The painful wait for one Phillies starting pitcher

Phillies Spring Training
Philadelphia Phillies invitee Enyel De Los Santos, left, stands on the mound with starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff, second from left, at baseball spring training camp, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, in Clearwater, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

“The waiting is the hardest part,” echoed Tom Petty in his 1981 hit aptly titled “The Waiting”. Akin to Petty’s clambers for the future, the Phillies find themselves in a peculiar situation with one particular Lehigh Valley starting pitcher.

Coming to the organization via trade, Enyel De Los Santos was acquired by the Phillies in exchange for Freddy Galvis this offseason. For those of you that have followed my articulation over the last year, you understand how painful this trade was for me to deal with. But what the Phillies received in return for the dominant field protector and adequate hitter could become far more.

22-year-old Enyel De Los Santos has been a revelation in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, starting 12 games this season, producing a 7-3 record, pitching to the tune of a 1.47 ERA. Over those 12 starts, he thrown 73.1 innings, which means he’s tossing over six innings each time he takes the hill. In an era where prospects are heavily monitored, Six plus innings per start at 22-years-old tells me De Los Santos is Major League tough. He’s allowed just 74 baserunners over those 73.1 innings pitched, walking just 23 batters. He’s also striking out over nine hitters per nine innings pitched, or, simplified, one hitter per inning. In 12 starts, he’s surrendered just 12 earned runs and 13 total runs. De Los Santos has risen from Single-A to Triple-A over the span of just four season between two organizations. He’s kept hitters off base at level he’s pitched, holding opposing batters to a .234 average throughout his career.

So why, with all these eye-popping numbers on his side, will De Los Santos be sidelined in the minor leagues for the foreseeable future? The answer is devastatingly and frustratingly simple: he isn’t on the 40-man roster. Despite his early success, De Los Santos would have to clear too many hurdles in order to get placed on the 40-man roster and slotted into a poor Phillies’ rotation.

In order to put De Los Santos on the active roster, the Phillies would have to put him on the 40-man roster, which means a handful of subsequent transaction would have to be made. The Phillies would certainly have some options, but none are simple. The first, and quite possibly easiest path to get De Los Santos on the 40-man, and eventually 25-man roster, would be to take a current 40-man roster spot holder off said roster.

The question, however, is whom do the Phillies take off the 40-man roster? That answer is tough to decide, because that transaction isn’t as simple as clapping your hands, and poof, the player is off the roster with no consequences. In order for a player to be removed from the 40-man roster, that player has to be placed on waivers, giving the rest of the league a chance to claim him, and his contract. The rest of the league will each be given a chance, in reverse order, to claim the player off the Phillies’ 40-man roster. Should a team claim that player, they immediately are placed on the team’s 40-man roster. Should he not be claimed, the Phillies would have a chance to release or trade the player, or inquire about a trade.

That’s why things are complicated in bringing De Los Santos to the Major Leagues. At this current juncture, I don’t believe there are any players on the 40-man roster that the Phillies are willing to part with. While you may jest, and say, “Ship Hector Neris or Hoby Milner out of here,” the Phillies don’t think the way fans do. They, instead, think monetarily. Remember, in baseball, contracts are guaranteed regardless of when a player is released. So releasing a player completely isn’t wise for the Phillies in this spot. if the Phillies feel the right move is to put De Los Santos on the 40-man roster and attempt to make a trade via another player on the active roster, they’d have to receive a minor league player in return that is not on the trade partner’s 40-man roster and won’t need to be protected in the immediate offseason.

A second issue becomes, should the Phillies find a player they deem safe to remove off the 40-man roster that isn’t claimed through waivers, the concern of the Rule Five Draft this offseason becomes very real. Any player who has signed their first professional contract four years ago or longer, and is not protected by the 40-man roster, is subject to the Rule Five Draft. In this draft, any team would have a chance to scoop up the departed player and keep them, so long as the player remains on their Major League roster for the remainder of the upcoming season.

Enyel De Los Santos will, in fact, need to be protected by the 40-man roster this upcoming offseason, which will require the team to take another player off the roster, but it is a much simpler process in the offseason. Any player on the 40-man roster who’s contract expired at the end of the season could quite easily not be re-signed, vacating a space on the 40-man roster. While the Phillies have near total control of their young roster, there will be ways in which getting De Los Santos on the 40-man roster are evidently easier. Pedro Florimon could potentially make sense as the player to be removed from the 40-man roster if they feel that he is expendable. He’ll be 32-years-old next season, and, despite still being arbitration eligible, may not be needed in 2019.

So while I’m sure you’d like to see Enyel De Los Santos get a crack at Major League hitters with how the rotation has been performing, you may want to tamper your expectations for this season. The likelihood of seeing the young righty pitch for the Phillies in 2018 is very low.


AP Photo/Lynne Sladky