Jordan Hicks Is the Perfect Fit for the Phillies’ Roster

Flame-throwing righty Jordan Hicks is exactly what the Phillies need, although the two sides haven't been linked yet this winter.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - AUGUST 07: Closer Jordan Hicks #12 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after getting the final out against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on August 07, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Blue Jays defeated the Guardians 3-1. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Phillies fans are getting restless.

It’s no surprise; Dave Dombrowski has made some huge additions in each of the past two offseasons, signing All-Stars Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, and Trea Turner. This year, however, the team’s big star signing was fairly anticlimactic. It’s great that Aaron Nola isn’t going anywhere, but re-signing Nola doesn’t make the Phillies any better.

Yet truth be told, Philadelphia doesn’t have many places to improve. After all, we’re talking about a team that has reached the NLCS in back-to-back years. They may not be the Braves or the Dodgers, but they’re easily the third-best team in the National League.

The Phillies have five starters for the rotation. They could use some more depth, but they don’t need to go out and sign Jordan Montgomery or Blake Snell – no matter what the rumor mill would have you believe.

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They also have a lineup filled with talented players from one to nine. Dombrowski could add a piece in the outfield, but Johan Rojas plays a strong enough center field that the Phils don’t have to upgrade unless they make the right deal with the right player.

That leaves the bullpen as the only obvious place for a major free agent acquisition. The Phillies already have one of the nastiest arm barns in baseball, replete with dominant back-end talent and serviceable minor league depth. Still, they have one or two Opening Day bullpen spots up for grabs.

Here’s an approximation of what the Phillies bullpen would look like if the season started tomorrow:

Pitcher2023 Key Stats2024 Steamer Projections
José Alvarado (LHP)41.1 IP, 1.74 ERA, 1.3 fWAR3.02 ERA, 1.2 WAR
Seranthony Domínguez50 IP, 3.78 ERA, 0.1 fWAR3.95 ERA, 0.6 WAR
Gregory Soto (LHP)60.1 IP, 4.62 ERA, 0.9 fWAR3.60 ERA, 0.6 WAR
Jeff Hoffman52.1 IP, 2.41 ERA, 1.5 fWAR3.87 ERA, 0.6 WAR
Matt Strahm (LHP)54.1 IP (relief), 2.82 ERA, 0.9 fWAR3.54 ERA, 0.8 WAR
Orion KerkeringMiLB: 53.2 IP, 1.51 ERA, 79 K3.74 ERA, 0.6 WAR
Dylan Covey43 IP, 3.77 ERA, 0.0 fWAR4.30 ERA, 0.2 WAR
Andrew Bellatti24.2 IP, 5.11 ERA, 0.1 fWAR4.42 ERA, 0.2 WAR
AdditionAL Depth
Yunior Marte39.1 IP, 5.03 ERA, 0.2 fWAR4.11 ERA, 0.3 WAR
Connor Brogdon28.1 IP, 4.13 ERA, -0.1 fWAR4.39 ERA, 0.1 WAR
Luis F. Ortiz19 IP, 3.32 ERA, 0.2 fWAR4.32 ERA, 0.1 WAR
Nick NelsonMiLB: 20 GS, 97.1 IP, 4.35 ERA63 IP, 4.79 ERA, 0.3 fWAR
José Ruiz44.1 IP, 5.89 ERA, -0.6 fWAR21 IP, 4.31 ERA, 0.1 fWAR
Stats via FanGraphs

Barring an injury, those first six spots – from Alvarado to Kerkering – are set in stone. Dylan Covey was surprisingly effective in a mop-up role last season, but he’s out of options, so the Phillies shouldn’t be afraid to cut him and his $850,000 salary if a better option is available.

