Phillies ‘exploring’ at winter meetings, and that could lead to bullpen and outfield additions

A bullpen and outfield addition could result from…….

The Phillies’ roster is mostly set, but Dave Dombrowski is keeping their options open for two smaller areas of need.

NASHVILLE — On Day 1 of baseball’s winter meetings, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said his club is “exploring” and “keeping an open mind.” This could mean anything, of course, but given the Phillies’ payroll and star power, they likely will look to improve around the margins.

Dombrowski has said in the past that his roster is mostly set, but on Monday, he mentioned two areas where they could add: in the bullpen and the outfield.

The market has been slow, as teams wait to see where bigger-name free agents will land, but once it does move, the Phillies could look to add a back-end/multi-inning reliever, and/or a bench outfielder. Dombrowski said they aren’t profiling a specific type of reliever, emphasizing that he feels good about the organization’s bullpen depth. He believes Orion Kerkering has the potential to contribute in some back-end innings, and cited Connor Brogdon, Andrew Bellatti, Yunior Marte, Luis Ortiz, and McKinley Moore as other pitchers who could help, too.

But you can never have enough pitching. If the Phillies choose to pursue a multi-inning reliever, right-handers Chris Stratton and Cuban pitcher Yariel Rodriguez would make sense. Both have experience starting, so they could be used in a versatile way. At 27, Rodriguez could command a higher price tag, but Stratton, 33, would fit within their price range.

Hicks has elite stuff but has had trouble with his command. Nevertheless, last season he took a step forward. He posted a 3.29 ERA in 65⅔ innings for St. Louis and Toronto, finishing his season with a 28.4% strikeout rate and a 11.2% walk rate. Both were improvements from his 2022 season (a 24% strikeout rate and a 13.3% walk rate).

From a stuff perspective, Hicks is definitely the type of pitcher Dombrowski would gravitate to. He averaged 100.1 mph on his sinker in 2023, and 100.3 mph on his four-seam fastball.

In their search for a backup outfielder, the Phillies will not be picky about handedness. They are unlikely to sign a star outfielder because they don’t want to block Johan Rojas, who they believe has promise. But if Rojas, who went 4-for-43 in the postseason, continues to struggle offensively, they want to protect themselves.

There are plenty of veteran outfielders — like Adam Duvall and Tommy Pham — who would be a fit. Whit Merrifield and Kiké Hernández are two other free-agent names to consider, since they have infield experience and could play all over.

For now, the Phillies will wait and see, just like the rest of the baseball world.

“We talked about our outfield situation,” Dombrowski said. “OK, we’re content there, but if there is something we see that makes us, we think, better there right now? OK, boom, we just go ahead and we jump on that.”

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