The Phillies finally did something this offseason.

They acquired Jose Alvarado, a left handed reliever, in a three team trade with the Rays and Dodgers. The Phillies sent Garrett Cleavinger to the Dodgers as part of the deal.

Background on Alvarado

Alvarado is a 25 year-old left handed reliever. He has played four seasons in Tampa Bay and has a career 3.46 ERA across 132 2/3 innings pitched. The lefty posts high strikeout and walk numbers, striking out 28% while walking 12% of the batters he has faced in his career. Alvarado is a power pitcher that can top off at 100 MPH with nasty movement. His best season was 2018 when he pitched 64 innings to the tune of a 2.39 ERA and struck out 80 while walking 29. 

However, Alvarado does come with question marks. His last two seasons have been subpar, with 2020 being especially rough. Alvarado suffered an oblique injury and inflammation on his pitching elbow in 2019. The injuries limited him to just 30 innings pitched and a 4.80 ERA. The 2020 season was even worse, as Alvarado pitched just nine innings due to left shoulder inflammation. In those nine innings, his average velocity was down to just a hair under 97 MPH as opposed to 98 MPH in 2019. He was also roughed up to the tune of a 6.00 ERA in those limited appearances. Alvarado made two postseason appearances for the Rays before being left off the World Series roster.

Analysis

This trade comes with risk, but it is a rather low risk with potential massive reward. The pitcher Alvarado is when he is healthy is exactly what the Phillies need more of. He is also under control until 2024 and very cheap, as he is arbitration eligible for the first time this year and is expected to make around $1 million. 

As for what the Phillies gave up, Cleavinger is actually a year older than Alvarado and was far down the Phillies depth chart. He made one appearance with the team last year after being added to the roster late in the season. Cleavinger was acquired by the Phillies in the Jeremy Hellickson trade with the Orioles in 2017. He doesn’t have the pure stuff of Alvarado and was mostly serving as minor league depth for the Phillies. 

The Phillies essentially gave up a depth reliever for a reliever who, if healthy, is exactly the kind of power pitching reliever the Phillies so desperately need. There is risk with Alvarado’s injury history, but his low cost in price both to acquire and to pay makes the risk minimal. However, this obviously has to be the start of the Phillies remaking of their bullpen. Alvarado is a nice piece, but ideally you would want to add a few more dependable relievers to really feel good about your outlook. 

The first trade of the Dombrowski era in Philadelphia was a rather safe one. But, it gives the Phillies the very early stages of a decent bullpen, provided they follow up with more pieces.