Phillies acquire Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree in bullpen overhaul

If there’s one thing Matt Klentak gets an A+ for, it’s his ability to make something out of seemingly nothing. This was on display again yesterday when the GM pulled off a much needed trade with Boston, landing relief pitchers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree from the Boston Red Sox. The talented but remarkably inconsistent Nick Pivetta went to Boston in the deal, marking the end of a Phillies tenure that spanned parts of four seasons. Pitching prospect Connor Seabold also went over in the deal. It was initially reported that the Phils would receive $815,000 from Boston, but this has since been revised to the Red Sox including either a player to be named later or more funds at a later date.

For the Phillies the goal is clear; stabilize the worst bullpen in baseball by adding two reliable, if unspectacular right-handers. Workman — the centerpiece of the deal — is in
his final year of arbitration and will likely be looking for a multi-year deal in the offseason, making him a pure rental for this accelerated season’s stretch run. The 32-year-old Workman was outstanding last year, posting a 1.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 2.46 FIP over 71.2 innings pitched to compliment a terrific 13.1 K/9. He’s struggled a bit out of the gate in 2020, earning a 4.05 ERA and 1.80 WHIP through 7 appearances, but with such a small sample size it’s quite reasonable to believe he can regain his 2019 form.

Hembree represents a less flashy, but still useful upgrade to the Phillies’ miserable relief
corps, as he’s put up a lifetime 3.60 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 1.35 WHIP and 9.6 K/9 over 265.1 frames in his eight big league campaigns. A 31-year-old South Carolina native, Hembree has tossed 9.2 innings of uninspiring 5.59 ERA work this season, but if he can get back to being even a league-average arm his presence will do wonders for the ‘pen. With one more year of arbitration left on Hembree’s contract, Joe Girardi can hope to call on the big righty next season as well.

While the Phillies are clearly trying to push more chips into the center of the table in search of a playoff slot, this deal helps Boston’s current reset. Still just 27, Pivetta gives the Red Sox a pitcher with true strikeout stuff, but serious problems controlling it at the major league level. His ghastly 5.50 ERA and 1.43 WHIP don’t look much better next to a 4.64 FIP through 396.1 innings to this point in his career. However, a decent 9.6 K/9 will give the Red Sox some hope in trying to turn the erratic Canadian into a successful late bloomer. Pivetta — who was initially acquired by the Phillies in the deal for Jonathan Papelbon — was a popular breakout candidate prior to the 2019 campaign. Much of this had to do with an outstanding K/9 of 10.3 in 2018. The righty was just outside the top 10 in regards to K/9, so a rebuilding Boston club is no doubt eyeing that stat.

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As for Connor Seabold, the 24-year-old represents a strong lottery ticket for Boston. The former third-rounder twirled 56.1 innings of 2.24 ERA ball across three minor league levels this past season to go along with a strong 1.01 WHIP and 9.3 K/9. With his success based off more of a command approach as opposed to overpowering stuff, Seabold likely won’t become a staff ace anytime soon, but with a solid fastball-changeup-slider combination, he has a good chance to pitch well in meaningful games at Fenway Park at some point.

The Phillies also acquired right-hander David Hale from the Yankees earlier in the day. Hale was recently DFA’d, but not due to poor performance. He has been much better than what the Phillies are trotting out, though he’s only logged six innings on the year. The deal sent Phillies farmhand Addison Russ to New York, who would have been rule-5 eligible following the season.

The additions of Hale, Workman and Hembree represent a huge overhaul for a league worst Phillies bullpen. The team is slated to again take on Atlanta this evening following an 11-2 thrashing the night before. Zack Wheeler will get the start in a 7:10 start time as the Phillies look to snap a four game skid.

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