Nola Injured and the Phillies Make a Trade

The Phillies 40 man roster will be a story all year, as they navigate the 11 players they added in front of the Rule 5 draft. With Clay Buchholz’s season ending injury and Elniery Garcia’s PED suspension, the roster opened up some. This was all just in time for injuries to hit the Phillies elsewhere.

The heart attack inducing injury was to Aaron Nola’s back. Right now, all indications are that Nola will only miss a start or two on this DL trip, but the news caused some level of panic anyway. The corresponding move is fairly obvious. Nick Pivetta has gotten off to a hot start and is both on the 40 man roster and on turn in the rotation. Pivetta probably needs more time in AAA, but he should be fine to make a 1 to 2 start cameo in the majors. The Phillies could choose to go with a bullpen game in those starts instead, but all signs point to Pivetta making his debut.

The injury no one is worrying about is to Howie Kendrick’s oblique. The reason for this is Aaron Altherr. Altherr has moved from the first outfielder off the bench to a near everyday role. He is still striking out at a high rate, but he is showing why everyone was excited heading into 2016. Altherr might have some struggles has he continues to get more playing time, but the payoff could be another everyday outfielder for the Phillies.

The pain from the Kendrick injury is really felt on the Phillies’ bench. Because of Kendrick’s positional flexibility, the Phillies were able to carry 3 OF/1Bs (Altherr, Nava, and Stassi), Andres Blanco, and Andrew Knapp. Kendrick’s ability to play 2B and 3B allowed Pete Mackanin to use Andres Blanco as a sub or pinch hitter, because if something happened to Hernandez, Galvis, or Franco, the Phillies could move Kendrick to the infield and reshuffle the rest. Since Kendrick went on the DL, the Phillies have been carrying 8 relievers and only 4 bench bats. This has led to Mark Leiter Jr. sitting on the bullpen bench not pitching (thanks to a great string of the starts by the Phillies’ rotation), and Andres Blanco nailed down to the bench because no one else on the roster can play the infield in an emergeny.

Enter Ty Kelly. Ty Kelly is not a major league player. He is a no power utility player who can play almost anywhere on the diamond. He works good at bats, but he is essentially a zero on the field. The Phillies acquired him via trade from the Blue Jays for cash, so their investment is minimal. Kelly should never see the field for the Phillies. He will be their 5th best pinch hit bat, and he is not really a defensive upgrade anywhere for the Phillies. What he is, is a trade for Blanco’s bat off the bench, which is now available to Mackanin for the first time in nearly a week. He also allows the Phillies to continue to push off promoting Jesmuel Valentin into a bench role.

Kelly will be activated when Nola is put on the DL, with Leiter likely returning to AAA the be replaced by Wednesday’s starter replacement for Nola. Given Leiter’s lack of activity, the Phillies won’t miss having an 8th reliever.

The other thing we saw in the past week was how the Phillies will manage their 40 man roster going forward. Leiter’s addition to the roster does give the Phillies 3 up and down relievers, and I suspect we will see him, Luis Garcia, and Adam Morgan making trips up and down from AAA to majors as they are needed. In the case that they are not available, the Phillies showed they are willing to pull up a minor league starter as an extra arm when needed. The Phillies entire AAA rotation is on the 40 man roster, meaning they should be able to pull up pitchers when they need them for short stints, like they did with Ben Lively when Pat Neshek went on the paternity list.

No team is resilient to injuries forever, but the Phillies have been able to weather their first set, and their depth has led to opportunities going to Aaron Altherr, Zach Eflin, and likely Nick Pivetta, as well as quick stints to the bullpen bench for Ben Lively and Mark Leiter Jr. It should only get more interesting from here.

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  1. Mike Fassano

    April 24, 2017 05:17 PM

    Gulp! You took the words right out of my mouth, Matt. Blanco is too valuable to keep on the bench as an insurance policy. This insignificant little move allows the Phils the opportunity to bat Blanco at key times of the game.
    I’m less worried about Nolas back than I would be his arm, although a back strain can tend to linger. I’ve suffered with back pain for most of my life (I even had surgery), but, once healed, it didn’t stop me from heavy lifting. The biggest obstacle may be the fear of re-injuring it.
    I’m ok with either Pivetta or Lively replacing Nola, and also Jake Thompson has found his groove in AAA. What I’m not ok with is Pete’s handling of the closers role. He never should have anointed Gomez as the closer. In what seemed like the longest Spring training ever, he should have had Gomez, Neris, Benoit, and Ramos compete and named his closer in the middle of March.

  2. Sandy zendrosky

    April 25, 2017 05:42 AM



    • JC

      April 25, 2017 11:01 AM

      Thanks for the insight.

  3. Romus

    April 25, 2017 09:14 AM

    Glad to see Aaron Altherr get some valuable playing time while Howie Kendrick is on the mend.
    I just do not see him being a part of the future starting OF core, maybe as soon as 2018 and beyond, so he should take advantage of the situation while he can.

    • Ed

      April 25, 2017 05:46 PM

      Well Altherr is the best defensive outfielder they have now so not sure why he wouldn’t be considered as much of the ‘core’ as anyone else. In a rebuild like this and at this stage everyone is potentially trade bait. This includes Herrera who is a nice player but has his flaws. He is under a team friendly contract for a long time and might bring back a great return. So, for Altherr, who is hitting really and possesses good defensive instincts his future is just secure as any other ‘core’ will players at this point of the rebuild.

      • Romus

        April 25, 2017 06:43 PM

        Still do not see him as a starting OFer beyond 2018.
        The starters I see as one of these:
        CF-Herrera, Quinn, or Moniak (ETA 2020)…Tocci could fill the Altherr role in two yrs.
        Corners- Williams, Cozens, Randolph (LF- ETA 2020)…maybe a Pullin
        His defensive skills will keep him as a 4th/5th.
        Unless Klentak and the FO decide to start to trade some of those above.
        And onet way of evaluating Altherr’s worth….what would he bring back in trade value going into his age27 season in 2018? I do not see a lot of return value.

      • Steve

        April 26, 2017 11:09 AM

        Lol lots of downvotes Rom. I cant say we wont be a starting OF beyond 2018, but with the OF prospects we have, the hope would be that at least three progress close enough to their ceilings to create a logjam, at which point Altherr would be the oldest and most expensive. That said, i love what hes doing right now.

      • Romus

        April 26, 2017 03:47 PM

        Steve…..down votes come with the territory.
        People sometimes do not like to hear, in this case , see, the truth.
        Phillies didn’t draft those guys above with high picks or trade for them to have them sit. at the major league level.
        But Altherr right now is taking advantage of the opportunity he has and hopefully he will make the most of it. If anything down the road, other teams will desire his defensive glove and bat if the prospects start to push him out..

  4. NJ Mike

    April 25, 2017 11:01 AM

    Phillies haven’t been that hard hit by injuries yet though especially if Nola only misses a start or tow.

  5. RU

    April 25, 2017 11:01 PM

    Phillies are rightfully quick to pull the trigger on D-L ing the young pitchers for any conceivable health reason. It makes no sense to have Nola pitch more than 160 innings, so if he has a hang nail, let him sit it out. There will be more important years / seasons than this one. This is all about finding out about people like, Altherr, Franco, et. al.

  6. NJ Mike

    April 27, 2017 12:50 AM

    Phillies acquired Kelly because the options at Lehigh stink.

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