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Is the bullpen good enough?

It’s subjective I suppose

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Toronto Blue Jays John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Over the weekend, the Phillies reportedly added another reliever to their bullpen in the form of Jeurys Familia before signing Brad Hand to join him. The moves were met with much the same response of “meh” and “that’s it?” from those that were scouring the transaction wire in hopes of something more splashy. Having to endure the lockout for 99 days and seeing that nothing was allowed to happen in the game, there was a lot of pent up energy ready to be unleashed at the first free agent signing the team made. After all, we’ve been force fed stories about how crazy the initial hours of NuFreeAgency would be now that teams were allowed to conduct business. Once that freeze was lifted, it just felt like a whole lot of nothing. As Monday hit and more deals were made both on the trade market and in free agency, the angst was starting boil over in the fanbase.

Now, the bullpen of the Phillies is an area of concern, to say the least. It hasn’t been one of the better units around the game of late, the 2020 iteration actually historically bad even in the small 60 game sample size. There is an argument to be made that the 2019 version arguably cost the team a playoff spot at the very end. 2021 had another unit that showed a bit more promise, but still couldn’t be trusted with anything more than a four run lead and even those appearances were watched through covered eyes. Correcting that bullpen was one of the priorities of the team headed into this offseason, its spot on the pecking order of importance varying from person to person. The team did acknowledge that issue by signing Corey Knebel prior to the lockout, but adding Familia and Hand to this group gives it more of a blah feeling than one of confidence. Now that they have allocated $22 million to that area of the team, it’s fair to wonder: are they done there?

Should they be done there?

As the bullpen sits currently, and things could change, they’re set up to look like this:

  • Corey Knebel
  • Sam Coonrod
  • Jose Alvarado
  • Connor Brogdon
  • Jeurys Familia
  • Seranthony Dominguez
  • Brad Hand
  • Bailey Falter

Falter could be put in the rotation at the start of the season depending on what happens with Ranger Suarez, but for sake of argument, we’re going to put him here. Is this bullpen good enough to be a playoff threat? On paper, it looks like it could be at least an average bullpen. Knebel needs to show that his last season was more of the norm than an outlier, Coonrod and Brogdon need to show that their development is going forward and not regressing, Alvarado and Familia need to throw strikes, Hand needs to show that his stint in Toronto was a fluke and Dominguez needs to get healthy and throw strikes. Should these things all happen, the bullpen suddenly looks not as bad.

The real issue is that they’ve built a bullpen thus far based on hoping things go right rather than knowing there are answers there. Adding relievers that offer much more certainty would give a better sense that they can do the job rather than banking on their upside. The other issue is that while the Phillies were adding these pitchers, other teams were spending more money on more known quantities in the bullpen. There was much consternation as players like Adam Ottavino (Mets), Jake Diekman (Red Sox), Joe Kelly (White Sox) and Alex Colome (Rockies) were coming off the board at fairly reasonable prices. However, digging deeper on those players, one might not be as impressed by those signings and the budget outlays they cost compared to what they’re bringing to the table. The names are nice enough, some of the stuff is not.

That brings us back to the Phillies. What they’ve added to the bullpen isn’t all that exciting, but they also might not be done yet. With the CBT rising another $20 million, that should give the team budget enough to add another reliever, possibly even someone like Kenley Jansen if they so desire. There are still arms available that could provide more certainty performance wise than what the team has, but as it always does with things like this, it comes down to cost. Is the team going to spend the money needed to build a better bullpen? Dave Dombrowski spoke about how he doesn’t really have budget restraints, but we’ve heard that story before. We’ve seen that this team will not spend past whatever the CBT threshold is, so until they actually do, they cannot be believed.

Until the full offseason takes shape, it’s difficult to answer the question of “is the bullpen good enough?” without a clear picture of what the team has available. Right now, the answer would have to be a solid “no”, but it’s probably not a bad bullpen. When the team opens the season against Oakland, we’ll have a better view of what the final form actually is. It’s prudent to wait until then to issue a final verdict, but if this is it, if this is what Joe Girardi is going to have to work with, it does leave quite a bit to the imagination.