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Report: Brewers to sign reliever David Phelps to one-year deal with option for 2021

David Stearns turns his depth-building approach to the bullpen, adding a veteran arm

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

David Stearns has addressed quite a few areas this offseason, but one of the few areas he hasn’t to this point has been the bullpen.

While Corey Knebel is expected back sometime after the first month of the season and Bobby Wahl is expected to be back from his torn ACL, middle relief has remained a bit of a question mark. It appears Stearns is now looking to build depth there as well.

Ken Rosenthal is reporting the Brewers are signing reliever David Phelps.

Phelps returned from Tommy John surgery last year to throw a combined 34.1 innings over 41 games with a 3.41 ERA for the Blue Jays and Cubs. He had a 3.18 ERA in Chicago after coming over in a trade dealine season deal, striking out 18 in 17 innings (although also walking 10). The penny-pinching Cubs decided to decline a $5 million option for 2020 at the start of the offseason, making him a free agent.

The right-hander will be 33 in 2020 and was a swingman for the Yankees before a full-time conversion to relief in 2016, when he put up a 2.28 ERA in 86.2 innings for the Marlins, striking out 114 batters that year (good for a career-best 11.8 K/9).

Statcast shows Phelps as having very good spin rates on both his fastball and curveball, although he did appear to lose a couple mph off his fastball in his first year back from the elbow surgery, seeing his average velocity fall from 94.7 mph in 2017 to 92.8 last year. His cutter also saw a dip in velo, from 91.2 mph to 89.6 mph last year.

Mark Feinsand of reports the deal is for $1.25 million in 2020, with up to an additional $1.9 million in performance bonuses. There’s also a 2021 team option (like just about every other deal Stearns has signed this offseason) worth $4.5 million with another $1.9 million in performance bonuses, but just a $250,000 buyout in the event the Brewers want to avoid paying that.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, Baseball Savant and Fangraphs