Hector Neris, the smiling, splitter-throwing right-hander who set a noteworthy Phillies team record on the final day of the 2021 season, is on the verge of signing a free-agent contract with the Houston Astros, according to baseball sources.
Neris, 32, will receive a two-year deal worth $16 million. Completion of the deal is contingent on a review of medical information.
The Phillies had attempted to re-sign Neris as a setup man, a role he excelled in during the second half of 2021, but the pitcher, who was pursued by several clubs, opted for the Astros, who have been to the postseason six of the last seven seasons.
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Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, trying to break a 10-year postseason drought, has listed bullpen, particularly late-game and closer, as priorities this winter. The Phillies have shown interest in free-agent right-hander Mychal Givens, who can pitch late in games and spent some time closing for Cincinnati last season.
Neris had been the Phillies' longest-tenured player and he was beloved in the clubhouse for his upbeat, team-first attitude. He came up in 2014 and became a mainstay in the bullpen in 2015.
From 2016 to 2021, Neris pitched in 372 games and had a 3.72 ERA. He averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings over that span. He left his mark on the team record book on the final day of the 2021 season when he registered his 520th strikeout as a reliever, the most in franchise history. Ron Reed held the previous record.
Neris often filled the closer's role during his time with the Phillies and he was quite good when he had command of his vaunted splitter. He twice eclipsed 25 saves and finished with 84. He struggled in the role in 2021 but shined after moving to the setup position in July. He pitched to a 2.51 ERA over his final 40 games and held opposing hitters to a .171 batting average. He struck out 59 in 43 innings over that span.
For the season, Neris finished third among NL relievers in games (74) and strikeouts (98). He ranked 10th in strikeout percentage at 31.6.