A few late losses in the first stretch of the season does not seem to be enough impetus for the Phillies to change their course and make a splash by adding Craig Kimbrel.
The Phillies were hesitant at the start of the season to add another reliever, even though Kimbrel remained a free agent after his long-term contract demands created lukewarm interest. The Phillies, after a busy winter, have roughly $18 million to spend before hitting the luxury-tax threshold. Kimbrel, who made $13 million last year with Boston, would push them near the brink.
General manager Matt Klentak was asked before Wednesday night's series finale against the Nationals if anything had changed with the team's interest in adding Kimbrel.
"I feel really good about the construction of our bullpen," Klentak said after declining to mention Kimbrel by name because he is a free agent. "I am not blind. I know that some of our key guys have had some tough outings so far in the first 10 days. I've watched it, I know it. Some of them will have more bad outings. We're not going to pitch shutouts every single night but I like the depth that we have."
The Phillies lost Tuesday night when the bullpen collapsed after three relievers – Pat Neshek, David Robertson, and Adam Morgan – were rested by manager Gabe Kapler to preserve them for the rest of the season. The team's first loss of the season came last week in Washington when Robertson walked three straight batters, the final one coming with the bases loaded.
The Phillies invested $74 million the last two winters to add Neshek, Robertson, Juan Nicasio and Tommy Hunter. Nicasio, who is earning $9 million this year after being tacked on by Seattle in the Jean Segura trade, is not one of Kapler's trusted arms. Hunter is out for an indefinite time with an arm injury after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection last week.
The Phillies' bullpen is near the major-league average in ERA and has compiled the fourth-fewest innings in the National League. They have baseball's ninth-highest slugging percentage allowed, but it is still lower than the Mets, Braves and Marlins. The two losses stand out, but the there are much less-efficient bullpens in baseball that have been relied on more heavily than the Phillies.
The Phillies, after signing Harper, touted their financial flexibility and how they would not be handcuffed later in the season just because they landed the superstar free agent. Two tough losses in the season's first 10 games may not be enough for the Phillies to cash in that flexibility and make a move that will limit what they can do in June or July.
"I'm very encouraged by the fact that Robertson and Seranthony have looked much more like themselves in recent outings. Neshek and Morgan look like they're back to being the best version of themselves this year," Klentak said. "I'm encouraged that, in triple A, we have Victor Arano doing very well right now after a tough spring. Enyel De Los Santos punched out 10 in five innings the other day.
"I think we have reinforcements to come if and when we need them. I trust in the track record of our group. They're not going to be perfect every night. In the best of times, they're not going to be perfect every night and certainly, when you're facing lineups like the Washington Nationals, they're good hitters and sometimes they're going to get our guys and sometimes we're going to get theirs."