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The Philadelphia Phillies could use a guy like Blake Treinen.
Catching up on some MLB Network Friday morning, the channel’s group of panelists did a bit on which current free agent reliever is the most deserving of a two-year contract. They were picking between Blake Treinen, Shane Greene, Archie Bradley, and Anthony Bass. The player that they universally decided on? Reigning World Series champion Treinen, a player that the Philadelphia Phillies were heavily linked to during last year’s offseason.

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A seven-year veteran, Treinen has had a very productive career as a major league reliever. He has 72 saves across 372 appearances, and boasts a career ERA of 3.02. His best season came in 2018 with the Oakland Athletics, where he recorded a 0.81 ERA across 80.1 innings, earning his first All-Star game nod.

The LA Dodgers scooped up the veteran right-hander on a one-year deal last winter in hopes that he would solidly their bullpen for a potential World Series run – and he did just that. Treinen finished the year with a 3.86 ERA, and didn’t allow a run during his NLWC and NLDS appearances.

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Reliever Connor Brogdon made his Phillies’ debut on Aug. 13 with the Phils trailing 6-2 in the top of the eighth inning during that dreaded three-game series vs. Baltimore. And in typical Phillies 2020 bullpen fashion, he almost immediately gave up a three-run homerun. Despite this, Joe Girardi elected to leave the rookie in for the ninth, which, of course, promptly backfired when Brogdon surrendered a two-run homerun, extending the Orioles’ lead to 11-4.

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My heart broke for the rookie. Due to the unfortunate circumstances he was put in, and it being his debut, I decided to not lump Brogdon in with the rest of the bullpen. I felt he still had potential, and that the Phillies’ bullpen curse didn’t completely overtake him just yet.

Following his debut, Brogdon was then optioned and recalled to and from Lehigh Valley countless times. When the righty, sporting a 16.88 ERA, finally returned to action on Sept. 13 vs. Miami, (you know, that fateful seven-game series) I was pleasantly surprised when he miraculously got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam. From this moment forward, Brogdon was lights out. In six September appearances, Brogdon only allowed one hit, two walks, and struck out 14. His opponent’s BA was just .037, and his ERA never climbed above zero.

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Brogdon relied most heavily on his four-seam fastball, peaking at around 97 mph, which often generated fly balls and had well-above-average velocity. His change-up, peaking at 84 mph, and cutter, peaking at 89 mph, both elicited a high number of swings and misses.

The 25-year-old was probably the Phillies’ most reliable bullpen arm during the month of September. In his final two appearances of the 2020 season vs. the eventual American League champion Tampa Bay Rays, Brogdon struck out the side in two relief appearances on Sept. 25 and 26. I just think that’s neat!

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And something I still find myself lying awake at night thinking about is if Girardi decided to use Brogdon instead of Brandon Workman on Sept. 22 vs. the Nationals, the Phillies most likely would have made the postseason. Workman entered the game and instantly surrendered a walk-off two-run homerun (typical) to rookie Yadiel Hernández, the first and only homerun of his career so far (you can’t make this stuff up.) All I’m saying is that if Girardi went with Brogdon instead, whose numbers had been trending well and had been shut down in relief, the Phils might have held onto their lead, won the game, and maybe even made the postseason.

But I digress. Everything happens for a reason, I suppose.

The bad:

August 13th, 19th, and 20th. I’ve already mentioned what happened on Aug. 13, but the 19th and 20th were just as bad for Brogdon. In 1.1 IP, he allowed one hit, two ER, two walks, one homerun, and posted a 13.50 ERA. He fit right in with the Phillies bullpen in August!

The future:

There are still a lot of questions to be answered about Connor Brogdon in 2021. Will he be the reliable, shutdown reliever we saw in September? Or the unpredictable, shaky one we saw during his first three games in August? It’s hard to say over a sample size of only nine games.

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I truly believe Brogdon could be a solid arm in the bullpen in 2021, similar to how Jojo Romero could be. Both Brogdon and Romero struggled at some point during 2020, but it was their rookie seasons and they were thrown into an absolute mess of a bullpen, so I would not write them off just yet. And honestly, their struggles weren’t too bad compared to some of the other guys we saw out of the Phillies’ bullpen (*shudders in Heath Hembree*)

But I believe the Phillies’ youthful arms will not be able to meet their full potential until proven, veteran arms are brought in. The organization is doing its rookie relievers a disservice by not surrounding them with experienced and effective pitchers in the bullpen. Luckily, the hiring of Caleb Cotham as pitching coach will definitely help in this respect, but the team must build around their young relievers if they want to be successful.

Overall, 2021 will certainly be a year for Brogdon to prove himself and what he brings to the Phils’ bullpen. I am interested to see how he fares in a non-shortened season. There’s no doubt about it, the dude’s got stuff, which we saw during September, but will the late-season success he had in 2020 sustain itself in 2021?

When it comes to the Philadelphia Phillies pretty much anyone would be an upgrade to their league-worst bullpen, however, Treinen in particular looks like a guy who could stabilize things for Philly. Not only is he a proven player coming off a successful World Series win, but he also fits the bill in terms of what Joe Girardi tends to prioritize out of his high-leverage arms.

In 2020, Girardi made a point of leaning on “veteran experience” when it came to late-inning outings. He repeatedly tried to make Brandon Workman work (no pun intended) out as the team’s closer, and guys like David Phelps and Heath Hembree routinely saw important innings as well.

Fans got frustrated with this philosophy, calling for the likes of JoJo Romero and Connor Brogdon instead. While clearly Workman wasn’t the answer at closer, there was some legitimacy to Girardi not wanting to turn the reigns over to the young guns. Romero increasingly got worse and worse as the regular season progressed, really highlighting the need for a legit, veteran bullpen arm.

