Projecting the Phillies' opening day bullpen


The Phillies completed another busy week of 2021 roster-building, officially signing Didi Gregorius and Chase Anderson while also agreeing to deals with bench bat Matt Joyce and reliever Brandon Kintzler.

They are also on the verge of bringing back Brad Miller, whose OPS in 171 plate appearances with the Cardinals last season was 20% better than the league average. Miller and Joyce should provide the Phillies quality at-bats off the bench, though the Phils could still use another right-handed stick in a reserve role.

Assuming Kintzler makes the team, his and Miller’s deals will push the Phillies’ luxury tax payroll to about $206 million. The threshold is $210 million, with a first-time offender being taxed 20% on every dollar of overages.

Suffice it to say, the Phillies are probably done with big-league deals this offseason after Miller. They will want to leave a little bit of flexibility under the tax threshold to make in-season additions. Potential reinforcements in July could be just as valuable to the Phillies as one of the relievers or bench bats still out there now.

It’s been a little while since we took a look at the Phillies’ projected bullpen, which has filled out with these signings of veterans, mostly to minor-league deals. It was one of the main topics on Friday's Phillies Talk podcast, which you can listen to here.

With 26-man rosters in 2021, the Phillies could carry eight or nine relievers. 

Archie Bradley, Hector Neris and Jose Alvarado (if fully healthy) are locks. Connor Brogdon, a 2020 late-season revelation, probably is too.

Kintzler, with his 2.55 ERA the last two seasons and experience at the back-end of bullpens, will probably crack the unit barring a poor showing in camp.

That’s five. 

There’s also Hector Rondon, an eight-year vet with a 3.49 ERA in 444 career appearances with the Cubs, Astros and D-backs. The Phils signed him to a minor-league deal that could pay dividends.

There’s Sam Coonrod, a right-hander with a 98-99 mph fastball acquired this offseason from the Giants. 

There are two homegrown lefties in JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez who have been productive at points over the last two seasons. 

There’s long man David Hale, signed this winter to a one-year deal worth $850,000.

There’s Ramon Rosso, who had an up-and-down 2020 but possesses enough stuff to stick in a bullpen.

That’s 11 guys, and it doesn’t even mention Vince Velasquez or whomever else does not win a spot in the starting rotation. The Phillies have at least Velasquez, Anderson, Matt Moore, Spencer Howard and Ivan Nova competing for the fourth and fifth starter’s jobs. Even if they utilize a six-man rotation at points, that’s still two more candidates than spots.

Velasquez is a logical trade candidate given the starting pitching depth the Phillies have added. He is owed $4 million in 2021 and with how close the Phillies are to the tax threshold, it’s $4 million that could probably be better spent elsewhere, unless Velasquez has an amazing camp and/or shows he’s ready to roll out of the ‘pen.

Barring injury, we could be looking at an opening day bullpen of:

  • RHP Archie Bradley
  • RHP Hector Neris
  • LHP Jose Alvarado
  • RHP Connor Brogdon
  • RHP Brandon Kintzler
  • LHP JoJo Romero
  • RHP Sam Coonrod
  • RHP Vince Velasquez or another rotation candidate
  • RHP Hector Rondon

There’s plenty of time between now and opening day for this to work itself out. Pitchers and catchers report for the Phillies on Feb. 17. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 22, and the Phillies have 28 spring training games, the first on Feb. 28.

It will be impossible for this bullpen to be worse than what the Phillies had in 2020, and even listing out their options shows how much better a spot they’re in than a season ago when the opening day ‘pen consisted of Neris, Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Deolis Geurra, Tommy Hunter, Cole Irvin, Trevor Kelley, Reggie McClain, Rosso, Austin Davis and Nick Pivetta.

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