At some point, the Phillies are going to have to make some decisions. Roster spots are about to become precious commodities on the team thanks to players returning from rehab stints and the team will have to figure out the complex puzzle that is the 40-man roster. Sometimes it’s easy to decide who will get the boot from that group (a player out of options, someone who is making a lot of money that isn’t producing, etc.), but often there has to be a tough decision made about who needs to go in order for the team to improve.
First, we have to identify the players coming back from rehab stints. Jojo Romero has been moved to Reading for his rehab assignment, Sam Coonrod will start throwing bullpen sessions, then will need to go on a rehab assignment of his own. Kent Emanuel has moved to Lehigh Valley and is being stretched out as a starter. The team will have to figure out what they want to do with him during that time, if they want to put him back on the 40-man roster (he’s currently on the 60-day injured list) or if they can float him through waivers to keep him in the minors.
Whatever happens, if the team needs to open up a roster spot, there are several candidates that are trying their best to get moved off of the roster.
Familia is probably the most popular choice to go amongst the fans, thanks to his lack of production and his prior domestic violence issues. Even if we take that part out of the equation, he still hasn’t done anything on the field that deserves to guarantee him a spot on the roster.
The 5.33 ERA is the thing that most sticks out, but looking even beyond that, there isn’t much to make one think he should be given the benefit of the doubt. His strikeout rate is down, the thing he’s especially known for (groundballs), that rate is down and he’s giving up 2.05 home runs per nine innings. He’s given away so many games that at this point, the team is only really comfortable sending him to the mound when it is mop up duty. For $6 million, that can’t happen.
Unfortunately, that $6 million might be the reason the team keeps him around. Everyone needs a mop up guy, the one to pitch innings when the game is already spoken for and if they’re going to spend the money on Familia, they might figure they can use him in that role. It’s already a sunk cost; might as well get something semi-useful out of it. The wiser choice would be to realize that it is a sunk cost and move on to someone who might be more productive. When the team decided to exceed the luxury tax threshold, they signaled that money wouldn’t be much of a factor in decision making if the move they were going to make meant winning baseball games. Moving on from Familia would signal that is still the case as the season hurtles toward its midpoint.
In a fan poll, Alvarado might be a close second to Familia in terms of who they want to see gone. His constant bouts of wildness, tightrope walking outings and frustration over how good his stuff actually is might be enough for some people to throw in the towel on him.
The problem with Alvarado is always going to be the stuff. His Baseball Savant page tells you why.
Good whiff rate? 99th percentile.
Fastball velocity? 93rd percentile.
These are things the modern front office wants in a reliever - someone who can throw the ball really hard and get batters to miss it. When you look at his other numbers though, you can see where the frustration starts to build.
Walk rate? 2nd (!) percentile.
Barrel rate? 23rd percentile.
Hard hit rate? 20th percentile.
For a guy who throws this hard, one has to wonder how batters are always able to get good wood on the ball.
And that is why the decision to move on from Alvarado is so hard. There is almost no doubt that if he were released, another team is going to move on him. Left handed pitchers that can easily reach triple digits don’t come around often. Were he to go to the correct team, one that has a reputation for taking scraps from the waiver wire and turning them into gold, the likelihood that he became a solid reliever would increase. That fear, the one that another team would turn him around, is probably what is keeping him on the roster. In the offseason, as he is arbitration eligible, the equation might change a bit, but for now, Alvarado is probably sticking around.
Kelly was added to the 40-man roster when the team needed reinforcements thanks to injury and ineffectiveness.
He threw two nondescript innings, then was sent back to Lehigh Valley.
Of all the players that the team has on their 40-man roster, he is probably the most likely to be let go. His numbers in Lehigh aren’t exactly screaming for him to be kept around. While he is striking out a bunch of players in the minors, he’s also walking a ton and giving up a bunch of hits as well. He’s the quintessential 40th man on the 40-man roster.
His story is great, where he battled for years and years as a former first round pick who just kept battling to make it to the major leagues. He reached his goal this year with the Phillies, but unfortunately, he just hasn’t been good enough to merit holding the roster spot over other pitchers that are coming back from injury.
At some point, the team is going to have to upgrade themselves offensively. Even if they want to stick with the status quo, the status quo has been unable to produce consistently to help the team win. One might think that Mickey Moniak is the candidate here to move on, but the stigma of “1:1” is a tough one to shed. Since they have invested so much in him, it’s hard to just let him go without giving him the extended run of playing time he is probably going to go on.
Instead, Herrera is probably the one to go since he is out of minor league options, isn’t making a ton of money and really isn’t producing anything at all at the plate. His .230/.267/.401 and other numbers translate into an 83 wRC+, something that truly isn’t cutting it. Moniak is certainly not doing anything to show he is a better option than Herrera, but again, the team probably will want to give him a ton of playing time at the major league level, something he has never really gotten, before making a final decision on him this winter. Plus, giving Moniak some playing time couple with getting Matt Vierling on the field more often means that Herrera is probably going to get squeezed for playing time. He was given a bit of a reprieve when the team designated Oscar Mercado for assignment, possibly opening up another roster spot, but at some point, Herrera’s time in Philadelphia is going to draw to a close.
There is still a lot of time to make a decision. Of all the pitchers listed above that are due to return soon, only Romero is going to force the team to make a decision soon. Moving on from Mercado might help postpone the decision a bit longer, but these players listed here need to start to get their performance in better shape. Otherwise, it could be them on the chopping block next time a 40-man spot is needed.