Remember when people were complaining about the Phillies’ recent inactivity on the free agent market? Those complaints should diminish because the Phillies have made some moves in free agency over the past couple of days. These signings will surely pass muster with the fans, because the player acquired in all three meet a very important criteria: We’ve heard of them!
On Tuesday, the Phillies signed right-handed reliever Drew Storen to a minor league deal. You may remember Storen as the Nationals closer whose struggles in the NLDS helped the team choke in both 2012 and 2014. Or perhaps you recall him as the guy who lost his closer job to Jonathan Papelbon, went in the tank, and finally had his season cut short when he broke his thumb on a locker.
So Papelbon trade is working well. Storen goes in tank & punches locker, out of yr. Pap hits Manny. Pap suspended 3 days. Pap chokes Harper.— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) September 27, 2015
After that, he bounced around the majors for a couple of seasons, had Tommy John surgery, and spent 2019 unsuccessfully trying to make a comeback with the Royals.
If signing one former closer wasn’t enough, the Phillies doubled down on Tuesday and signed Bud Norris as well. After years as a mediocre starter, he spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons as a mediocre closer. While he managed a 47 combined saves across those years, as one writer for The Good Phight remarked, Norris entering a game never gave anyone a “This game is over” feeling.
And just like that, Bryce Harper cranks a game-tying, two-run homer to center. His first in 61 at bats. Blown save No.5 for Bud Norris.— Joe Trezza (@JoeTrezz) September 3, 2018
Cardinals,3. Nationals, 3.
Since no team was willing to give him a major league deal in 2019, he sat out the season. He finally picked up on the “We’re not that into you” vibe that teams were giving off, and agreed to a minor league deal with the Phillies.
For their third signing, the Phillies chose a guy who actually pitched in the majors in 2019. Early in his career, Francisco Liriano was considered an emerging ace, but after Tommy John surgery following the 2006 season, he was never able to recapture his brilliance. Still, he’s carved out a decent career, and in 2019, he transitioned into a bullpen role for the Pirates. He was generally effective in a setup role, and was especially strong against left-handed batters.
Liriano against lefties last year:— Jack Fritz (@JackFritzWIP) January 22, 2020
.194 AVG/.326 OBP/.333 SLG/.659 OPS.
Name recognition aside, these are solid, if unspectacular moves by the Phillies. The Phillies are coming off a season where their bullpen was decimated by injuries, so having more potential options is a good thing, especially when those options are coming on low-risk minor league deals.
As far as making an actual impact on the team, Liriano probably has the best chance. If he can repeat his performance from last year, it would give the Phillies’ bullpen another late-inning weapon against lefties. As for Storen and Norris, it is unclear if either man can re-establish himself as a viable major league pitcher. But after a year where plenty of veteran relievers missed the season due to injury, it would be nice if the opposite happened in 2020.
At the very least, having Storen around will provide a reminder of the Jonathan Papelbon trade and how badly it blew up in the Nationals’ face. That alone makes the signing a winner.