Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted last night that the Phillies are “strongly pursuing” set-up men to pitch the eighth inning behind closer Jonathan Papelbon, namely Edward Mujica. Passan says the Phillies are believed to be willing to go up to three years for such a bullpen piece.
Though it doesn’t make sense from a logical, team construction point of view, it does make sense because it’s Ruben Amaro at the helm. The Phillies already have a set-up man in Mike Adams, who will earn $7 million in 2014, the final guaranteed year of a two-year deal signed last off-season. Adams suffered from several injuries, including hip soreness, a back strain, biceps irritation, and a season-ending tear of his labrum and rotator cuff, so perhaps the team is skeptical of his ability to be healthy and effective. However, the bullpen is also chock full of high-upside arms, including lefties Antonio Bastardo and Jake Diekman, who finished the 2013 season with a 2.32 and 2.58 ERA, respectively, along with impressive strikeout rates.
With $127.5 million committed to eight players already, before factoring in arbitration-eligible players and pre-arbs, the Phillies have a limited amount of wiggle room unless they decide to ignore the $189 million luxury tax threshold, or last season’s Opening Day payroll under $160 million — attendance has been slipping fast at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies finished 16 games under .500, so they’re more than Marlon Byrd and a set-up man away from being a realistic contender in the NL East again.
Free agent closer Mark Melancon is entertaining at least two offers in the four-year, $60+ million ballpark, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. The teams thought to be in the running are the Giants and Nationals, with the Giants having a slight edge due to their strong interest in him last summer (per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick).
Crasnick also said that while the Giants are keeping tabs on the top three free agent closers this winter, the other two being Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, they’re leaning toward Melancon as a (slightly) more affordable option in the ‘pen. It’s worth noting that Melancon would not cost the Giants a draft pick if they decided to sign him.
Melancon had an outstanding season in 2016, nearly reaching career-best numbers with a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and 5.42 K/BB rate in 71 1/3 innings split between the Pirates and Nationals’ bullpens. The veteran right-hander earned his third career All-Star distinction after stifling opposing hitters with a 1.23 ERA and 7.9 K/9 rate in the first half, and went on to appear in his fourth consecutive playoff run.
Despite the Giants’ apparent lead in the bidding for Melancon, Rosenthal mentioned a third mystery team who might throw their hat in the ring as well. No clubs have been name-dropped as of yet.
Former Tigers infielder Casey McGehee has reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
It’s the fourth move the corner infielder has made in the last two seasons after seeing short-term stints with the Marlins, Giants and Tigers. He signed a minor league deal with the Tigers prior to the 2016 season, providing the club with some infield depth behind 24-year-old Nick Castellanos. When Castellanos hit the disabled list in August with a broken hand, McGehee was recalled from Triple-A Toledo for a 30-game stint and slashed .228/.260/.239 with one extra-base hit in 96 PA. His career batting line (.258/.317/.384 over eight seasons) isn’t too shabby, but his age and a long history of knee injuries puts a damper on his potential.
McGehee last appeared in the NPB circuit in 2013, when he signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He spent the bulk of his season at the hot corner, batting an impressive .292/.396/.515 with 28 homers in 590 PA and appearing in the Eagles’ first and only championship run to date.
The deal comes with a club option for 2018, Rosenthal reports, though no figure has been specified.