, but having a stable 6-7-8-9th inning relief corps means those guys can focus on the first five or six innings, improving the team in multiple ways.

Ethan: Yeah, I understand what you (and everyone else in the same boat) are talking about. I’m just alright with giving the bullpen more time to get their issues under control. Once they do, I think this is a top 7-8 bullpen in the game. I’d just rather they use their monetary resources on a starter. THAT is where I think the issues will be as the season rolls along.

So, that is where we stand. Discuss amongst yourselves in the comments below!