Should the Phillies Have Interest in Reuniting with Vance Worley?

Vance Worley. Remember him? The begoggled right-hander who racked up the backwards K’s with reckless abandoned in his 277 2/3 innings with the Phillies from 2010-12? The Phillies sent him to the Minnesota Twins in the Ben Revere trade in December 2012, but the Twins recently outrighted him to Triple-A after he went unclaimed on waivers.

Worley’s star has fallen fast. He posted a 3.01 ERA in 2011 with the Phillies and was the Twins’ Opening Day starter last year, and now he might be starting Opening Day in Rochester of all places. With the Phillies in need of starting pitching — they’re dangerously close to calling on Jeff Manship to join the rotation — Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggests that a Worley reunion would not be out of the question. Would it make sense for the Phillies?

Worley has a Major League salary of $527,500 and will be arbitration-eligible for three more years before hitting free agency, so the Phillies would have plenty of control over his future. Acquiring him would cost the Phillies next to nothing. Worley is coming off of a horrible season in which he posted a 7.21 ERA with a neutered strikeout rate (11%) in 48 2/3 innings at the Major League level. With Rochester, he posted a 3.88 ERA but still struggled to miss bats, recording only 34 strikeouts (13.5% strikeout rate) in 58 innings. Considering that Worley passed through waivers with ease, the phones in the Twins’ front office aren’t exactly ringing off the hook. The Twins’ leverage is virtually nonexistent. Though, for this reason, the Twins may prefer to hang on to Worley rather than deal him.

It’d be an obvious buy-low scenario for the Phillies, which is always nice. Worley may not have “future ace” written on his arm, but in his two seasons as a regular part of the Phillies’ rotation, he was able to rack up strikeouts and showcase slightly above-average control. It would not be surprising to see him bounce back and be a reliable contributor at the back of the rotation.

Even if the Phillies were to acquire Worley, they wouldn’t have to immediately put him in the starting rotation. Worley could report to Triple-A Lehigh Valley while Manship or David Buchanan pitch out of the fifth slot. If Worley pitches well, he could then displace either pitcher. Or, if the Phillies suffer another injury in the rotation, Worley could fill in.

One other factor to consider is that the Phillies have a very real need for pitching depth, but are brushing up against the $189 million luxury tax threshold. Worley’s salary is a hair above the Major League minimum, so he would have virtually no effect on the payroll compared to any other option the Phillies might use.

As a result of a rather noticeable rash of injuries among pitchers lately — not just with the Phillies but across baseball — pitching is at a premium. It’s always better to have too much pitching than too little, a lesson the Dodgers learned well last season. They went into spring training with a surfeit of starting pitching and were reportedly attempting to trade two pitchers. As spring progressed, the Dodgers dealt with injuries and wound up being thankful they held onto their pitchers rather than trade them. Overall, they used 11 different starters during the season. The Phillies aren’t likely to only use the current crop of starters; they’ll likely have to plump Triple-A as well as the waiver wire and free agency to add depth. Acquiring Worley could be one useful, preemptive transaction.

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