Eflin's demotion is what the 2018 Phillies are all about
by Scott Butler 8/12/18

Zach Eflin Phillies

The Phillies just sent Zach Eflin, one of the biggest surprises and the owner of an 8-4 record and a 3.57 ERA, to the minor leagues while Scott Kingery, one of the biggest disappointments and owner of the third worst OPS (.588) of all qualified MLB players, remains on the big club. It's a move that will cost Eflin roughly $17,000.

Harsh, right?

Eflin's agent sure thinks so.

“Today was an understandingly extremely tough day for Zach,” Tom O’Connell, his agent, said in a statement to The Athletic. “While this transaction on the surface seems purely administrative, it caught us by surprise and is tremendously disappointing. Major-league starters have a strict routine that they adhere to that allows them to be successful; this roster move affects that. While the club may feel that they are doing what’s best for the organization, they also lose sight of the human element and how it will affect the player.”

He has a valid point. No matter how things look on paper, Eflin is a person and people do have feelings. What kind of effect will this have on Zach? Does this move bother Eflin to the point that his concentration dissipates in his next few starts? Does it cause a trickle-down effect to the rest of the players? Or does it somehow embolden Eflin to become even more dominant?

Whatever the effect, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise, because this is what the 2018 Phillies are all about. “Our responsibility to the Phillies organization is to get every possible marginal advantage," Gabe Kapler said, "and this gives us a marginal advantage by having an additional player on the roster.”

It's why Odubel Herrera did not start on Opening Day. It's why Kapler lifted Aaron Nola early in his first start. It's why Nick Williams became a bench player earlier this season. It's why position players have pitched 3 games this season. It's also why Kapler pulled three of his best hitters for defense late in a game.

Clinging to the slimmest of leads in the National League East, the time for developing players is over. It's time to win some ball games, so it appears, and this move gives the Phillies the best way to achieve that.

The logic is that the Phillies can send Eflin down to triple-A and activate him for the double-header on Thursday when teams can add a 26th man. Then, they can option him back to triple-A and activate him again when he next start arrives. Meanwhile, they get to keep both Kingery and Crawford on the roster.

“We’ve talked all year about the importance of value at the margins,” Matt Klentak said. “We’re tied for first place. It’s the middle of August. You never know when an extra bench spot or bullpen spot will be the difference in a game. One game might make all the difference. So that’s why we did it."

Eflin has a right to be ticked off, but it's hard to argue that the move is the best for the team.

Matt Klentak and Gabe Kapler deserve major points for creativity here. The discussion when Justin Bour arrived surrounded which young infielder, Kingery or Crawford, would have to join the IronPigs for a few months. The Phillies found a way to keep them both with the big club.

“By way of example, just a little potential anecdote," Kapler explained. "If Maikel Franco leads off the sixth inning with a base hit in a 0-0 ball game, we might be able to use Scott Kingery to run for him in that situation with the understanding that we have a shortstop (Crawford) still available.”

Eflin handled the situation well according to his manager. “Zach was professional about this through and through,” Kapler said. “He understands that we're going to try to get every marginal advantage through the end of the season that we possibly can, and right now, we have to believe that the division is going to come down to one game. If that's true, having an additional player on our roster that we can use right now is that marginal edge."

This might be where Kapler's positivity pays off the most. You better believe he assured Eflin 50 different ways that his faith in the young right-hander has never been as high as it is right now and that they are counting on him down the stretch.

Kapler's Phillies have not lost four games in a row this season. They are 20-11 in one-run games, 9-7 in extra inning games, and outperformed their Pythagorean win total by 3 games. Kapler's style seems to be resonating with the youngest roster in baseball, and his handling of situations just like these is likely a good reason why the Phils are looking down at the rest of the division. This is yet another test for the rookie manager.

It still leaves Zach out 17 grand, though.

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