Outside of Treinen just being a solid relief arm, his past experience as an effective closer would allow Girardi to move Hector Neris out of the closer position entirely. The recently re-signed right-hander has long been a controversial figure amongst Philadelphia Phillies fans, with the general consensus being that he’s better fitted for a 7th/8th inning role. His analytic numbers always look decent, but his inability to keep his composure in save situations is borderline impossible to ignore.

By signing Treinen, Neris could slide into the team’s set-up role. A likely better fit for the 31 year old reliever.

NEXT: Philadelphia Phillies: This is the perfect lineup for the 2021 season
Treinen turns 33 in June, so there’s reason to pause when it comes to handing over a massive two-year deal. However, the Phillies can’t get too picky here. They need bullpen help, and they need it now. Inking Treinen to a two-year deal, with the second year being a club-option, seems like it would be a win-win scenario for both sides.

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In some ways, anything like this is folly when a team has already hired Dave Dombrowski as President of Baseball. The Phillies clearly aren’t going to wait around for Theo Epstein to finish his year with a Eurorail pass as he takes up poetry or dyes his hair purple or whatever means of self-discovery he has planned for his year off. The Phillies likely won’t embark on some multi-year reshaping either, based on Dombrowski’s history. Maybe Dombrowski wants to try something new, but considering what the Phillies have already invested and their lack of prospects, they’re not itching to take any steps backward either.

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And nor should they. While spending three straight years in the absolute pit of the middle suggests an incurable inertia, you could also make the argument that it means they’re also not that far away. The more you go all out and still end up as far from the horizon as you were, the more it feels intractable. But the Phillies aren’t there yet.

So what faces Dombrowski and the Fightin’s? There are a couple of obvious problems. The glaring one, with the gas leak and flames shooting out of the doorway, is the bullpen. This pretty much tells you everything you need to know about 2020:

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Over a full baseball season, that would be 37 losses. That’s NC-17. The pen wasn’t healthy, but even if it had been, it was filled with far too many relievers over 30 who, when they got really volatile, walked way too many hitters. Most of that unit has been culled, but at the moment this is who’s listed as the Philly pen on RosterResource from FanGraphs:

From these minor leaguers, the higher-ups expected one mid-rotation piece and –if lucky– a five-slot hurler or setup man. Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez turned out to be those two. With progress, Eflin could even be a two-slot arm, and Velasquez is a candidate for a “seventh or eighth inning” role.

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Many locals bemoan the trade of Sixto Sanchez for Realmuto because they consider the flamethrower to be an ace. Realistically, Sanchez may not make the Miami Marlins roster in spring training. Translation: He only baffles clubs in his first start against them.

Sanchez, 22:

First starts: 6 Gms., 37 Inn., 12 R, 12 ER, 3-1, a 2.92 ERA with 35 SO and 7 BB.
Other starts: 3 Gms., 10 Inn., 13 R, 13 ER, 0-2, an 11.70 ERA with 6 SO and 9 BB.
The Fightins hoped Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, and two starters from their restructuring deals would pan out. Then, the farm system and free agency would plug the holes in the offense and overall pitching.

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For ‘20, the New York Yankees spent $324 million for Gerrit Cole as the final piece for a World Series victory, then they would take a one-year hit with the Luxury Tax penalty before sliding under the CBT for ‘21. Well, it worked on paper after 103 triumphs in ‘19, didn’t it?

In 2018, the Phillies were a surprising 80-82 after a 66-win 2017. But 2019’s relief corps had eight injured relievers, and only Hector Neris and Jose Alvarez were healthy. And why was 2020’s pen without Robertson, Seranthony Dominguez, Ranger Suarez and Victor Arano? Surgery or the coronavirus!

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Hector Neris, Connor Brogdon, Ranger Suarez, David Hale, Victor Arano, Ian Hamilton, Johan Quezada, and Cole Irvin. That’s a whole lot of not much.

The Dombrowski method says throw $10-12 million a year at Liam Hendriks and call it a day. And the Phillies very well might, and should, do that. Yes, Hendriks is over 30 as well, and his past two years of dominance are largely based on a jump in velocity that won’t hold forever. Still, a three-year deal probably gets you at least two years of massive improvement at the sharp end of the pen.

That doesn’t mean the Phillies should stop there. They should have a ton of cash to spend, but might be pulling the same bullshit act that you see other big market teams not named the Dodgers are pulling after one season of losses. While they’ve denied that Zack Wheeler is on the block after that rumor spilled out of the generally waste-filled “Buster Olney Container,” the fact that it appeared at all is worrying for Phillies fans. Still, even with estimated arbitration costs, they’re on the hook for about $140 million. For this team, even facing the prospect of part or all of another season without fans, that should be manageable. Now’s a good time to remind everyone of the Phillies’ TV contract.

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So buying another reliever off the market, especially a devalued one, shouldn’t be beyond them and Dombrowski. Brad Hand passed through waivers owed only $10 million, which isn’t a ton for a reliever that has had an ERA over 3.00 once in the past five seasons (and the FIP to match). With every team passing on him through waivers, they must feel that they can get him for just one or two years for less as a free agent. $7 million? Less? The addition of Hendriks and Hand for less than $20 million solves a lot of problems in 2021.

But teams that pour a lot of resources into the pen tend to get burned. It’s a bullpen, it’s unpredictable, and previously dominant relievers end up sitting on the mound, staring at the ground and sucking their thumb in July for no discernable reason. So let’s get a little creative.