Phillies

Who gets bumped from Phillies' rotation for Jason Vargas? Which direction will they turn next?

Phillies

The Phillies have one quality start since June 30 by a pitcher other than Aaron Nola.

Jason Vargas has six quality starts in his last 11.

The evaluation of Monday's trade can probably end there.

Vargas is a Phillie and will make his debut Friday or Saturday at home against the White Sox, a team he's familiar with from pitching in the American League from 2009-17.

In 2013, Vargas overlapped with Phillies GM Matt Klentak in Anaheim. Klentak was the Angels' assistant general manager. 

That familiarity made Klentak comfortable with Vargas the person. He said he was shocked when Vargas had the incident with a New York reporter in June, the incident in which Vargas said to Newsday's Tim Healy, "I'll knock you the f--- out, bro." 

Klentak was surprised that Vargas of all people was involved in the kerfuffle.

"That was so out of character for Jason Vargas to be caught up in anything like that," Klentak said. "It's just not who he is. He's not an overbearing personality at all like that. He's very popular in the clubhouse with everybody, very likable. 

"We did ask a lot of questions and learn a lot about that. ... I think that was an isolated episode that created a lot of buzz, including here, but I don't think that was a reflection of who Jason Vargas is at all. I think it's quite the opposite."

Who gets bumped from the rotation?

The Phillies do not yet have an answer. Because Vargas will not start until Friday or Saturday, they can take a few more days to make the decision.

 

There are three different options. 

• Vince Velasquez could be moved back to the bullpen, which would give the Phillies two hard-throwing relievers to use in high-leverage situations as Nick Pivetta has transitioned to that role. 

"I don't want to overstate what we saw in his recent two outings but g--damn, he looked good," Klentak said of the short look at Pivetta as a reliever.

• Zach Eflin, who has allowed 32 runs in his last 26⅔ innings, has spoken lately of fatigue and is nearing his career-high in innings, could lose the spot temporarily.

• Then there's Jake Arrieta, who has stayed in the rotation despite a painful bone spur in his right elbow because the Phillies have lacked better options.

"We're going to consider everything," Klentak said. "Somebody could be optioned, somebody could be moved to the bullpen, someone could piggy-back.

"Whoever ends up falling out of the rotation may end up helping us in the 'pen or in a different role. There's a ripple effect to a transaction like this."

Arrieta and Eflin would make for an interesting piggy-back, potentially preserving the arms of both. The Phillies could start Arrieta and pull him after four innings, the threshold at which he's lost velocity in recent starts.

This can't be it, right?

It seems very unlikely the Phillies are finished making moves. Remember, no more August trades. You have to acquire your depth now or risk not having it the final two months in the case of an injury. 

They could still pick up another reliever, another starter, another outfielder, another bat or two for the bench. 

"We're still going to be open-minded about ways to improve our club over the next two days," Klentak said. "I think [the rotation] was the most pressing area to address. If opportunities present themselves in the next two days, I know we'll have the support of ownership to pursue them."

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