Phillies pursuing free-agent reliever who could be part of closer puzzle


The Phillies are pursuing an intriguing free-agent reliever who could potentially help them at the back end of games, maybe even in the closer role.

According to a baseball source, the team has had substantive conversations with Mychal Givens. It's not clear where they will end up, but the source indicated that they were ongoing.

Givens, who will turn 32 in May, was a top two-way prospect as a high school player in Tampa. He was picked in the second round of the 2009 draft by the Baltimore Orioles and spent time playing infield in that club's minor-league system before switching full-time to pitching and rising to the majors in 2015.

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has prioritized improving the closer position this winter and indicated that he's not tied to having one set reliever handle the role, especially with the team having so many other holes to fill, most notable center and left field.

"I'd like to have someone close a game for us and count on it," he said. "But, do we have a couple people do that, or do you want to spend your dollars doing that versus doing something else, signing a couple people?"

Givens has strikeout stuff but control can be an issue. He pitched to a 3.35 ERA in 51 games with Colorado and Cincinnati in 2021. The Reds acquired him at the July trade deadline. He got a regular chance to close for that club and converted eight of 10 save chances.

Bullpen, obviously, has been a major problem for the Phillies the last two seasons. It's probably kept them out of the playoffs both years. The 2020 club recorded a bullpen ERA of 7.06, the highest ever in a major-league season, though that season was just 60 games. The 2021 bullpen tied a major-league record with 34 blown saves.

In word and action, Dombrowski has made improving the bullpen a chief focus this winter. He has said he would like to add two proven arms to a cast that already includes returnees Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogdon, Sam Coonrod and Seranthony Dominguez. He has already added depth candidates in waiver claims Ryan Sherriff and Kent Emanuel, as well as Nick Nelson, added in a trade with the Yankees. Free agent Hector Neris is a candidate to return and Dombrowski has expressed interest in having him back as a setup man. And, now, Givens is on the radar, as well.

Givens made $4.05 million last season. He is open to pitching in any late-game role.

"If it's the seventh, eighth or ninth, it doesn't matter," he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "It's about winning the ballgame for me. It's what we prepare for every offseason. We prepare for a World Series. If it's the seventh, eighth or ninth inning, I need to go out and do a job."

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