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Phils add pair of relievers, but still work to do

Agreements reached with Neshek, Hunter; focus turns to starting pitching
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies left the Winter Meetings on Thursday with two relief pitchers and more work to do.

This week, Philadelphia reached agreements with right-handers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, although the team has not announced either deal. The Phils got both pitchers because they know they have too many question marks in the rotation. If they cannot improve the rotation, they could go with an eight-man bullpen, hoping to offset any struggles from a group of young and inconsistent starters.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies left the Winter Meetings on Thursday with two relief pitchers and more work to do.

This week, Philadelphia reached agreements with right-handers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, although the team has not announced either deal. The Phils got both pitchers because they know they have too many question marks in the rotation. If they cannot improve the rotation, they could go with an eight-man bullpen, hoping to offset any struggles from a group of young and inconsistent starters.

Phillies set to add Neshek | Hunter

"One of our goals for next year is to improve our run prevention in general," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said this week. "One way to do that is improve our starting pitching. Another way to do that is improve our bullpen. And the third way to do that is improve our team defense. Ideally, we'd improve in all those areas and take a giant step forward in run prevention."

What's next
It should be no surprise that Philly has turned its focus to starting pitching. Do not expect the Phils to pursue Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish. Philadelphia is not ready to drop $200 million on a starter, despite continued reports. Instead, it plans to be patient and see if the price for starters on the free-agent and trade markets drops.

"The market just hasn't developed yet to where I have a great sense for how that's going to play out," Klentak said. "We would like to do it if we can. We really like the group of young starters that we have at the big league level and those that are in Triple-A pushing them. We've got numbers in that area. We can take care of the innings with the players we have, and we can give reps to guys that we like and want to learn about, but we would also like to support that group with a veteran if we can."

Hot Stove Tracker

The Phillies will monitor the rest of the market, too. They remain interested in trading shortstop Freddy Galvis or second baseman Cesar Hernandez, but they believe teams are not offering enough to acquire them. The Athletic reported that the Angels thought the Phils were asking too much for Hernandez; the Halos have since acquired Ian Kinsler in a trade.

If Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich becomes available, the Phillies could try to get him. They love him and they have the talent to make a deal, but how much would they pay?

Speaking of pay, Philly is not expected to send a massive package of prospects for one season of Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado, who is unlikely to allow a team to negotiate a contract extension before he can become a free agent following the 2018 season. It is a better bet the Phillies would try to sign him as a free agent next offseason.

Video: Teams have made formal offers for Machado

Rule 5 Draft
The Phils selected right-hander Nick Burdi with the No. 3 pick, but they traded him to the Pirates for $500,000 in 2017-18 international signing bonus pool money. Philadelphia will have 40 players on the 40-man roster once it officially signs Neshek and Hunter.

The Phillies lost outfielder Carlos Tocci, whom the White Sox selected with the No. 4 pick. The White Sox traded him to the Rangers. He was the Phils' No. 23 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

Phils deal Rule 5 Draft pick Burdi for int'l money

GM's bottom line
"We've checked in with a bunch of teams on their young, controllable starting pitchers. Some of the responses have been, 'We don't want to give up such and such player.' Other responses have been, 'We want X, Y and Z,' which is too much. We're looking for that sweet spot where it's a player we like and the return matches our valuation. So far, nothing has worked out." -- Klentak

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies