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 right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.
Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.
The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.
With the Braves on the cusp of formalizing their one-year deal with Kurt Suzuki, the market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters is dwindling. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick references an inside source that lists the Angels, Rockies and Reds as potential suitors for the 30-year-old’s services.
Wieters is coming off of an eight-year career with the Orioles. In 2016, he played through his first full year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and a .711 OPS in 464 PA. A return to Baltimore in 2017 isn’t out of the question, Crasnick writes, citing some within the team that would be open to Wieters stepping into a DH role and catching platoon with Wellington Castillo. However, he also points out that the front office appears divided on the veteran catcher, and sees the Orioles as a long shot for the foreseeable future.
The Angels have already been tied to Wieters this offseason, while the Rockies and Reds don’t appear to have made any formal inquiries so far. Both could use a veteran presence behind the dish, as the Rockies are planning to platoon rookie catcher Tom Murphy with 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the spring. The Reds, meanwhile, are banking on a quick recovery for 28-year-old Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of the 2016 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery and forced the club to rely almost exclusively on back-up backstop Tucker Barnhart.