Now that the Los Angeles Dodgers have seemingly managed to corner the market in Japanese pitching for the next decade by shelling out well over a BILLON dollars to ink both Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The rest of the league can finally stop dreaming about the possibility of acquiring one of them and begin to focus on filling out the rest of their roster.
This goes for the Phillies as well, as their most glaring hole this off-season continues to be their Bull Pen. While relief pitchers like Jose Alvarado and Matt Strahm looked strong for the fighting Phills last year, other additions, like Gregory Soto and Craig Kimbrel, undoubtedly cost Philadelphia multiple wins in the postseason, where both saw their earned run average (E.R.A.) skyrocket to an embarrassing 6.00.
Thankfully, the team’s President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski, decided it was NOT in the team’s best interests to bring back their now 35-year-old closer whose play is on the decline after he has been able to post an incredible 417 saves through the last 14 grueling MLB seasons. But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as the Baltimore Orioles proved to be more than happy to swoop in and sign him for next season.
So, what should be the team’s next move, you may be asking? Well, as nice as signing an elite closer like Josh Hader or a flame-throwing inning eater like Jordan Hicks, both of which I proposed in an earlier article
the teams’ executives have come out and said they will not be looking to break the bank to solidify the back end. So, I would now suggest they allow Alvarado to try his hand at closing games for them and sign a couple of setup men.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t wish to see the Phillies go into next season having to hope that Orion Kerkering (who started last season playing Single-A ball) does not have a sophomore slump after opposing teams are able to gather more than his current 3.0 MLB regular season innings of game tape to watch.
With that being said, I now suggest that Philadelphia take a nice long look at a couple of Cubans who can throw absolute missiles!
(RHP) Yariel Rodriguez
The first of which is a relevantly unknown player in 26-year-old Yariel Rodríguez. Yariel, who last played in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League for the Chunichi Dragons back in 2022, averaged a very impressive 1.15 E.R.A. through 54.2 innings pitched.
In addition to that, here’s what many teams may find intriguing: while Yariel was used predominantly in relief in Japan and is projected to play in a similar role once signed here in the States, Rodriguez has recently shown the ability to start a game as well. In fact, he showcased this skill set during the most recent World Baseball Classic, where he started two games striking out ten batters while managing to maintain a 2.45 E.R.A.
Taking some time off to train in the Dominican Republic, Rodríguez recently completed a showcase where no less than 15 MLB clubs were in attendance. As far as his stuff goes, Yariel is able to average around 96-97 M.P.H. on his fastball but has been known to put a little extra on it when needed so that it then tops out in the triple digits. As far as his other pitches go, we can expect to see him throw a very reliable curveball and a decent slider now and again.
With Yariel’s ability to throw multiple innings (if signed), expect the Phillies to utilize him like they did Ranger Suarez when he first came up, as a long reliever who could be trusted with a start on occasion when injuries occur.
To try and accurately estimate just how much Rodriguez could fetch on the open market now that he has been released from his deal with the Dragons of the NPB would be foolish if you ask me—seeing that so many teams now appear to be willing to shell out big bucks for players that have yet to play a single inning on the world’s largest stage. So, I won’t even try to attempt to guess the final numbers. However, what I do know is that Yariel just hired Edgar Mercedes to be his agent. A man who previously was accused of helping multiple Cuban baseball stars flee their home country to try to find asylum on the isle of the Dominican Republic so that they could then seek employment in the MLB. This is the same man, mind you, that represented fellow Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes when he landed his first contract with the Oakland Athletics, which paid him $36 Million!
So, seeing that times have changed a bit, and it is now easier to sign Cuban players. Philadelphia should act fast, as there are sure to be many teams clamoring about trying to be the one to ink Rodriguez, who many feel may be the best arm to come out of Cuba since the “Cuban Missile” himself, Aroldis Chapman.
And since we brought him up, let us discuss why he, too, should be an option for the Phillies next season. Now, before you start, I know he is 35, and the Phillies just got burnt when taking a shot last year on veteran closer Craig Kimbrel, but unlike Kimbrel, Chapman has shown no sign of falling off anytime soon.
In what was his 14th MLB season last year, Aroldis amassed both the largest number of pitches thrown and threw for the most innings since his efforts in 2015, when he was still with the Cincinnati Reds. Also, for the first time since 2015, Chapman was able to amass over 100 strikeouts in a single season. And for those efforts, this seven-time All-Star was able to collect his second World Series Title.
Now, Aroldis may not be still throwing over 105 M.P.H. like he did back in his days with the Reds. But the fact that this nearly 36-year-old can still consistently place a ball where he wants it at 102-103 M.P.H. is impressive! Still, at this point in his career, Chapman should no longer be expected to be “THE GUY” to close out games. He is now best utilized as a setup man like he was in Kansas City last year, with whom he initially signed a one-year deal with for a very affordable $3.7 million before being dealt to the Texas Rangers.
If Philadelphia could manage to add both the up-and-coming Yariel Rodriguez (to be a long reliever) and the legendary “Cuban Flamer Thrower” Aroldis Chapman (to be the setup man), they might struggle at first to find a decent local Cuban restaurant to cater pregame meals of Ropa Vieja, and Mojo Criollo. But one thing they will not struggle at anymore is closing out games! And if they can do that, then this team might just find themselves planning a massive parade at the end of next season.