With Opening Day less than a week away, the Phillies continue to make roster moves and transactions in order to get the roster down to 25 players. The final Spring Training game is set for later this afternoon, and then the team will travel to Atlanta to take on the Braves Thursday for Opening Day. While there are still moves left to be made to get the roster to 25 players, the last few days have brought a plethora of deals, cuts and movement to stir the pot for the time being. Let’s take a look back at what the Phillies have done in the last week.
When we last spoke, the Phillies had recently released relief pitcher, Fernando Abad, to trim the roster to 42 players. That was four days ago. Since then:
The team granted infielder Ryan Flaherty his unconditional release from the roster. Flahert was not going to make the Major League roster out of camp, so the Phillies effectively were doing Flaherty a service by allowing him to try to latch on with another team before the start of the season. Flaherty didn’t remain a free agent long, as the Atlanta Braves snatched him up three days later, signing him to a Major League deal worth $775,000. He’ll likely be used as a utility player off the bench in Atlanta to begin the year. The 31-year-old had a productive spring while with the Phillies, hitting .351 in 37 at bats. Flaherty’s release set the Phillies’ roster at 41 players.
A few days later, the team released another veteran unconditionally, when they granted infielder Adam Rosales his pass. This falls under a similar guise as Flaherty, whereas the Phillies weren’t going to keep Rosales and gave him the chance to find another Major League club before the end of spring. Rosales wasn’t as productive as Flaherty this spring, hitting .237 in 38 at bats. He’s yet to sign with a new club as of this piece being written.
A third veteran fell over the last few days, as this time, a future Hall of Famer was cut from the roster. The Phillies released relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez on March 24 after a less-than-stellar Spring Training. Rodriguez tossed 6.2 innings over eight appearance, posting a 5.40 and a 2.85 WHIP. He served up 11 hits and eight walks over that span. While Rodriguez has not called it a career by any means, it may be the end of the line for the once dominant closer who featured a near-uhittable slider in his younger and more formidable days. Rodriguez trimmed the roster to 39 players.
In a slightly surprising move, the Phillies elected to select the contract of pitcher Drew Hutchinson from AAA Lehigh Valley, as Hutchinson will make the Opening Day roster. After injuries to Jerad Eickhoff and Mark Leiter Jr., questions arose as to who may take the place of the two injured arms. Many assumed it was down to Zach Eflin, Ben Lively and Jake Thompson, but after a stellar spring, it’s Hutchinson that makes the Opening Day roster. The 27-year-old appeared in six games this spring, starting three, and posted a 2.75 ERA over 19.2 innings pitched. He struck out 17 and allowed just 12 hits over that span. To make room for Hutchinson on the 25-man and 40-man rosters, the Phillies elected to designate catcher Cameron Rupp for assignment. Rupp had options remaining, but it appeared the team wanted to move on from the 29-year-old in order to keep their utility players’ option sin check. Rupp whad fallen behind Andrew Knapp in the backup catcher role, and Jorge Alfaro had solidified himself as the starting catcher, so Rupp became expendable. Rupp now waits to see if he’s claimed by any of the other teams in the league. If he isn’t, he can report to AAA, but not be on the 40-man roster.
The next move may have been the most shocking of them all, as the Phillies have selected the contract of, and resigned, Scott Kingery to a six-year deal through 2023. The selection of the contract means Kingery will make the Opening Day roster, which is really the surprise of the whole transaction, because it means the Phillies lose a year of control on a young, budding piece. Kingery’s deal is rumored to worth $24 million guaranteed and up to $66 million if he sees the life of the deal. The team did work into the contract three years of club options from 2024-2026, years in which Kingery could make up to $15 million a season. While it isn’t clear where Kingery will play, Manager Gabe Kapler has been quoted as saying he could make an appearance at up to seven positions this season. The at bats will need to come from somewhere, and with an already crowded outfield, expect to see Maikel Franco and Caesar Hernandez on short leashes should they struggle early.
In accordance to the Kingery news, the Phillies optioned infielder Jesmuel Valentine back to Lehigh Valley to begin the year. Once thought of as a frontrunner to make the team as the bench player out of camp, Valentine became available to send back down to the minors with Scott Kingery with the Major League club.
In the same time frame, the team designated relief pitcher Ricardo Pinto for assignment. Pinto appeared in 25 games last year for the Phillies, posting a 7.89 ERA over 29.2 innings pitched. He had a poor spring, as well, as in five appearances Pinto allowed three runs over four innings pitched. He’ll likely find his way back to AAA, unless another team claims him, but it will be unlikely Pinto makes his way back to Philadelphia this season, as he is no longer on the 40-man roster.
Finally, news had broken early today that three more players have been optioned to Lehigh Valley.
Utility man Roman Quinn was sent to begin the season with the Iron Pigs after hopes of finding the Major League roster were dashed after Kingery made the team. Quinn was a man without a position with a crowded outfield and one more infielder added to the fold. Quinn hit .268 over 41 at bats this spring and stole nine bags in 22 games played. With Quinn moving back to AAA for the time being, it is likely that Pedro Florimon’s spot on the Major League roster is secure for Opening Day.
Left handed relief pitcher Zac Curtis was also sent down to the minor this morning. The Phillies claimed Curtis after the Seattle Mariners put him on waivers last season. The lefty had a good spring, striking out nine over seven innings and ten appearances. He posted a 1.29 ERA over that time as well. While Curtis had a nice spring, he’ll still begin the year with the Iron Pigs, which means that the Phillies are set on Adam Morgan and Hoby Milner being the two lefties out of the bullpen to begin the 2018 campaign.
Finally, starter Zach Eflin has also been sent to the minors to begin the season. Eflin’s spring was not productive, as the starter posted a 5.79 ERA in five appearances, three starts, pitching just 14 innings. He allowed 18 base runners over that stretch. Eflin will now have to work, once again, from the depths in order to ascend back to the Major League roster. In two years, Eflin has yet to put together a productive season with the Phillies, and his time as a Major League starter may be coming to an end.
The team still has a few moves it must make to get down to the required 25-man roster for Opening Day. As those moves come in, we’ll have you covered.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports