By most measures, the 2019 campaign has been a very good one for the Phillies so far. The team is out to a 33-22 start, giving them a 3.5-game lead over the Braves in the National League East. Neither their lineup nor their pitching staff has been dominant, but the Phils’ +35 run differential is easily the best in their division. They’ve been a solid team — albeit in a division that’s been less competitive than many pundits anticipated prior to the season thanks to an awful start by the Nationals and a lackluster start from the Mets.
But the Phillies also entered the final week of May with a long list of injuries in the bullpen, and it’s only gotten worse over the past 24 hours. Right-hander Victor Arano, who has been out since mid April due to inflammation in his right elbow, underwent arthroscopic surgery yesterday, as NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury tweeted. Meanwhile, the team announced that lefty Adam Morgan, who is in the midst of the best season of his career, has been placed on the 10-day injured list due to a forearm strain.
There’s no clear timeline for the return of either hurler, though the Phillies should issue an update on Arano’s status in the near future. He’s not a household name by any means, but the 24-year-old has looked every bit the part of a big league reliever since breaking into the Majors in 2017. Through his first 74 2/3 innings, Arano owns a 2.65 ERA with 9.6 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9. He’s allowed just seven homers in that time while posting gaudy swinging-strike and opponents’ chase rates (16.6 percent and 36.1 percent, respectively).
Morgan, meanwhile, sports a 1.96 ERA through 18 1/3 innings in 2019. The 29-year-old former starter has an 18-to-5 K/BB ratio in that time and has held lefties to a .154/.313/.231 average while limiting righties to an even more putrid .114/.162/.301 slash.
That pair of injury updates comes in addition to ongoing absences for David Robertson (flexor strain), Pat Neshek (shoulder strain), Edubray Ramos (biceps tendinitis) and Tommy Hunter (flexor strain). Philadelphia has nearly an entire MLB-caliber bullpen on the injured list at present, and none of the bunch is even out on a minor league rehab assignment.
Unsurprisingly, The Athletic’s Jayson Stark tweets that the Phillies are likely to “aggressively” pursue bullpen upgrades following next week’s MLB draft. But while that might stoke some renewed speculation about a possible match with Craig Kimbrel, Stark also downplayed that possibility. Similarly, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki suggests that a match between the Phillies and Kimbrel is still unlikely if Kimbrel is hoping to secure a multi-year deal. By all accounts, that’s the free-agent closer’s goal once he’s shed the burden of draft-pick compensation, so it doesn’t seem wise to pencil Kimbrel into the back of Gabe Kapler’s bullpen anytime soon.
Early June will still be too soon for some clubs to determine whether they’re full-on sellers, but there will be several clubs that have already accepted that fate — many of whom have some intriguing bullpen options to market. The Giants (Will Smith, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson), Tigers (Shane Greene) and Blue Jays (old friend Ken Giles?) are among the likely sellers of some high-end bullpen options, and none from that bunch has any designs on contending in their respective divisions at this juncture of the season. Specific targets will likely emerge as the Phils (and other teams) shift their focus beyond the draft, but they stand out as an obvious candidate to be among the game’s early buyers this year.