What are the Phillies waiting for? Pitchers and Catchers are due to report to Spring Training in Clearwater, FL., on February 14th. And to date, all the team has done to bolster their bullpen is invite a trio of no-name aging pitchers with limited MLB experience to camp and sign a former 2015 1st round pick of the Atlanta Braves, Kolby Allard, who, through six seasons in the MLB still finds himself being nothing more than a call-up guy who managed to average a 6.10 ERA in 69 total outings in the majors.
In multiple articles this off-season, I have been clamoring about the need for the Phillies to add to their bullpen. I, of course, started this after Philadelphia’s hopes of returning to the World Series last season went up in smoke mainly due to their long-in-the-tooth closer Craig Kimbrel apparently thinking he was sent out there to throw B.P. to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS. Thankfully, the team only signed him to a one-year deal, and now he is the Orioles’ problem.
But where does that leave us? If I’m being honest, I would have to say not in the best of spots. With many teams already having players starting to show up at their team’s spring training facilities, the Phillies continue to sit idle and watch as more and more relievers are signed by the opposition every day. For example, multiple hard-throwing relief and closing pitchers I have previously suggested that the team sign have already found new teams. Josh Hader (who is viewed as one of the best closers in the game today) has signed in Houston. Flaming throwing Jordan Hicks (whose fastball touches 105) has signed with San Francisco, Cuba’s hidden gem Yariel Rodriguez will be playing in Toronto next season, and two-time World Series Champ Aroldis Chapman will be pushing it over the plate for the Pirates in 2024. All of those players could have proved to be viable options for Phillies manager Rob Thompson to call on next season, but here we sit.
So, who else is still out there? Well, they could make a panic decision like bringing back either Hector Neris (who played for Philadelphia for eight seasons before heading to Houston for the last two years) or Brad Hand, who threw for the team in the 2022 season, but they shouldn’t, and here’s why.
To the untrained eye, Neris appeared to revitalize his career with the Astros during the regular season last year, posting a 1.71 Earned Run Average (E.R.A.) in 68.1 innings pitched. But this one-time Dominican ace seemed to lose quite a bit of velocity off his fastball last season. And it showed as teams in the postseason were able to exploit it this year. It was so bad that his E.R.A. rose to 6.48 through just 8.1 innings played in the playoffs. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the Phillies to take another chance on an aging veteran like Hector, who is getting ready to head into his now 11th MLB season at the age of 35.
The same goes for former Phillies pitcher Brad Hand. For me, I don’t care if the team’s options are dwindling; I don’t wish for them to bring back a 34-year-old pitcher who, even though his strike-out ratio was up this year, his arm couldn’t seem to hold up because as the season went on his E.R.A. continued to skyrocket. Case in point: through 40 games with the Rockies this past season, Hand was averaging an E.R.A. of 4.54. Then he was traded to the Braves, where over his next 20 outings, he saw it rise to a staggering 7.50. And, if that wasn’t bad enough in the postseason, it only seemed to continue to climb as Hand’s E.R.A. reached 9.00 after giving up a home run to Philly in the division round of the playoffs.
With that being said, there are a few names available that I think the Phillies should look to add to their pen. But in my mind, there is one guy who stands out above all the rest. He may not be as flashy of an option as some players that I have mentioned in previous articles, but he is effective nonetheless!
And that player is none other than 30-year-old Phil Maton. And if you’re wondering, the answer is yes, he is the brother of former Phillies utility infielder Nick Maton. Now, if we can continue, Phil may not be the hard-throwing late-inning guy who possesses the ability to come in and strike out the entire side that we genuinely need. Still, he is a guy with championship winning experience who can be trusted to come in on occasion and pitch multiple innings to get his team’s starters out of a jam.
What’s to like about Maton, you may be asking? Well, this innings eater is predominantly a pitcher who likes to frustrate hitters by throwing an absolutely nasty off-speed curve ball, low in the zone, that makes for easy groundouts.
That pitch is so effective, in fact, that in 68 regular season outings this season, Maton was able to strike out 74 batters and maintain a career-best 3.00 E.R.A this year. But that’s not even the best part. The main reason I would suggest Philadelphia sign Phil is that during the postseason, Maton has been known to develop ice in his veins.
For example, Over the course of three separate playoff runs, Maton has seen action in 20 separate games, where he has managed to strike out 22 and maintain an E.R.A of just 0.83. That’s with this past postseason being his best, mind you. Phil pitched in six playoff games in 2023 and somehow was able to preserve a 0.00 E.R.A. by striking out seven batters.
If the Phillies listen this time and choose to sign Maton before Spring Training, they could expect to fork out somewhere around four million dollars a season for his services. But I assure you, if they did, this deal would prove to be a bargain, considering Phil would all but solidify this team’s pen IF Jose Alvarado can manage to take over the closing role.