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Phillies Trade Deadline Buyers Guide: Relief Pitching

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Can Phillies fan embrace Craig Kimbrel’s stupid windup?

91st MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard Photo by Kyle Cooper/Colorado Rockies/Getty Images

Craig Kimbrel (RHP)

2021 Stats: 33 G, 29 GF, 31.2 IP, 0.57 ERA, 20 Saves, 46.2 K%, 8.6 BB%, 2.0 rWAR

Undoubtedly the biggest potential reliever available who would make the biggest difference in any bullpen you’d insert him in. He is looking just as dominant as he was when he was in his “prime” as part of the Atlanta Braves all those years ago. He is a potential free agent with a team option for 2022. A $1 million buyout could save you if he turns back into a pumpkin, which is never out of the realm when dealing with a reliever in a Phillies bullpen. I could see Kimbrel getting packaged with Bryant, though the Phillies would have to do some creative things financially to stay under their self-mandated luxury tax threshold.

Suggested Trade Package:

Phillies: Craig Kimbrel

Cubs: Adonis Medina, Nick Maton, Logan O’Hoppe, PTBNL

Would The Good Phight do this trade?

Jay Polinsky: I...don’t think he is going to cost a lot to acquire? The Cubs are going to be itching to get his salary off the books for the rest of the season and if you look at the Trevor Rosenthal trade from last season it didn’t cost the Padres a whole lot in terms of prospects. Maybe Kimbrel gets packaged with Bryant, but I can’t see a lot of teams being able to acquire both.

Leo Morgenstern: I’d be willing to do pretty much whatever it takes to acquire Kimbrel. He’s been so good this year that even if he were to significantly decline in the second half he’d still be the best reliever in the Phillies pen. Plus, I think it’s hard to understate how much peace of mind he’d bring to the rest of the roster. I know it’s silly to place too much value on intangible factors, but I really do think it will help the rotation, the offense, and the rest of the bullpen to know that they have a lights-out closer like Kimbrel behind them.

Ethan Witte: Yeah, this package would be a no-brainer. Medina has been on lists forever, so it’s likely he’s a reliever, O’Hoppe is a good catcher without much of a future in Philadelphia, so they’re easy to give up. Maton is a little more difficult since he can project as a solid utility guy/second division starter, something this team hasn’t had in a while, but they can also use Luke Williams in that role too. Wanting to keep Maton shouldn’t stand in the way of using him to acquire Kimbrel.

Smarty Jones: I have a lot of bad memories of mid-season reliever trades, but Kimbrel is probably the guy I’d feel most comfortable with. He’s got a long track record of success and is having a good year, so the chances of him pulling a Brandon Workman seem small. As Jay said, I’m not sure it will take that much to get him, but I’d pay that price to not feel queasy every time the Phillies have less than a five run lead heading into the ninth.

Richard Rodriguez (RHP)

2021 Stats: 34 G, 30 GF, 35.1 IP, 2.29 ERA, 12 saves, 22.1 K%, 2.3 BB%, 1.5 rWAR

“Dick Rod” would be a great get for the Phillies who need a back-end option that they can trust. Rodriguez owns a career 2.89 ERA over the last 4 seasons. Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh and will likely be looking to capitalize on his success at some point. He is going to cost a lot most likely due to him being under team control until 2024. He’ll be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason.

Suggested Trade Package:

Phillies: Richard Rodriguez

Pirates: Johan Rojas, Erik Miller, Adonis Medina, Jamari Baylor, Logan O’Hoppe

Would The Good Phight do this trade?

Jay Polinsky: Pittsburgh doesn’t really have to trade him now. Cost controlled talent is kind of their bread and butter, but what if they got an offer they couldn’t refuse? Rojas shouldn’t be untouchable in a trade and I think he’d be worth it in this instance.

Leo Morgenstern: I worry that Rodriguez will cost too much in terms of prospects. He’s been great this year, but I don’t think his 2.3 BB% is sustainable, and his 1.8% HR/FB is definitely not sustainable, so the Phillies would be buying high on a player who is likely to regress. I also think it makes far more sense for the Phillies to target more expensive players so that they can keep the prospect cost down.

Smarty Jones: Rodriguez is older than I thought he was, and while they might be buying high a bit, he’s pretty much been nothing but good since entering the league. I don’t really know enough about the prospect package to know if that’s too much, but if a similar package gets you either Kimbrel or Rodriguez, I’d go with the more experienced Kimbrel.

Ethan Witte: I like Rodriguez, but like Leo don’t think the peripherals surrounding him are sustainable. Not only is it the low walk rate, but with a BABIP at .235, if he regresses, this could get ugly. If the price for Rodriguez was this proposed package, I’d pass. Rojas will be very good soon and isn’t worth using as a main piece for a reliever. The issue is that Pittsburgh will probably want someone like him to be included since Rodriguez might be the top arm available when considering salary and team control. This just feels like too much to give.

Brad Hand (LHP)

2021 Stats: 35 G, 30 GF, 37 IP, 2.43 ERA, 19 Saves, 23.8 K%, 8 BB%, 0.6 rWAR

As much as many of us were happy with the Archie Bradley addition this offseason, Brad Hand was the guy most of us wanted. He’s been a dominant reliever/closer for 6 seasons now and is a lefty to boot. Would the Nationals, who are fading in the standings and are a shell of their 2019 WS run, trade with a division rival? If we recall, the Phillies once traded a closer (Jonathan Papelbon) for a fledging prospect (Nick Pivetta) with the Nats. Hopefully Hand won’t choke out Harper if he is acquired.

