The Phillies made a minor trade with fun implications today, flipping outfield prospect Joey Curletta to the Seattle Mariners for switch pitcher Pat Venditte. Both Curletta and Venditte are off of 40-man rosters, so there will be no corresponding moves needed.
Curletta was the player to be named later in the Carlos Ruiz deal (the other two pieces being A.J. Ellis and RHP Tommy Bergjans). He was Rule 5 eligible this past season and didn’t make anyone's watch list. He is a big, thick outfielder with big right-handed power, but unfortunately, most scouts don’t think he will hit and he does not provide any defensive value. This was on display last year when he hit well in the hitters’ paradise of the Cal League (.267/.338/.496), but struggled after a promotion to Double-A where he hit .206/.280/.371 with a 34.6% strike out rate. He was slated to start the year with Reading once more.
Venditte has been more of a novelty than a dominant Major Leaguer so far in his career. At nearly 32 years old with a career 4.97 ERA, there is not a lot of untapped upside here. What his switch pitching hides is a pretty decent lefty reliever. For his career, lefties hit just .187/.244/.373 off of him. That is a fair bit of power allowed, but the on base suppression makes him a legitimate contender for a left-handed relief job for the Phillies. Ideally, he should only pitch right-handed if he is bridging himself to another left-handed batter. He will join the Phillies as a non-roster invite as soon as he is done pitching for Italy in the World Baseball Classic.
What this move really does is open up the Reading outfield, where the Phillies needed room for Carlos Tocci, Andrew Pullin, and Aaron Brown, as well as Christian Marrero, Cord Sandberg, Jiandido Tromp or Herlis Rodriguez, who could be on the bench or promoted from Clearwater. Given the Phillies outfield depth, Curletta had no real future with the Phillies and his breakout potential was likely on par with others in the Reading outfield fight. What the Phillies really lack is left-handed relief depth, and even if Venditte can’t be a factor in the Majors for the Phillies, he should help the IronPigs this season. So while the switch pitching makes Venditte exciting, his left arm is what makes him most appealing to the Phils.