Phils bolster bullpen with José Alvarado

December 29th, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies finally made their first significant move of the offseason, just days before the calendar turned to 2021.

They announced Tuesday that they acquired left-hander from the Rays in a three-team trade with the Dodgers. The Phillies sent right-hander Garrett Cleavinger to Los Angeles and the Dodgers sent infielder Dillon Paulson and a player to be named to Tampa Bay. Alvarado, 25, is a hard thrower with back-end bullpen experience, which could serve the Phillies’ relief corps well. But to do so, he'll need to bounce back from the injuries that hampered him the past two seasons.

Alvarado posted a 2.39 ERA in 70 appearances in 2018, striking out 80 and walking 29 in 64 innings. He posted a 4.80 ERA in 35 appearances in '19, missing a month because of a personal matter in Venezuela before making two trips to the injured list because of a strained right oblique and an injured left elbow. He made only nine appearances for the American League champions in '20 because of a shoulder injury.

Alvarado has good stuff when healthy. His two-seam fastball averaged 96.9 mph in 2020, though it averaged 97.7 mph the previous three seasons. Alvarado also throws a cutter and curveball. He has struck out 27.9% of the batters he's faced in his four-year career. His .302 opponents' slugging percentage ranks eighth among active pitchers with 130 or more innings pitched since '17, and fourth among active left-handers behind Aroldis Chapman (.267), Zack Britton (.281) and Aaron Bummer (.298).

Alvarado also picked up 15 saves from 2018-19, so he has experience pitching in high-leverage situations.

He will likely be the first of several bullpen acquisitions for new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, as the 2020 Phillies had the worst bullpen ERA in baseball in 90 years.

Dombrowski and manager Joe Girardi said upgrading the 'pen is a priority, but they also said they must be smart about it. The Phillies are cutting payroll and they have a farm system ranked among the bottom 10 in baseball. They cannot throw money or prospects at their problems, especially if they want to give themselves any shot at re-signing catcher J.T. Realmuto.

“Well, we’re not just one player away, so we’re not going to be giving many Minor League players from our system ... for a player,” Dombrowski said last week. “We want to build through the system, use as many of the guys as we can. It doesn’t mean we won’t trade certain players if we think it’s a good deal for us. But we’re not looking to empty our farm system for a specific player at this time.”

Previously, the Phillies acquired relievers Johan Quezada and Ian Hamilton off waivers and infielder Kyle Holder in the Rule 5 Draft.