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Phillies trade rumors - Arrieta is ours! Eickhoff hurt, ToJo DFA'd
by Scott Butler 3/18/18

Philadelphia Phillies Trade Rumors

MLB Trade Rumors is a site which describes themselves as "a clearinghouse for relevant, legitimate baseball rumors." Each week at Phils Baseball, we grab their latest Phillies rumors and put them all together in one weekly post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors:

March 16

Phillies Select Contract Of Pedro Florimon, Designate Eliezer Alvarez

The Phillies announced Friday that they’ve selected the contract of infielder/outfielder Pedro Florimon and designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. The move seemingly indicates that Florimon will head north with the Phils as a utilityman to open the season, as he’s out of minor league options and now cannot be sent back to Triple-A without clearing waivers.

Florimon, a 31-year-old switch-hitter known for his glove at shortstop, spent the 2017 season with the Phillies organization and hit .348/.388/.478 in a tiny sample of 49 plate appearances with the big league club. That’s not representative of his skills at the plate over a larger sample, though, as he’s a lifetime .209./269/.308 hitter in 791 plate appearances between the Orioles, Twins, Pirates and Phils. Florimon has a gaudy +23 Defensive Runs Saved in 1808 career innings at shortstop, but he’s begun to move around the diamond more in recent seasons; the Phils gave him 79 innings in the outfield last year — his first big league action away from the infield.

The 23-year-old Alvarez hit .248/.318/.390 in 236 minor league plate appearances last season, most of which came at the Double-A level. He’s been primarily a second baseman in the minors, though he’s also seen a couple hundred innings of work at shortstop. Philadelphia acquired Alvarez from the Cardinals in the rare September trade that sent Juan Nicasio to St. Louis, and while he ranked 25th on the team’s top 30 prospect list this winter (via Baseball America), he’ll now likely be made available to all 29 other clubs via waivers or trade.

BA’s scouting report on Alvarez (subscription link) notes that he’s a contact-oriented hitter who projects to hit eight to 12 homers per season and has some question marks about his footwork on the defensive side of things. He did rank as high as No. 10 on the Cardinals’ top 30 prospects back in the 2016-17 offseason.

March 16

Jerad Eickhoff Out Six To Eight Weeks With Lat Strain

The Phillies received some bad news on their rotation today, as Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports (via Twitter) that right-hander Jerad Eickhoff has been diagnosed with a strained lat muscle and will be sidelined for the next six to eight weeks. Eickhoff had been projected to occupy a rotation spot behind newly signed Jake Arrieta and top incumbent starter Aaron Nola. Now, he’ll open the season on the disabled list.

The 27-year-old Eickhoff was considered a secondary or tertiary piece when he was traded from the Rangers to the Phillies in the blockbuster that sent Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman to Texas. However, he quickly emerged as a viable big league starter and has since provided the Phils with 376 1/3 innings of 3.87 ERA ball, averaging 8.0 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 with a 39.2 percent ground-ball rate along the way.

Last season was Eickhoff’s worst in the Majors, as he limped to a 4.71 ERA thanks largely to an uncharacteristic spike in his walk rate (3.7 BB/9). Injuries likely played a part in his substandard control, as he missed time in June with a back strain and would again go on the DL in late August with nerve irritation in his hand — an injury that ultimately ended his season. Certainly, it’s not hard to see how either of those injuries could significantly diminish his control; Eickhoff, for context, averaged just 2.0 walks per nine innings through his first 248 1/3 MLB frames.

The initial estimate for Eickhoff’s absence would leave him out of action until at least the end of April and possibly up through mid-May, depending of course on how he responds to treatment and how his rehab progresses. Salisbury adds in a followup tweet that he’s currently being examined back in Philadelphia, which could give a clearer picture of how his rehab will be laid out.

Eickhoff’s injury improves the chances for fellow rotation hopefuls such as Vince VelasquezNick PivettaBen LivelyJake ThompsonZach EflinMark Leiter and non-roster invitee Drew Hutchison in Philadelphia. Obviously, as that group of names suggests, the Phils aren’t short on replacement options with some degree of MLB experience. It remains to be seen, though, if the injury will embolden the front office to make a move from outside the organization.

At first glance, this wouldn’t seem to make such a move especially more likely. GM Matt Klentak has previously suggested that the signing of Arrieta likely concluded his team’s offseason spending, and while Eickhoff was one of the team’s more reliable sources of innings, the injury is relatively short-term nature in nature.

March 13

NL East Notes: Phillies

As the Phillies introduce Jake Arrieta today, the organization is now much more clearly in a competitive posture than it was at the outset of the winter. But the pedal won’t be fully pressed down, it seems, despite the presence of a few other notable free agents who’d improve the near-term outlook in Philadelphia. GM Matt Klentak says that he does not anticipate any further additions before the start of the season, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki tweets.

March 12

Phillies Sign Jake Arrieta

The Phillies have officially inked right-hander Jake Arrieta, as Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia first reported on Twitter. It’ll be a three-year, $75MM contract for the Scott Boras client, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.

Arrieta will earn $30MM in 2018, $25MM in 2019 and $20MM in 2020, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports (links to Twitter).  Arrieta can choose to opt out of the deal after the second season, though interestingly, the contract also allows the Phillies to “void” the opt-out by picking up a two-year option that would extend the contract through the 2021-22 seasons.

Should the Phils override the opt-out, they would pay Arrieta a base salary of $20MM in each of the two additional years. But those option-year salaries aren’t fixed. Games-started escalators (presumably, based upon 2019 tallies) can boost the values by as much as $5MM, with the escalators beginning at 25 starts and maxing out if and when Arrieta takes the ball for a 31st time. He can escalate those salaries further by finishing in the top-five of the N.L. Cy Young voting in either 2018 or 2019; the annual rate on the potential extra years goes up by $5MM with a top-three finish or by $3MM if Arrieta finishes fourth or fifth. The contract also includes a $1MM assignment bonus provision.

Up until Sunday, the 32-year-old Arrieta ranked as the best free agent remaining in what has been a famously slow-moving market since it opened in November. Back then, MLBTR forecast a four-year, $100MM pact for Arrieta, who’s coming off a four-plus-year run with the Cubs in which he was one of baseball’s best pitchers.

During his stretch in Chicago from 2013-17, the former Orioles castoff won a Cy Young (2015) and a World Series (2016), and he pitched to a 2.73 ERA/3.16 FIP with 8.89 K/9, 2.73 BB/9 and a 50.6 percent groundball rate over 803 innings. Arrieta fell off somewhat last year, however, with a 3.53 ERA/4.16 FIP over 168 1/3 frames. While Arrieta again offered strong strikeout and walk numbers (8.71 K/9, 2.94 BB/9), his grounder (45.1 percent) and swinging-strike rates (8.7; down from 10 percent as a Cub) each trended in the wrong direction. He also experienced a drop in velocity, going from upward of 94 mph with his fastball in each of the previous five seasons to 92.6.

With last year’s decline in mind, it’s less surprising that free agency didn’t go as planned for Arrieta. It’s also not surprising that the Phillies were willing to reel him in at a discounted rate. Phillies president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak emphasized throughout the offseason that they weren’t interested in signing anyone to an overly long deal, but they did suggest they’d be willing to pay extra for shorter-term pacts. Arrieta is now the fourth noteworthy free agent to whom they’ve guaranteed three or fewer years since December.

Previously, the Phillies landed first baseman Carlos Santana (three years, $60MM) and the relief duo of Tommy Hunter (two years, $18MM) and Pat Neshek (two years, $16.25MM). Despite those signings, the big-market Phillies entered Sunday with plenty of spending room, and they still figure to fall short of last year’s $100MM Opening Day payroll even in the wake of their expensive Arrieta agreement.

All of those additions certainly aren’t guaranteed to lead to immediate contention for the Phillies, who registered their sixth straight non-playoff season and their fifth consecutive sub-.500 year in 2017. But the Arrieta pickup could be particularly helpful to a team whose projected rotation otherwise wouldn’t have featured any proven options beyond Aaron Nola. He and Arrieta should form a quality one-two punch and perhaps help the Phillies return to contention in 2018 as part of a National League that features three clear favorites – Arrieta’s previous team, the Cubs, as well as the Dodgers and Nationals. Washington, which was a speculative landing spot for Arrieta, will now have to deal with him as an opponent in its division, though the Nationals are still the obvious NL East front-runners over the Mets, Phillies, Braves and Marlins.

Despite their recent run of irrelevance, the Phillies clearly regard themselves as a team on the upswing, as their free agent splashes indicate. After losing their second-highest draft pick in 2018 and $500K in international bonus pool to sign Santana, who rejected the Indians’ qualifying offer, they’ll surrender their third-highest selection (No. 79) and another $500K for Arrieta. The Cubs, who qualified Arrieta in November, will collect a compensatory pick after the second round. They seem well equipped to move on without Arrieta, having added this offseason’s top free agent starter, Yu Darvish (six years, $126MM), and Tyler Chatwood to a rotation that will also feature Jose QuintanaKyle Hendricks and Jon Lester.

