The Phillies have “serious interest” in free agent reliever Corey Knebel, report Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark of the Athletic (on Twitter). Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia adds that the club is “making progress” in discussions with the right-hander and his representatives at Excel Sports Management.
The Dodgers acquired the former All-Star closer from the Brewers last offseason. Knebel missed a good chunk of the year on account of a right lat strain, but he was very effective when healthy enough to pitch. He tossed 25 2/3 innings over 27 appearances, working to a 2.45 ERA with a strong 29.7% strikeout percentage and an average 8.9% walk rate. Knebel also induced ground-balls at a solid 45.9% clip.
It was an all-around strong bounceback showing for the 30-year-old, who was limited to just 13 1/3 ineffective innings between 2019-20 on account of an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Perhaps most encouragingly, his average fastball velocity bounced back to 96.3 MPH after dipping to 94.3 MPH during his immediate return from TJS in 2020. Not coincidentally, his swinging strike rate rebounded from 7.2% to a 12.7% clip that’s only a touch below where Knebel worked during his peak seasons.
Were the Phillies to come to an agreement with Knebel, he’d be a key addition to a bullpen that stands out as one of the weaker areas on the roster. The outfield might be the other area of greatest need, and Salisbury adds that Philadelphia has interest in free agent corner outfielder Kyle Schwarber. After a down 2020, the former fourth overall pick rebounded to mash at a .266/.374/.554 clip across 471 plate appearances between the Nationals and Red Sox.
A run at Schwarber would be far more expensive than a pursuit of Knebel, of course. MLBTR forecasts a two-year, $18MM deal for Knebel, while Schwarber’s projected deal checks in at four years and $70MM. Schwarber, who was ineligible to be tagged with a qualifying offer by virtue of a midseason trade from Washington to Boston, has again been linked to both of his 2021 clubs as a free agent. The division-rival Marlins have also been floated as a possibility as they try to rebuild their own outfield.