As MLB’s lockout deadline looms, the Phillies still have yet to make a move. Having shown interested in players like Kevin Kiermaier, Trevor Story, and Kris Bryant, who’s markets have surely evolved considering the litany of deals completed in past days, plans have almost certainly shifted in the last 24-48 hours.
One player, however, who’s looked more certain to be a Phillie is righty reliever Corey Knebel. Monday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Phillies were “expressing serious interest” in the former Milwaukee Brewers closer.
Now, on Wednesday morning, barely 12 hours from the impending lockout, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported that the team “was in advanced talks with Knebel.”
Salisbury’s wording from his sources here is strange. When a player is said to be “in advanced talks” with a club, it usually means a deal is impending. However, Salisbury specifically uses “was in advanced talks” instead of “is in advanced talks.”
This could mean one of two things, either the discussions have broken down and Knebel is no longer working with the Phillies on finalizing a deal, or that Salisbury simply hasn’t heard from his sources in some time and is uncertain whether or not talks are still ongoing.
With the Phillies losing former closer Héctor Neris to the Houston Astros in free agency, the need for a closer is stronger than ever, but Knebel has battled injuries for the past three seasons, most notably a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery in 2019.
Yet, in the two years leading up to that surgery, Knebel was one of the most effective relievers in baseball with a 2.54 ERA and a 2.74 FIP over 131.1 IP. Since returning from Tommy John, Knebel has still been somewhat effective, though he has yet to pitch even half a full season in 2020 or 2021 when his ERA has been 3.69 in 39 IP.
Should the Phillies sign Knebel, MLB Trade Rumors projects a deal for two years/$18 million, just $1 million more than Neris received with the Astros. Thus if the Phillies do ink Knebel today, they’ll have to be certain of his production, not wanting to repeat mistakes of the past with David Robertson.
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