Finding a Match for Amir Garrett: Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies, despite being only four games above .500 (52-48), are only 0.5 a game out of a wild card spot. Their playoff odds are hovering around 25 percent, according to FanGraphs. The main reason for the Phillies’ struggles this season has been their bullpen. As a whole, their relievers have combined for -0.7 fWAR, which is the second lowest total among all MLB teams.

David Robertson, who signed a two-year / $23 million contract this past offseason, has missed all of the 2019 season with an elbow injury, and their closer, Hector Neris, has imploded of late. Since June 13th, Neris has a 9.00 ERA, 8.12 FIP, and a 5.19 xFIP in 13 innings pitched. He’s allowed five home runs in that time. Seranthony Dominguez, who pitched exceptionally well down the stretch in 2018 (2.95 ERA, 11.48 K/9, and a 3.41 BB/9), was recently placed on the 60-day injured list (elbow).

All things considered, it’s very clear that the Phillies could use some additional quality bullpen arms, and that’s where the Cincinnati Reds come in. Currently sitting eight games below .500, the Reds will presumably listen to offers on several of their bullpen pieces, including Raisel Iglesias and Amir Garrett.

There is a lot to like about Reds closer Raisel Igleisas despite his sub-par performance this season. Still only 29 years old, Iglesias has two additional seasons left on his contract, both of which come at a fairly reasonable price. He’ll be owned less than $3 million for the remainder of the 2019 campaign.

  • 2020: $9 million
  • 2021: $9.125 million

It is my belief that Iglesias, who has given up at least one run and home run in each of his last three appearances, will end up staying with the Reds because Cincinnati will have no desire to sell low on him. His current ERA is 4.60, which would be the highest it’s ever been in his career. His earned run average was below 2.55 in three straight years prior to this season. Also, since the Reds are hoping to compete in 2020, Iglesias still fits their window of contention (which is just starting to creep open).

Contrary to Raisel Iglesias, Amir Garrett’s trade value is the highest it has ever been. Garrett is pitching to the tune of a 1.88 ERA, 3.07 FIP, and a 3.13 xFIP. He’s increased his ground ball rate by nearly 15 percent and he is striking out hitters at the highest clip of his career…

GB% / K/9

  • 2017: 43.4 / 8.02
  • 2018: 38.0 / 10.14
  • 2019: 52.6 / 13.38

Garrett has four seasons left on his contract (2021 will be his first of three seasons of arbitration eligibility); he won’t be a free agent until after the 2023 campaign. It could be wise of the Reds to sell high on Garrett if teams are willing to pay up for the talent southpaw reliever.

Photo: 12up.com

One of these teams could very well be the Phillies. In trading for Garrett, Philadelphia would not only be improving their bullpen, but also removing one more quality relief pitcher off the market. Competing teams like the Cubs, Braves, and Cardinals will all (probably) be looking to bolster their pen in the next week or so.

Here’s a deal that I could see happening…

Philadelphia Phillies trade OF Nick Williams and RHP Francisco Morales to the Cincinnati Reds in return for LHP Amir Garrett

Outfielder Nick Williams has struggled this season in the limited playing time he’s received in the majors (due entirely to the signings of Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen, as well as the trade for Jay Bruce), but he has previously established himself as an above-hitter at the MLB level…

PA / wRC+ (100 is league average)

  • 2017: 343 / 111
  • 2018: 448 / 103
Photo: USA Today Images

A trade would give Williams a much-needed change of scenery, and he could assume the starting job in right field in 2020, as Yasiel Puig is an impending free agent.

As for Francisco Morales, he is a teenage pitching prospect (19 years old) playing at single-A. He has a 3.99 ERA, 3.73 FIP, and a 3.14 xFIP in 65.1 innings. Morales has a high strikeout rate (12.40 K/9), but struggles with his control (4.13 BB/9). He’s ranked by FanGraphs as the 9th best prospect in the Phillies organization. Here is what Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel had to say about Morales’ upside back in January…

Morales’ stuff is good enough that, even if he turns into a crass, imprecise strike-thrower, it gives him a sizable margin for error within the hitting zone. He’ll also have to develop a better changeup. There’s mid-rotation upside here if that stuff comes, but it’s more likely Morales will be a dominant bullpen piece or inefficient backend starter.

Ultimately, this trade could benefit both teams involved. The Phillies would be geting a quality reliever in Amir Garrett and the Reds would net their Yasiel Puig replacement for next season in Nick Williams. Francisco Morales sweetens the pot and flashes the upside of a mid-rotation starter.

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