On Tuesday morning, the Philadelphia Phillies made their first move of the offseason as they acquired flamethrower Jose Alvarado from the Tampa Bay Rays. In return, the Phillies sent prospect Garrett Clevinger to the Dodgers, while the Rays received prospect Dillon Paulson and a player to be named later from the Dodgers. How does Alvarado affect the Phillies bullpen? Philadelphia had arguably the worst bullpen in the history of Major League Baseball last season. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at how the acquisition of Jose Alvarado can help this franchise.
Jose Alvarado has been able to make a name for himself due to his two-seam fastball. Clocking in at up to 100 MPH, Alvarado has an absolute cannon of an arm with movement as well, however, walks and control issues have gotten him into trouble at times the past two seasons.
His best season came in 2018 at age 23, where he appeared in 70 games for Tampa Bay. In 64.0 innings of work that season, Alvarado had an ERA of 2.39 while only allowing one home run and striking out 80 batters. Kevin Cash likes to play to matchups with his relievers; while Alvarado only had eight saves that year, he was practically their closer.
Walks and control issues have gotten him into trouble the past two seasons. From 2018 to 2019, his WHIP skyrocketed from 1.11 to 1.87. As a result, his ERA jumped up to 4.80. Alvarado struggled again in 2020, as he had an ERA of 6.00 in nine innings of work in a significantly smaller sample size. In two playoff appearances, he did not allow a run.
In all likelihood, Alvarado isn’t the pitcher that he once was in 2018, however, the Phillies bullpen was historically bad last season, and it can’t hurt to bring him in. The Phillies haven’t had any real flamethrowers in the ‘pen in the past, and Alvarado provides the heat.
Garrett Cleavinger made his MLB debut last season, allowing one run in 0.2 innings in his lone appearance of the season. At age 27, Clevinger was not one of the Phillies’ top prospects. For comparison, Jose Alvarado is only 26. While anything can happen with young pitchers, it’s unlikely that moving on from Cleavinger will come back to hurt the Phillies. Like Jose Alvarado, Garrett Cleavinger is a left-handed pitcher. Ideally, Cleavinger would like to be a starter, but it would be difficult to see a scenario where he fits into the Phillies’ future starting rotation.
Likewise, I find it unlikely that he will be a starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have a loaded rotation, and won’t have a free spot for Cleavinger unless there is a flurry of injuries. The Dodgers’ bullpen is one of the best in MLB as well, so it’s far from a lock that Cleavinger will make the team. However, the organization likely doesn’t value Dillon Paulson, the prospect they traded, making this a low-risk deal.
The Phillies had one of the worst bullpens in the MLB last season and have very little money to fix that issue this offseason, however, this move shows that Dave Dombrowski is taking steps in the right direction to get this organization on track. Jose Alvarado is a clear upgrade over Adam Morgan as Philadelphia’s best left-handed reliever. Hopefully, this move is only the first of more to come, and the team will bring in better bullpen arms. However, knowing this team and organization, I wouldn’t count that to happen. The Phillies’ top priority should be re-signing JT Realmuto above all else.
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