November 30, 2019
While the hot stove isn't going to really heat up until the Winter Meetings kick off next weekend, there have already been a few juicy rumors regarding the Phillies' plans during free agency this offseason. And Saturday brought about the latest of these rumors.
According to George A. King III of the New York Post, the Phillies are interested in a pair of Yankees free agents, righty reliever Dellin Betances and catcher Austine Romine. Previously, it was reported that the Phillies were also interested in shortstop Didi Gregorius, as the team now has some inside info on these players after hiring former Yankees manager Joe Girardi to replace Gabe Kapler earlier this fall.
We've already taken a look at the Phillies' reported interest in Gregorius, so let's take a closer look at the two new names: Betances and Romine.
The right-handed reliever is a four-time All-Star and has been one of the best relievers in baseball in recent years. And given the state of the Phillies bullpen, Betances would be a welcome addition to the roster. Of course, there is at least some cause for concern with the 31-year-old Washington Heights native — but that same concern could also lower the asking price for the skilled reliever.
If Betances, an All-Star from 2014-17, had come close to matching the previous five seasons in which he worked a total of 349 games, allowed 218 hits and struck out 607 batters in 373.1 he easily would have been the top reliever on the free-agent market this offseason.
But because of a right shoulder impingement discovered in spring training and an oblique injury that surfaced in June, Betances’ season consisted of facing two Blue Jays batters, who each struck out looking, on Sept. 15 in Toronto. The next day, it was found Betances had a partial tear in his left Achilles tendon. That injury didn’t require surgery, but ended his season.
Instead of entering free agency with a chance to land a four-year deal that would have dwarfed the recent $34 million for four years that 31-year-old lefty Drew Pomeranz got from the Padres after two strong months in relief this past season for the Brewers, it is hard to gauge what Betances will receive after making $7.125 million this past year. [nypost.com]
Given the injury problems suffered by the Phillies bullpen last season, it wouldn't be crazy for them to be hesitant to sign a guy coming off multiple injuries in 2019. Then again, several of the bullpen arms that went down for Philly last year were guys who had little to no injury history, so maybe they learned that they can't control those things as much as they'd like.
Either way, Betances and his 6-foot-8, 265-pound frame would be a nice addition to the Phillies bullpen.
This might be around the point where you're wondering why the Phillies, who have arguably the best catcher in all of baseball, would be looking to add another catcher in free agency.
Don't worry, Romine isn't coming for J.T. Realmuto's job; he would simply be brought in Realmuto's backup. That's the role he played (and played well) last season in the Bronx behind Gary Sanchez. In the last two seasons (149 games), the 31-year-old catcher hit .262 with 18 homers and 77 RBI. However, Romine could be looking for a starting job — or at least a platoon situation that would guarantee him some decent playing time — and the Phillies are certainly not the place for that. On top of that, the market for a guy like Romine might already be too rich for the Phillies after the Braves signed Travis d'Arnaud to a two-year, $16 million deal earlier this offseason.
The one saving grace for the Phillies, however, could be Girardi, as Romine, like Betances, has spent his entire MLB career with the Yankees dating back to 2011, meaning he played parts of six seasons under the new Phillies manager. Perhaps there's a relationship there that could save the Phillies a little money or convince Romine to take a lesser deal to play under a familiar face.
Either way, backup catcher isn't the biggest concern for the Phillies right now. And if they weren't able to land a guy like Romine because they wanted to put some of that money into, say, signing a pitcher, it would probably be money well spent.
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