Posted on July 19, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
In need of rotation help heading down the stretch, the Philadelphia Phillies are looking for help on the scrap heap rather than the trade market. The Phillies have agreed to a deal with left-handed starter Drew Smyly. If his physical goes according to plan, Smyly could start for Philadelphia as early as Sunday. The movie coincides with the Phillies moving Nick Pivetta to the bullpen.
The last few years have been a whirlwind for Smyly. The 30-year-old looked like something special early in his career with the Tigers and Rays. He spent 2017 with the Mariners and 2018 with the Cubs but never pitched for either team because of Tommy John surgery. After two full years on the shelf, Smyly landed with the Rangers. In nine starts and four relief appearances with Texas, Smyly was 1-5 with an ERA of 8.42 before he was released last month.
Smyly caught on with the Brewers on a minor league contract. He made three starts for Milwaukee’s triple-A affiliate, posting a 4.97 ERA over 12.2 innings. However, it wasn’t enough for the Brewers to add him to their major league roster. The lefty opted out of his deal with Milwaukee on Thursday and is ready to sign with the Phillies just one day later.
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Obviously, the hope for the Phillies is that they catch lightning in a bottle with Smyly. If he can somehow revert to the pitcher he was before Tommy John, he’ll be a huge upgrade for the Philadelphia rotation. Of course, the odds of that happening are slim. Nevertheless, the Phillies believe that Smyly can’t be much worse than what they’ve gotten out of Pivetta this season.
The 26-year-old Pivetta was demoted to triple-A four starts into the season after posting an ERA of 8.35. He rejoined the rotation in late May but hasn’t been much better. Over 13 starts, he’s 4-4 with a 5.74 ERA. The Phillies now hope that Pivetta can be more effective as a reliever and help a bullpen that much like Philadelphia’s rotation is ranked in the bottom-5 in the National League in ERA.
Even with Smyly set to join the club, the Phillies are still in the market for a starter leading up to the trade deadline. Outside of Aaron Nola and at times Zach Eflin, Philadelphia’s starters have been largely unreliable this year. Veteran Jake Arrieta is also dealing bone spurs in his elbow and is doing his best to pitch through them, although he’s clearly not 100%.
It may not be easy for the Phillies to acquire a starter before the deadline. They are likely to look more for pitchers who are under team control beyond this season. That could limit their options, which is why they are giving Smyly a chance to make at least a couple of starts prior to the deadline. If he can pitch well, it’ll take some of the pressure off the Phillies to make a trade.
The Phillies began Friday half a game out of the second Wild Card spot in the National League. Of course, there are six teams within four games of that spot, so competition will be fierce down the stretch. From Philadelphia’s perspective, signing Smyly is worth a shot. But it’s not necessarily a move they should expect to workout. If the Phillies want to improve their rotation, it’ll require a move far bolder than signing Smyly.