The Rays, Phillies, and Dodgers are in combination on a three-team deal, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter links). As part of the swap, left-hander Jose Alvarado will go from the Rays to the Phillies, and minor league first baseman Dillon Paulson and a player to be named later or cash considerations will go from the Dodgers to Tampa Bay. The Phils announced that left-hander Garrett Cleavinger has been sent to Los Angeles to complete the Dodgers’ end of the trade.
Alvarado is the most well-known name involved, and the southpaw will join a Philadelphia bullpen that posted dire numbers in 2020. At his best during four seasons in Tampa, Alvarado was a major weapon for the Rays, most notably during a 2018 season that saw him post a 2.39 ERA and 11.3 K/9 over 64 relief innings and 70 games.
Injuries limited Alvarado in both 2019 and 2020, however, as he managed only a 5.08 ERA, 1.58 K/BB rate and 39 innings. While Alvarado still missed a lot of bats to the tune of a 12.0 K/9, a lack of control (7.6 BB/9) counter-acted those punchouts. Shoulder inflammation limited Alvarado to only nine regular-season innings in 2020, but he was able to return for the ALCS and toss 1 2/3 scoreless innings to contribute to the Rays’ victory over the Astros.
Alvarado is still only 25 years old and is controllable for three seasons via the arbitration process, so the Phillies are hoping there’s plenty of upside left. Beyond a general need for any sort of bullpen help, Philadelphia was also particularly short on left-handers, so Alvarado immediately becomes the club’s top southpaw option. Alvarado has been just about equally good against left-handed (career .600 OPS) and right-handed (.622 OPS) batters during his four MLB seasons.
In moving Alvarado, the Rays open up a 40-man roster spot that was needed for the completion of the Blake Snell trade with the Padres, so that deal could be officially announced soon. There is also a financial element to the swap from Tampa Bay’s end, as Alvarado was projected to earn roughly $1.05MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
Cleavinger made his MLB debut in 2020, tossing two-thirds of an inning in a single appearances for Philadelphia. A third-round pick for the Orioles in the 2015 draft, Cleavinger was dealt to the Phillies as part of the Jeremy Hellickson trade in July 2017. Working exclusively as a reliever throughout his pro career, Cleavinger has a 4.08 ERA, 2.26 K/BB rate, and 12.0 K/9 over 220 1/3 innings in the Baltimore and Philadelphia farm system, though he has never pitched at the Triple-A level.
Paulson was a 13th-round pick for the Dodgers in the 2018 draft, and the USC product has hit .253/.373/.464 over 778 plate appearances during his brief pro career, reaching the high-A level in 2019.