With that news, we now have a good idea when Phelps could be back in action at the major league level. Pitchers may work on rehab assignments for up to thirty days. Those recovering from Tommy John surgery, as is Phelps, can have their assignments extended by ten days up to three times.
The hope, surely, will be that Phelps can return before the month of June is out. As a veteran relief pitcher, he’ll be handled differently than a youthful starter. While the Jays and Phelps have every incentive to exercise reasonable caution, both have an interest in seeing him on a MLB mound as soon as possible.
For the Toronto organization, Phelps represented a calculated gamble on a $2.5MM guarantee. If he’s able to return to his once-excellent form, Phelps could be utilized as a mid-2019 trade chip or kept for the 2020 campaign via club option.
On the pitcher’s side of the equation, his earnings are tied directly to his MLB activity levels. Phelps stands to earn $250K apiece upon making his 25th, 30th, and 35th appearances, with $350K apiece at numbers 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60. There are also bonuses for games finished. Plus, the option’s base rate of $1MM can rise to $3MM (if he reaches 30 games), $5MM (at 40 games), $7MM (50 games), or even $8MM (in the rather unlikely event he appears in fifty and finishes forty games).
Phelps had been a useful but hardly outstanding MLB starter before finding another gear in a relief role. Since the start of the 2016 season, he carries a 2.72 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 over 142 1/3 innings.