Who in Phillies' league-worst bullpen is a keeper beyond 2020?


One of the great understatements of 2020 is that the Phillies need an offseason bullpen overhaul.

This bullpen has been horrific and Tuesday was no different, with Brandon Workman serving up the walk-off home run after bad outings by David Phelps and JoJo Romero.

Who will be back from the major-league-worst unit? Who has looked like a keeper?

Let's run through the 2021 contract status of every notable Phillies reliever:

Club options

  • Hector Neris: $7M club option (no buyout)
  • David Phelps: $4.5M club option

Phelps has not provided the return the Phillies needed in 2020, not even close. After dominating for the Brewers, he has allowed 11 earned runs in 7⅔ innings here, a 12.91 ERA. 

It is confusing given Phelps' stuff and run of success the last five years. He did not fake his way to that success in Milwaukee,, Chicago, Toronto, Seattle and Miami. Phelps probably has the best overall repertoire in the Phils' bullpen. It's been a brutal month with the Phils and they have to figure out why he's been so much worse here than everywhere else. This isn't a Workman situation with hanging curveballs and flat fastballs. Phelps still has good stuff, he's just in a bad way right now and has missed over the plate.

Despite how poorly he's pitched, his option is at a fair price for a team that will need all the experienced relievers it can stockpile.

Phelps was ineffective again Tuesday. In his prior three appearances, he retired every batter he faced with whiffs and weak groundballs.

A one-year reunion at that number — or a renegotiated deal at a lower price — could still make sense.

The Neris option is worth picking up unless the Phillies plan to add several other high-priced, late-inning relievers in free agency. It's also possible the Phillies cancel out that option with some sort of two-year extension for Neris.

Worth noting: This offseason will be Vince Velasquez's final arbitration year before reaching free agency after 2021. He figures to make about $4.5 million in his final arb year, a number similar to Phelps' option. Who would you rather have back at that price? Who could make a bigger impact on next year's team?

Free agents

  • David Robertson
  • Brandon Workman
  • Jose Alvarez
  • Blake Parker
  • Tommy Hunter

The Phillies should explore bringing back the lefty Alvarez, who had a 3.17 ERA in 75 appearances over two seasons before a line drive to the groin ended his 2020. He'll probably get a couple of multi-year offers from teams looking for a lefty specialist.

No on Workman, obviously. The guy hasn't shown he can get anyone out consistently. As a Phillie, his opponents have hit .377 and even his scoreless outings have been gutwrenching. Had Workman reached free agency last winter, he'd have been in line for $30 million or more. What does he get this offseason? One year, $1 million? A non-guaranteed deal? Crazy.

Robertson ... you never say never with a one-year deal in the $1 million range, but he's probably a goner. If you're Robertson, why not sign that prove-it deal to pitch under less pressure in front of a fanbase that hasn't already formed its opinion of you?

Hunter could go either way if he's willing to take another cheap one-year deal. He just can't be as high up in the hierarchy of a contending bullpen as he was this season.


  • Heath Hembree: Third and final arb year
  • Adam Morgan: Third and final arb year
  • David Hale: Arbitration eligible

Hembree was awarded about $1.6 million for 2020, his second arbitration year. That was the full amount, not his prorated 60-game salary. He'd likely be in the $2 million range for 2021. He was terrible here but it's still not a no-brainer when you're talking about a team-controlled player who throws 96 mph. If his elbow injury is serious, he's a clear non-tender.

Count on Morgan being back for around $2.5M-$3M in his final arbitration year.

Team control, pre-arbitration

  • JoJo Romero
  • Ramon Rosso
  • Ranger Suarez
  • Connor Brogdon
  • Garrett Cleavinger

Romero and Brogdon have both had ups and downs as rookies but both showed this season they have the stuff to stick in a big-league bullpen. Suarez has value as a left-handed swingman. Rosso is still raw but has some potential and will be making close to the league minimum.

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