Suggested Trade Package:

Phillies: Brad Hand

Nationals: Adonis Medina, Matt Vierling, Cristopher Sanchez

Would The Good Phight do this trade?

Jay Polinsky: This would certainly be righting a wrong from this past offseason at the cost of some prospects. Would the Nats drive up the price for a division rival though? Hard to say. I would definitely do the trade, which probably means the Nationals wouldn’t.

Leo Morgenstern: I have the opposite opinion to Jay here. I’d happily take Brad Hand if the Nationals want to dump his salary on the Phillies, but I don’t think he’s worth this prospect package. His 2.43 ERA is tempting, but his 3.92 FIP, 4.24 xFIP, and 4.40 xERA all make me take pause.

Smarty Jones: Like Kimbrel, he’s got experience, and even though his peripherals might not be great, I can’t envision a total implosion. It would be a little galling to give up a hefty package of prospects for Hand, when they could have just signed him without any prospect cost this past offseason. Then again, paying extra in prospects in order to save money has long been the Phillie way.

Ethan Witte: Medina doesn’t matter much to me, nor does Vierling; both are pretty fungible pieces. It’s Sanchez, who showed in Boston he might be something, that would be the crux. Hand’s peripherals aren’t good, but like Smarty said, can’t really imagine that he’d implode completely. Of course, we were thinking the same thing about David Phelps and....

The package is fine if you think Sanchez is just as fungible as the other two, so if they’re just eating the rest of his salary, Hand would be a fine addition. He’d take some high leverage lefty appearances from Alvarado, which would be great. Probably a grit your teeth and do it deal.

Caleb Smith (LHP)

2021 Stats: 27 G, 9 GS, 3 GF, 71.1 IP, 4.54 ERA, 25.7 K%, 11.8 BB%, 0.6 rWAR

I know what you are saying, “Caleb Smith is a starter now!”. Yes, he is. Does he have to be with the Phillies when they acquire him? Nope. Look at this time this year as a reliever (2.70 ERA) vs. as a starter (5.88) as what his best role would be. If Girardi is determined to put Ranger Suarez in a closer role, you need someone reliable to take his multi-inning slot in the bullpen. Smith does have term left, not becoming a FA until 2024. The Diamondbacks are bad and probably should sell off the 29 year year old swingman.

Suggested Trade Package:

Phillies: Caleb Smith

Diamondbacks: Simon Muzziotti, Erik Miller, PTBNL

Would The Good Phight do this trade?

Jay Polinsky: I don’t anticipate the price being extraordinarily high to procure his services, but the term will cost a Top 10 prospect or two. Maybe adding a Mickey Moniak or Adam Haseley to the package above might seal it? Or would that be too high...

Leo Morgenstern: I’m not too high on Smith. His ERA looked better when he was a reliever, but his underlying numbers during his relief stint weren’t as rosy. And as I said before, it makes far more sense for the Phillies to target players with a high salary and a lower prospect cost.

Smarty Jones: Does he even want to return to the bullpen? If he’s gotten a taste for starting, he might not appreciate being made back into a multi-inning reliever. Besides, nothing about his history makes me want to give up anything of real value. Feels like they already have a bunch of guys with similar profiles on hand.

Ethan Witte: Who’s Caleb Smith?

Ian Kennedy (RHP)

2021 Stats: 30 G, 23 GF, 30.1 IP, 2.67 ERA, 15 Saves, 27.1 K%, 5.9 BB%, 1.2 rWAR

Yes, Ian Kennedy is still pitching in the big leagues. The former “star” starter has settled into a reliever role in his age 36 season for the first time and he might be really good at it? He is doing it with a little bit of luck and the FB% is a minor concern going to CBP. While his success at the closer position isn’t well-established, any sort of stability at the back-end of the Phillies bullpen would be welcome. Kennedy is a FA at the end of the season, so this would be a pure rental from Texas.

Suggested Trade Package:

Phillies: Ian Kennedy

Rangers: Ethan Lindow, Logan O’Hoppe, Kendall Simmons

Would The Good Phight do this trade?

Jay Polinsky: Sure, why not? The Phillies need to be aggressive in improving the bullpen and this would be a low cost way to do it.

Leo Morgenstern: I like Ian Kennedy. I think he’s a better acquisition than anyone on this list other than Kimbrel, so he’s worth giving up some valuable prospects for. The only thing that makes me a little nervous is that he allows a lot of hard hit balls, and that might be a problem for the Phillies defense.

Smarty Jones: After last year’s ill-fated trades, any time I hear the word “luck” used in conjunction with a potential Phillies trade target, I become wary. The Phillies’ defense and the dimensions at CBP don’t usually bring out the best luck in pitchers. I suppose he’d be another decent late-inning option, but I wouldn’t give up much of value.

Ethan Witte: Sure, why not? Kennedy is that guy who can go either way in how he should be competing. He could be a solid addition; he could be Brandon Workman. Even though those three names aren’t the highest regarded prospects, I still think that might be too high. If you remove one (personally, I’d take out O’Hoppe), then sure, make the deal. But other than that and I think they should just move along.