Boras hoped to outdo Darvish’s pact with Arrieta, given that the latter has the better track record of production, but he has instead seen another of his clients collect a lower-than-expected payday. To Boras’ credit, a pair of his players – first baseman Eric Hosmer ($144MM) and slugger J.D. Martinez ($110MM) – did receive two of this free agent class’s three richest guarantees. On the other hand, before Arrieta reached an agreement, Carlos Gonzalez ($8MM), Mike Moustakas ($6.5MM) and Carlos Gomez ($4MM) each signed for relatively underwhelming amounts. Now, reliever Greg Holland is the last high-end Boras client remaining on a shrinking market as Opening Day draws closer.

March 12

Phillies Designate Tommy Joseph For Assignment

The Phillies announced that they’ve designated first baseman Tommy Joseph for assignment. His removal from the 40-man roster creates a spot for right-hander Jake Arrieta, whose multi-year deal with the Phillies has now been formally announced by the team.

Joseph, 26, simply found himself without a clear path to playing time after the Phils elected to give big money to Carlos Santana earlier in the winter. Without a DH spot to hide an extra bat, Joseph was a marginal competitor for a bench spot in camp.

That’s not to say he won’t hold some appeal to other organizations, though. Joseph has shown plenty of pop in his first two years in the majors, putting the ball over the fence 43 times in 880 plate appearances. But he’ll certainly need to boost his .297 OBP if he’s going to hold down a big league job, particularly given his lack of defensive flexibility.

Things would surely look quite a bit different if Joseph was still catching. Once a top-tier prospect as a backstop, concussion problems forced him out from behind the plate. The fact that he was still able to reach the majors as a first baseman is testament both to his talent and effort.

March 11

Reaction To The Phillies/Jake Arrieta Agreement

One of the offseason’s major free agents finally came off the board today, as Jake Arrieta agreed to a three-year, $75MM contract with the Phillies that will become official once the right-hander passes a physical.  Here is some of the early reaction to the deal…

March 11

Phillies, Jake Arrieta “Moving Close” To Agreement

3:37pm: The Phillies and Arrieta “are moving close to a deal,” Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets.

1:24pm: Free agent right-hander Jake Arrieta’s lengthy stay on the open market is likely to end “in the next couple of days,” Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. There are still “several teams” vying for Arrieta, according to Nightengale, who adds that the Phillies look like the favorites to land the 32-year-old.

Signing Arrieta would be the second major splash of free agency for the Phillies, who picked up first baseman Carlos Santana on a three-year, $60MM guarantee over the winter. Philadelphia was reportedly “having dialogue” with Arrieta back in late February, though team brass has insisted in recent months that the Phillies aren’t keen on doling out a long-term contract at this juncture. As part of a typical market, that would probably hurt the Phillies’ chances of reeling in a top-caliber starter like Arrieta, but free agency has been anything but normal in recent months. Evidence of that lies in the fact that Arrieta is still in limbo four-plus months since he became available, despite an excellent run with the Cubs from 2014-17.

At the outset of the offseason, MLBTR predicted a four-year, $100MM pact for Arrieta. It’s possible that will prove to be generous, though, as two of the other best starters in this winter’s class – Yu DarvishLance Lynn – signed for significantly less than expected, while both Arrieta and Alex Cobb are still without teams. In Darvish’s case, although he didn’t reach the projected $150MM guarantee, he still received a six-year, $126MM commitment to replace Arrieta in Chicago. Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, has tried to convince anyone who’ll listen that his client warrants a far richer contract than Darvish’s, but it looks highly unlikely at this point that he’ll get his way.

Regardless of how much money signing Arrieta might cost the Phillies, the onetime Cy Young winner’s history indicates he’d give them a second front-end starter to join budding ace Aaron Nola. The Phillies’ projected rotation is otherwise a mostly unproven group, so it’s debatable whether they’d even jump into wild-card contention in 2018 with Arrieta, though FanGraphs’ Craig Edwards recently argued that they’re not far off in a league with no apparent playoff shoo-ins aside from the powerhouse Dodgers-Cubs-Nationals trio.

While the Phillies are currently upstarts who have posted six straight non-playoff seasons, including five consecutive sub-.500 years, it’s clear they’re gearing up for a return to relevance in the near future. Further, the big-market club has flexed its financial muscle oftentimes in the past and could very easily afford an Arrieta signing now, with Jason Martinez of MLBTR and Roster Resource currently projecting an Opening Day payroll of roughly $65MM. That would be approximately $35MM than last year’s figure and the franchise’s lowest since it fielded a $58MM team in 2002.

It’s worth noting that Arrieta wouldn’t just cost the Phillies money. Because he rejected the Cubs’ qualifying offer at the start of the offseason, the Phillies (or anyone else) would have to surrender draft compensation and international bonus pool money ($500K in Philly’s case) to sign him. The Phillies already gave up their second-highest pick in 2018 when they signed Santana, though, so they’d only have to part with their third choice (No. 79) for Arrieta.

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