Yacksel Rios

Why Phillies went the Jason Vargas route 2 days before trade deadline

Why Phillies went the Jason Vargas route 2 days before trade deadline

Updated: 6:05 p.m.

The Phillies have traded for a starting pitcher. It remains to be seen how much of an upgrade he will provide.

The Phils acquired veteran lefty Jason Vargas from the New York Mets on Monday afternoon. Vargas, 36, is 14-year veteran. He has pitched to a 4.01 ERA in 94 1/3 innings this season.

The Phils are sending 26-year-old catcher Austin Bossart, a Penn product, to the Mets. Bossart had been playing at Double A Reading. He is considered a good defender but was hitting just .195 in 200 at-bats.

Vargas is owed about $2.7 million for the remainder of this season. He has an $8 million option or a $2 million buyout next season. The Phillies are also getting money from the Mets in the deal.

Vargas is expected to go into a Phillies’ rotation that just recently added a lefty in Drew Smyly. Whether that means Vince Velasquez goes back to the bullpen or Zach Eflin fills a role other than starter remains to be seen. Jake Arrieta’s spot in the rotation could also be a possibility as he has been pitching with a bone spur in his elbow. Arrieta has said he plans to continue to pitch, but he has experienced discomfort lately.

It’s not a shock that the Phillies picked up a pitcher on the downside of his career. Team officials have indicated that they are not willing to give up the prospects it would take to get top-of-the-line starting pitching. The Phillies, 6 ½ games back in the NL East and a game back in the wild card race, prefer to hang on to their top prospects.

To make room for Vargas on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated reliever Yacksel Rios for assignment.

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Another Phillies reliever joins the Sore Elbow Gang as Adam Morgan goes on IL

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USA Today Images/Jeff Hanisch

Another Phillies reliever joins the Sore Elbow Gang as Adam Morgan goes on IL

Phillies relievers continue to go down at an alarming rate.

Adam Morgan, the team’s best left-handed reliever, was placed on the injured list with a sore elbow Wednesday.

He joins a host of relievers already on the IL. The list includes Pat Neshek, who went on the IL over the weekend with right shoulder inflammation, and Victor Arano, who had arthroscopic surgery on his elbow in Los Angeles on Wednesday. (Manager Gabe Kapler did not know the nature of the surgery, but it was not Tommy John surgery, he said.)

Edubray Ramos is out with a triceps strain.

David Robertson, who signed a two-year, $23 million contract in the offseason, has been on the IL since mid-April with an elbow strain and Tommy Hunter has yet to throw a pitch this season because of an elbow strain suffered in spring training. Hunter is throwing off a bullpen mound and could be ready sometime in June.

Now Morgan goes down. His loss hurts. He has given up just four runs in 18⅓ innings over 24 appearances. He is second in the NL with 12 holds and has a WHIP of 0.709.

Right-hander Yacksel Rios was recalled from Triple A to replace Morgan.

With Morgan out, the Phillies have just one lefty, Jose Alvarez, in their bullpen. It’s possible that the Phils are looking to add Cole Irvin as a second lefty in the bullpen. He was pulled after from his start at Triple A after three innings Wednesday night and he is expected to accompany the Phils to the West Coast after Thursday afternoon’s game against the Cardinals.

Meanwhile, it’s likely that general manager Matt Klentak is casting a net outside the organization for bullpen help.

“Matt is always looking for help,” Kapler said.

How are the Phillies going to survive losing their top lefty reliever?

“We have to really game-plan effectively,” Kapler said. “Without Adam, we have Alvarez to go after a lefty or two. We have the Dodgers coming up (Friday through Sunday) and they have some left-handed dudes who can do some damage. We’ll have to use our right-handers to get outs. Both Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris can get lefties out. Edgar Garcia can, as well.

“It’s not optimal. We’ll fight through a tough time. We’ve fought through it with David and Tommy, with Arano and Ramos, and we’ll do it with Adam, as well.”

Kapler said Morgan had been managing some pain in his elbow (on the inner part of the arm near where the forearm connects with the elbow) for a couple of weeks. Morgan had trouble bouncing back from an outing Friday night in Milwaukee and on Tuesday night felt like he was altering his delivery to compensate for pain as he warmed up in the eighth inning.

That was enough for Morgan to speak up.

He had an MRI on Wednesday. The results were not immediately available.

“I’m pretty optimistic,” Morgan said. “In all the tests, the strength is still there.

"It's very disappointing. Losing D-Rob and Neshek and Arano and Ramos and those guys — it hurts me because I felt the pressure when those guys went down and I don't want to put that on my guys. That's probably one of the toughest parts."

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Victor Arano loses spot in Phillies' bullpen, leaving door open for a different arm

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Victor Arano loses spot in Phillies' bullpen, leaving door open for a different arm

Updated: 8:23 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Victor Arano was an important member of the Phillies’ bullpen last season. He recorded a 2.73 ERA in 60 games. He struck out 60 batters, walked 17 and gave up just six homers in 59 1/3 innings. 

The previous year, he came up from the minors for a look and gave up just two runs in 10 2/3 innings.

That's a 2.57 ERA in his first 70 big-league games.

In most cases, numbers like these would ensure Arano’s roster spot entering the new season.

But the 24-year-old right-hander struggled so badly this spring that Phillies officials decided Saturday night to option Arano to Triple A Lehigh Valley along with right-hander Yacksel Rios.

“We weigh track record heavily and lean on it pretty strongly,” manager Gabe Kapler said Saturday before the decision came down. “However, without an indication that he’s feeling confident, it’s something to examine closely. You can discount one, two, three outings. It’s hard to discount five or six outings of struggle, consecutively.”

Arano pitched two-thirds of an inning in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Pirates. He gave up a hit, a walk and a run. In four innings of work this spring, he has given up 20 runs. He has been tagged for 17 hits, including four homers.

“By every account, he was outstanding for us the last two years, one of our higher-leverage relievers, a guy we depended on in the biggest situations,” Kapler said after the game. “You still also have to pay close attention to what is happening right in front of you and we’ve seen several outings in a row that are worth really digging into to find out how we can help him.

“I think it’s cause to really dig on what’s happening for him both mentally and mechanically. I think he’s absolutely fine from a physical perspective. His legs are underneath him. He’s strong. I think his arm speed is fine.

“But you know, today the ball didn’t come out great. It’s worth having a conversation with him and really discussing what he needs to get back on track because at this point it hasn’t been very effective and I think he knows that. If he was standing next to me right now, he would tell you there’s a better performance in there.”

Through a translator, Arano indicated that his struggles are mechanical. He said he is struggling to find the release point on his slider, which was an excellent pitch for him last season.

Arano had pitched on back-to-back days — he gave up a homer to Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees on Friday night. The Phils play their final two games in Florida on Sunday and Monday. The club knew before then that Arano will have to clean up his mechanical problems and build some confidence in the minors before getting back to Philadelphia.

The Phillies open the season on Thursday.

Right now, these seven relievers look set in the bullpen:

Hector Neris (R)

David Robertson (R)

Seranthony Dominguez (R)

Pat Neshek (R)

Juan Nicasio (R)

Adam Morgan (L)

Jose Alvarez (L)

With Arano and Rios failing to make the club, a spot looks open for Edubray Ramos as the eighth reliever.

The Phils could also use Vince Velasquez out of the bullpen for the first week of the season. 

Tommy Hunter will open on the injured list.

We’ll know in a few days how the bullpen fully shakes out. Unfortunately for Arano, he had made some final decisions easy for club officials.

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