On Sunday, the Phillies announced that longshot non-roster invitee Drew Hutchison had his contract selected by the team, adding him to the 40-man roster and giving him a spot in the bullpen on Opening Day. Hutchison was signed just two weeks before Spring Training and, at the time, seemed like pure pitching depth for camp. But, baseball being what it is, Jerad Eickhoff and Mark Leiter both got hurt, Hutchison pitched very well, and next thing you know, the Phils need a pitcher and he’s in the right place at the right time.
Hutchison, 27, who became a free agent by election after being outrighted off the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 40-man last September, first came to the Majors as a 21-year-old starting pitcher for Toronto. The former 15th-round pick sits 91-94 with his fastball as a starter, though he may be featured in more of a swing/hybrid role during this stint.The injuries to Leiter and EIckhoff, coupled with Arrieta’s first rotation turn needing to be skipped, necessitated a move for some extra length on the 25-man at the outset, and so Hutchison is the Phils’ man.
To make room on the 40-man, however, someone else had to be moved off. In a somewhat surprising twist, that man is catcher Cameron Rupp; he was designated for assignment. Rupp, 29, has appeared in games in each of the last five seasons for the Phils, hitting 39 homers and 57 doubles in 1,127 combined plate appearances along the way. He’s due to make just over $2 million this year as a first-time arbitration-eligible player.
Rupp, who had become the clear third string to Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp on the catching depth chart, did not need to be DFAed. Among the three catchers, Alfaro was the only one out of options. Yet, feeling as though they needed to maintain their utility options - Pedro Florimon, Roman Quinn and Jesmuel Valentin remain intact - and possibly weighing Rupp’s salary as a deterrent to potential claimants, the club chose to remove Cameron.
The next week will ultimately determine Rupp’s fate. Though he won’t be released if he clears waivers (I’d be stunned; again, this club could use a bit more depth ahead of Logan Moore, Edgar Cabral, Matt McBride and Nick Rickles), Rupp stands a decent chance of being claimed from those DFA waivers if the Phils don’t find a trade partner. Rupp has a power bat and, even if the claiming team doesn’t have a spot on their Major League team for him, the presence of his option year would enable them to start Rupp off in the minor leagues. Either way, we’ll know in about a week.
Rupp’s tenure was one marked by frustration over his strikeout-prone swing and sometimes absent defense, but there’s denying that when the man connected, he could send baseballs to the moon. He gave these last few years a good shot, playing hard for sunk teams without a real shot at the playoffs. Perhaps a change of scenery is what gets him to the next level in the end.
Rupp has since been released.