More importantly, though, Philadelphia can’t go into 2024 with Andrew Bellatti (or Yunior Marte/Connor Brogdon/etc.) on the Opening Day roster. Bellatti was terrific in 2022, but whatever magic beans he was using lost their powers this past season:

Andrew Bellatti stats (via FanGraphs)

Simply put, the Phillies can’t just wait around for Bellatti to figure things out – they’ve already tried that. It’s a similar story with Connor Brogdon, who looked like a shell of his former self in 2023.

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Thus, if nothing else, the Phillies need a better solution for that final spot in the bullpen.

And this is where Jordan Hicks enters the picture.

Dombrowski likes hard-throwing, high-ceiling pitchers. It’s why he targeted guys like José Alvarado, Gregory Soto, and Jeff Hoffman. It’s why he promoted Orion Kerkering so aggressively last fall.

He also likes experienced bullpen arms. There’s a reason he signed Craig Kimbrel last season and Brad Hand the year before.

Jordan Hicks is the rare breed of pitcher who fits both descriptions. He has reached at least 60 innings pitched in three separate seasons. He has 32 career saves, a 3.65 ERA, and 2.6 fWAR in 217 innings of relief.

Yet even so, he has untapped potential. At just 27 years old, Hicks is young for a free agent. His 100-mph sinker is tantalizing, especially for the Phillies, who throw more sinkers than almost any other team. With a few tweaks, pitching coach Caleb Cotham could turn Hicks into another Alvarado — in other words, one of the best relievers in baseball.

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Perhaps that’s too much to ask, but Cotham has set high expectations with his excellent work over the last few years. Phillies fans have come to expect at least one breakout bullpen arm every season.

On the financial side, the Phillies should be able to offer whatever Hicks commands.

According to the Roster Resource estimate, Philadelphia is approximately $5 million away from the second tier of luxury tax penalties; it’s hard to imagine the Phils won’t cross that line before Opening Day, especially if they’re planning to extend Zack Wheeler this winter.

In that case, Dombrowski has about $25 million to spend before pushing the team into another level of penalties. That should be more than enough to give Wheeler a raise, sign Hicks, and still have money left over to fill out the roster and address gaps at the trade deadline.

However, Hicks won’t just land in the Phillies’ lap. Indeed, they could have quite a bit of competition for the young hurler. Most recently, the Yankees expressed interest in Hicks, and by all indications, they’re going to be aggressive in their pursuit of pitching this winter.

Other teams in the mix for Hicks include the Cardinals, Angels, Rangers, Red Sox, and Astros. With so much competition for his services, it’s safe to presume he’ll find a lucrative, multi-year deal. The Phillies shouldn’t be afraid to make the winning offer.

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Philadelphia, strangely enough, has not been linked to Hicks, despite what is seemingly an excellent fit. To be fair, Dombrowski runs a pretty tight ship, and the Phillies don’t usually leak much information. Yet given some of the players they have been linked to — Josh Hader chief among them — it’s surprising Hicks hasn’t come up in more speculation.

The Phillies prefer not to have a set closer, and Hader is certainly looking to close. Moreover, they already have three southpaws in the pen: Alvarado, Soto, and Matt Strahm. Finally, at the salary Hader will surely command, Dombrowski may not be able to extend Wheeler and fill out the rest of the roster without going over the third CBT threshold.

Not to mention, Hader rejected a qualifying offer, so he would also cost the Phillies multiple draft picks and international bonus pool money.

Don’t get me wrong, for a team in need of a closer, Hader is worth all that and more. But the Phillies aren’t that team. Why pay a premium when you can get exactly what you need for a more reasonable price?

Hicks isn’t as dominant as Hader, but he’s a better fit for the Phillies’ roster. On top of that, he’d cost significantly less in terms of guaranteed money, annual salary, and future talent.

Jordan Hicks isn’t a perennial All-Star. He won’t earn a nine-figure deal. If he signs with the Phillies, it won’t be the front page headline of the next day’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Still, he might just be the best fit for the Phillies of any player remaining on the open market. And if Hicks is Dombrowski’s biggest acquisition this winter, I’d call this this offseason a success.

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