An issue that has plagued the Philadelphia Phillies over the course of the previous decade has been their bullpen, more importantly, their closers. In his press conference at the end of the season, Phillies' President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said, "We need to be better closing games, there's no question about that."
Dombrowski emphasized this after Philadelphia's bullpen was one of the worst when it came to closing out games in 2021. Their bullpen had the second-highest amount of blown saves in the majors with 34, behind only the Washington Nationals, who had 36.
When the Phillies called to the bullpen to close out a game, it was never pretty. In save situations, Philadelphia had an ERA of 5.00, allowing 30 home runs and 82 runs. By the end of the season, the Phillies had a save percentage of 51%, far from good, but it's not the lowest it's been.
The Phillies bullpen is an issue that Dombrowski inherited when he was hired in Dec. 2020.
Season after season the bullpen has been streaky, and one of the worst when it comes to being reliable in save situations. The bullpen took a turn for the worse in 2020 after the previous two seasons saw the Phillies bullpen rank 24th in blown saves in 2018, and tied for 15th in 2019.
For the last three seasons, Hector Neris has been the Phillies' closer. During this time, Neris produced a save percentage of 74%, which isn't horrible, but not enough to keep him in the closer's role. After the Phillies exhausted their options internally at closer in 2021, Dombrowski has elected to look elsewhere for 2022. While Neris' contract expired at the end of the season, and will likely not return to the closer's role, he found success elsewhere as a set-up/middle innings man. His performance in this role should be enough to earn him a contract for 2022.
If Philadelphia doesn't re-sign Neris, who would take the reins as the Phillies' closer, according to Dombrowski, isn't anyone in the current clubhouse. "I don't think we have anybody right now that I would say on our staff that we would anoint as our closer next year," said Dombrowski.
If the Phillies aren't able to re-sign Neris or find someone within their organization to replace him, they have limited options for free-agent closers. The top option would be Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, whose contract expired at the end of the season.
If Jansen doesn't re-sign with the Dodgers, it would be the end of an era for Jansen and the Dodgers. The three-time All-Star would fit in well with Philadelphia's bullpen, as he saved 38 games, with a save percentage of 88% in 2021.
Another option for the Phillies to look at is Oakland Athletics' closer Trevor Rosenthal. The elephant in the room with Rosenthal is his durability and injury history, as he missed the entire 2021 season due to a torn hip labrum. Prior to 2021, Rosenthal missed the 2017 season after having to get Tommy John surgery, and this carried into 2018, missing time due to recovering from the procedure.
When Rosenthal has taken the mound in the past, he has been a solid closer. In 2015 with the St. Louis Cardinals, he posted a save percentage of 94%, as well as his first and only All-Star Game appearance.
Acquiring Rosenthal would be taking a large chance which Dombrowski and the rest of the Philadelphia front office might not be up to taking a risk that big.
Regardless of how they do it, Dombrowski has made fixing the bullpen, specifically the closer role, a top priority. Now it's time to see how they do it.
Deputy Editor Lauren Amour contributed to this article.
More From SI's Inside The Phillies:
- Harper Named MVP Finalist, Wheeler Named Cy Young Finalist
- Predicting the Phillies 2022 Opening Day Roster
- Phillies Season in Review: Bryce Harper