The Philadelphia Phillies have agreed to terms on a one year, $10M contract with relief pitcher Corey Knebel. The agreement was first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan and later confirmed by the team. 

 MLB Network’s Jon Heyman was first with the terms of the deal.

Background

Knebel is a 30-year-old right-handed reliever who has been in the Majors for seven seasons. He debuted for the Tigers in 2014 before emerging as an All-Star with the Brewers. Milwaukee traded Knebel to the Dodgers following 2020. He appeared in 27 games for Los Angeles in 2021 and posted a 2.45 ERA in 25.2 innings with an opponent’s OPS of .522. His best season was in 2017 when Knebel led all relievers with 76 appearances and posted a 1.78 ERA with 39 saves as the closer for the Milwaukee Brewers. Knebel has nasty stuff, featuring a fastball that averaged 96 MPH last year and a curveball that is among the top half of the league in spin rate and averaged a hair under 80 MPH in 2021. The right hander boasts a career 33.6 strikeout percentage. 

However, the caveat with Knebel is his injury history. A strained right lat muscle suffered in April cost him most of 2021. Knebel also underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019 in Milwaukee and was designated for assignment by the Brewers. He returned to Milwaukee in 2020 and struggled in the shortened season, posting a 6.08 ERA in 15 appearances. In total, Knebel has thrown just 39 innings since the end of 2018. 

Instant Reaction

Knebel is a good first step by Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies at once again rebuilding their bullpen. When healthy, Knebel has the ability and experience to serve as either a closer or a late-inning setup man. The way he pitched after returning from injury in 2021 lends hope to the idea Knebel has rebounded from his poor 2020. However, penciling him in as the closer in 2022 is risky considering his recent health. The Phillies would be much better off if they envision Knebel pitching in the 8th and with a yet-to-be acquired closer in the ninth. 

It is yet to be determined just where the Phillies plan to use Knebel. Regardless, they still need at least one more relief option that can be counted on, as last year’s best reliever Hector Neris is now in Houston after signing a 2 year, $17M deal with the Astros earlier this week. But, with a lockout looming at midnight for MLB, Philadelphia will most likely have to wait until a new collective bargaining agreement is settled.