Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta may be facing season-ending surgery on a bone spur in his elbow, but he’ll continue to pitch while the team evaluates his health. The plan is for Arrieta to take the ball sometime during Philadelphia’s series against the Nationals this weekend, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told SportsRadio 94WIP on Wednesday (via ESPN.com).
While Kapler admitted the injury has hampered Arrieta, he added that “it’s always worth considering if Jake at 85 percent of himself is a better option than what we have at Triple-A.”
Three members of the Phillies’ 40-man roster – Enyel De Los Santos, Cole Irvin and Drew Anderson – are on Triple-A Lehigh Valley’s pitching staff. Santos, Irvin and Anderson have all spent some time in the majors this year, but they’ve each struggled over limited sample sizes. While De Los Santos and Irvin have put up mid-3.00s ERAs in the minors this year, their effective run prevention has come with less enticing peripherals. Anderson, meanwhile, owns a near-6.00 ERA with Lehigh Valley in 2019. The 22-year-old JoJo Romero is Philly’s seventh-ranked prospect at MLB.com (one spot behind De Los Santos, nine ahead of Irvin), but he isn’t on the 40-man and hasn’t earned a promotion anyway. Romero sports an ERA a tad south of 10.00 in seven Triple-A starts.
Not only do the Phillies lack starting options they’re fully comfortable with below the majors, but their big league rotation hasn’t lit it up. The team’s starters rank 19th in the majors in K/BB ratio, 24th in ERA and 25th in FIP, owing in part to Arrieta’s disappointing performance. Now in the second season of a three-year, $75MM contract, the 33-year-old has pitched to a 4.67 ERA/5.07 FIP with 7.08 K/9 and 3.33 BB/9 in 108 innings. Arrieta’s contract gives him the right to opt out after the season, while the Phillies could void his opt-out and opt into two more years and $40MM. Neither one of those things will happen, though, so the Phillies will end up owing him another $20MM in 2020.
Despite the Phillies’ pricey commitment to Arrieta, they’ll run the risk of having him continue to pitch through injury for the time being. Regardless of whether he holds up, the Phillies seem like shoo-ins to fortify their rotation from outside before the July 31 trade deadline. In the meantime, the club will start the second half of the season Friday at 47-43 and a half-game up on the NL’s second wild-card spot.