Despite several glaring roster holes , the Phillies spent the early part of free agency doing very little. Sure, some agents and their pet journalists did their best to link the Phillies to just about every free agent out there, but - and this is not especially surprising since the Phillies are often tight-lipped when it comes to free agent rumors - there didn’t seem to be much in the way of solid news.
That changed on Wednesday afternoon when the Phillies agreed on a one-year deal with reliever Corey Knebel.
The Phillies have signed right-handed reliever Corey Knebel to a one-year year contract, President of Baseball Operations David Dombrowski announced today.— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) December 1, 2021
Welcome to Philly, Corey! pic.twitter.com/BCAyyM2xrB
Knebel spent most of his early career with the Brewers, for whom he made the All-Star team in 2017. However, he career soon took a downward turn due to injuries. He missed a chunk of time due to recurring hamstring problems in 2018, and a UCL tear cost him the entire 2019 season.
He was able to return for the truncated 2020 season, but didn’t pitch particularly well. The Dodgers took a chance and traded for him before 2021, but a change of scenery didn’t make him any less injury prone. He lost most of the season due to a lat strain.
Despite the injury, he actually pitched well when healthy. He didn’t walk many batters, had a low percentage of hard hit balls against him, and didn’t give up many home runs. Towards the end of the season, he became one of the Dodgers’ more trusted relievers, and he was actually utilized as their “opener” in a couple of postseason games.
There are some areas of concern. While he’s walking fewer batters than he had, his strikeout rate was far removed from his All-Star days in Milwaukee. He also coaxes a large number of ground balls, which is theoretically good until you remember the Phillies aren’t really known for their strong infield defense.
Despite those concerns, Knebel is still a high-upside addition. But they still need to add at least one more reliable late-inning arm. With Ian Kennedy, Archie Bradley, and Hector Neris all expected to pitch elsewhere in 2021, there are a lot of key relief innings to replace. And they’re counting on a guy who has thrown fewer than 50 innings since 2018 to fill a lot of them. If they view Knebel as a closer, this move makes more sense. If not...
Personally, I don’t understand why Knebel for 1/$10M would be more attractive to the Phillies than Neris at 2/$17M.— Ty Daubert (@TyDaubert) December 1, 2021
Not likely we find out their reasoning any time soon, however, since it appears the MLB owners will be locking out the players at midnight. https://t.co/GSjh0KpZG7
You could talk me into Connor Brogdon being able to step into a bigger role, but if we start hearing talk about how confident they are in Jose Alvarado or Seranthony Dominguez, I’m going to be worried. Alvarado is fine in spots, but he’s too inconsistent to be counted on in a regular late-inning role. And anything they get out of Dominguez this year should be viewed as a bonus.
Unfortunately, the owner’s lockout has begun, so it seems like this is the last big move the Phillies will be making for a while. Hopefully when (if?) the lockout ends, the Phillies will get quickly get to work filling some of the other holes. Because while Corey Knebel has a lot of upside, the bullpen - as well as the rest of the roster - still needs a lot of work.