Phillies Outright Justin De Fratus

Most of these moves aren’t surprising, as mentioned in last month’s overview. The biggest surprise is that the Phillies chose to outright reliever Justin De Fratus. While I saw the case for getting rid of him, I ultimately felt the Phillies would keep him around but I just wasn’t cynical enough.

To recap the De Fratus saga: the Phillies converted him from a medium- to high-leverage bullpen arm to a mop-up guy, a move that wasn’t explained to him and one which he didn’t want at the time and doesn’t want long-term. De Fratus finished with awful numbers, as he compiled a 5.51 ERA while seeing his strikeout rate drop by nearly four percent and his walk rate increase by over three percent compared to last season.

After using De Fratus as a multi-inning guy through August, the Phillies only called on him five times in September and October. He still finished having thrown the most pitches among relievers, by far, at 1,444. Unsurprisingly, De Fratus saw his average fastball velocity plummet on all of his pitches. Via Brooks Baseball:

There’s no way around it: the Phillies abused the hell out of the right arm of De Fratus. Hopefully for him, the velocity and performance decline are temporary and he is able to latch on with a new team that utilizes him responsibly. Furthermore, the Phillies need to have learned from their usage of De Fratus this season and understand that it’s an unethical and ineffective way to utilize a relief pitcher.

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  1. UPS

    October 07, 2015 05:03 PM

    Good Luck JDF, you seem like a cool dude. Hopefully, you find your groove.

    Welp, I hope they end up tendering Dom Brown – MLBTR predicts an under $3mil award, which seems worth it for another year of seeing what happens.

    • Carmine

      October 07, 2015 05:32 PM

      I think we have seen all there is to see with Dom.

    • Boo-urns

      October 09, 2015 09:04 AM

      Why another year? What could we possibly learn about Dum Brown that we haven’t already seen in five disappointing seasons (with one bizarre — and IMO completely unwarranted — trip to the AS game)? He is never going to be the player he was supposedly going to be, ever. He’s adequate at the plate and a complete mess in the outfield.

    • Boo-urns

      October 19, 2015 06:59 PM

      And now, finally, at least a year or two too late (if not more), they finally… FINALLY… get rid of Dum Brown. Good riddance.

  2. Romus

    October 07, 2015 05:42 PM

    JDF gave it his best. Good luck. A little rest at selected intervals thru the year, could have proved beneficial.

  3. Jeff

    October 07, 2015 06:35 PM


    I enjoy your writing, but you’re a tad emotional on this issue. “Unethical” use of a reliever?

    “Furthermore, the Phillies need to have learned from their usage of De Fratus this season and understand that it’s an unethical and ineffective way to utilize a relief pitcher.”

    You may not like the way they used DeFratus (nor do I), however there was nothing “unethical” about it. Stupid? Yes. Unethical? No. He is paid to pitch when the team tells him to pitch. He signed a contract under the parameters set forth in the CBA. I hope the Phils learn from this process and that JD has a nice career somewhere else, however it was obvious this year that JD was not in the team’s long term plans and he was deployed accordingly to eat innings in a throwaway year. The team viewed him as fungible, however there was nothing unethical about the use of JD.

    • Bill Baer

      October 07, 2015 11:13 PM

      I can’t say with any certainty, but the Phillies’ misuse of De Fratus this year puts him at a significant injury risk, particularly considering his velocity decline. In a season in which the Phillies were very clearly not trying to win, leaning on JDF the way they did was completely unnecessary and may have cost him years on his career and money. That’s unethical, in my book, but then again, I lean very heavily on the side of labor over ownership.

      • Jeff

        October 08, 2015 12:37 PM


        Hmmmm. Not sure I view professional athletes as “labor”. Seems to be an affront to those that spent 40 years doing shift work in a mill. We can, however agree to disagree.

        I would be interested though on your position with respect to the Mets’ handling of David Harvey (and the Nats of Strasburg a few years ago). Each case is a bit different as Strasburg’s limits were imposed by the team while Harvey’s have been self imposed (or at least attempted to be imposed by Boras).

        I suspect you may take the position that the Nats were being responsible at the time in their attempt to protect their asset, and the Mets foolhardy with their zeal to win now and disregard the impact on Harvey’s health. History will be the final judge, however it appears that Nats may have sacrificed the chance to win a few years ago by valuing Strasburg’s perceived long term health over the needs of the whole. With their meltdown this year their window may be closing so history may not view their actions as the “right” ones for the organization. I wonder if they are content with their prior decision or would have liked to have Strasburg pitch in the prior playoffs.

        The Mets seem intent on “going all in” this year and expect him to be on board. Do you think they are misguided in that analysis? I suspect that the culture of sports “requires” Harvey to answer the bell and play otherwise he will risk losing the respect of his teammates.

        I for one (if I were a Mets fan), would expect Harvey to pitch this year if the chance to win a World Series is possible. I am interested in your thoughts on this.


      • Bill Baer

        October 08, 2015 03:53 PM

        I support whatever the player wishes to do. If Harvey wanted to pitch, that’s fine. If Strasburg didn’t want to pitch, that’s also fine.

        Athletes are laborers just as those who work in factories are. They have a union, and deserve the same protections under the law that anyone else would have. Just because they make a lot of money and are famous does not exempt them from being treated properly.

    • Michael C Lorah

      October 08, 2015 09:37 AM

      I have to agree with Jeff. Every player, particularly pitchers, faces injury risk and potential long-term earnings risk every time they step on the field. I don’t see it as labor vs management and think it’s dismissive to regard it as such.

      Justin was struggling as of May (a month in which he averaged less than an inning per outing) and moved into lower leverage opportunities based on his performance. If De Fratus put up the same numbers and was left in the 7th inning role all season, the Phillies would be attacked for using a struggling reliever in high leverage spots. As it is, they move him out of that role and they’re said to be abusing him.

      Did he pitch too many innings? Yes. That’s only partly on the Phillies’ managers and management though. The starting rotation pitched fewer innings than any rotation in baseball. De Fratus wasn’t the only bullpen guy to soak up a lot of innings – he just did it less effectively than the others. Gomez pitched more games and only a handful fewer innings, but also threw significantly fewer pitches, because he pitched better.

      As for outrighting him, he’s arbitration eligible and there are younger, cheaper guys who can do the same job. It’s a bit of a surprise, but not entirely shocking. I’m still a bit mystified that De Fratus remains a hobby horse here. Typically, we’re told how fungible relievers are and there’s no need to overpay or overcommit to them. Now they move on from a (good, but far from great) guy whose costs are rising and it’s a bad thing? There are lots of holes to fill on this team. De Fratus’s spot in the bullpen is very low on the priority list and can be filled very cheaply.

  4. Carl Smith

    October 07, 2015 08:41 PM

    He was converted to mop up man because he wasn’t much good. He started getting slapped around in May and continued to get worse. Can’t really call that abuse. He probably should have been sent to AAA. But they probably wanted to give him a chance to turn it around. He lost a lot of velocity so there was little chance of that.

  5. Carl Smith

    October 07, 2015 08:51 PM

    He started getting slapped around in May. Then he got worse. He hadn’t thrown that many innings at that time. After he became a mop up guy in late June he started throwing some multi inning relief appearances. He wasn’t really abused. He merely lost his effectiveness.

    They should have sent him to AAA maybe. But he was deservedly made a mop up man for good reason.

  6. Mcarthy

    October 09, 2015 06:07 PM

    So they ran him into the ground and then discarded whatever.
    Was mediocre at Reading and generally worse than that up here. There’s younger guns that may work out or just be canon fodder before we get back to business.
    Sh.t happens.

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