The Phillies and new team president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski have made their first “major” move of the off-season, a three-team trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays in which they acquired left-handed reliever Jose Alvarado from the Rays in exchange for relief pitching prospect Garrett Cleavenger.
Alvarado didn’t pitch much in 2020, just nine innings as he dealt with injuries, and the year before posted a 4.80 ERA with seven saves in 30 innings. He struck out 11.7 batters per nine in ‘19 but also walked an astounding 8.1 per nine. However, he was lights out in 2018, with a 2.39 ERA and 2.27 FIP in 70 games with eight saves, an 11.3 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. He’s a large human being, 6-2, 245 pounds, but is young (26) with three years of team control left and at least one full of season of true high-end performance in high leverage situations for a quality bullpen.
Phillies acquired Jose Alvarado for the bullpen— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) December 30, 2020
Look at this 99MPH 2 seamer
The Phils simply don’t have anything like this in their bullpen, currently.
Can not emphasize how much of a Jose Alvarado fan I am.pic.twitter.com/DllrQVrl4O— Dan Wilson (@dan_wilson4) December 29, 2020
There’s no doubt the dude has some nasty stuff when he’s on, but he hasn’t been “on” in two years. Dombrowski is hoping to get a bounce back season from Alvarado and turn a player that had worn out his welcome in Tampa into a valuable late-inning left-handed option for Joe Girardi.
Where have we heard that before?
These are the types of moves every good team needs to hit on during the course of an off-season if they’re going to have regular season success. It’s impossible to sign 7 high quality free agents every year. Sometimes, teams need to find a couple bounce back guys, low-risk, high-reward players, and hit on them. Unfortunately, the Phils have been dreadful at this in recent seasons.
Last year, we tried talking ourselves into relievers Reggie McLain, Drew Storen, Bud Norris, Francisco Liriano, Deolis Guerra and outfielder Kyle Garlick. The last truly good under-the-radar move the Phils made was trading for Jose Alvarez, who was lost midway through last year after taking a line drive to his testicles but has been stellar since joining the team in 2019. Perhaps the team just needed to add another left-handed reliever named Jose A.
Whether it was bad luck or an inability to spot them, the Phillies have not found any diamonds in the rough in recent seasons, whether they be pitchers or hitters. Their analytics department has failed to unearth enough special gems and their coaching and development teams have not properly developed anyone either. One of the reasons former general manager Matt Klentak was removed from his position was that he did not find enough production from players for whom he didn’t have to pay top dollar.
The Phillies had an open spot on the 40-man roster so the move itself makes sense, and there are reasons to like Alvarado. His average fastball/sinker velocity was 96.9 mph last year in an injury-shortened season. In 2019, it was 98.2 mph.
#Rays cut payroll further by moving arb-eligible Alvarado. #Phillies gambling to try to boost pen on talented LH who had poor 2020 and bad shoulder. From 2017-19, Alvarado had a 3.27 ERA and averaged 10.8 Ks per 9IP. Lots of BBs, but just 4 HRs in 123.2IP.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 29, 2020
He would instantly become one of the ‘pen’s hardest throwers and a true weapon against left-handed NL East studs like Juan Soto and Freddie Freeman, but one must also be concerned as to why a franchise like Tampa, one of the smartest in the game, would decide they don’t want him around anymore. Sure he’s now hitting arbitration this year, but he’s only slated to earn $1 million this season and should be entering his prime. Concerns about his conditioning and health abound, so the move is not a slam dunk.
By now we know the Phillies are not going to spend like drunken sailors this off-season, and when building a bullpen, smart baseball people know you need to fire a lot of bullets in the hopes of hitting the target with some of them. Dombrowski’s first move as the man in charge is the acquisition of a powerful left-handed relief ace who has incredible stuff but has also been terribly inconsistent and a frustrating player for his last team.
These are the types of moves the Phillies have failed to come out on the winning side of and need to get right if they want to be a winning team once again.