Five years ago, Drew Smyly was a featured component in a three-team, five-player trade that sent David Price to the Detroit Tigers.
Now, he's part of the Phillies' plan to improve their pitching.
In a move that carries minimal risk, the Phillies signed Smyly on Friday, one day after he opted out of a minor-league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. Terms weren’t immediately available, but it’s a major-league deal and the 30-year-old lefty is expected to join the Phillies this weekend in Pittsburgh, according to a source. The Phillies have not yet announced the deal.
It's likely that Smyly will enter the starting rotation, possibly bumping Vince Velasquez back to a late-inning role in the bullpen. Velasquez is lined up to start Sunday against the Pirates.
Phillies starters rank 18th in the majors this season with a 4.62 ERA and last in the National League in fielding independent pitching (5.12). Nick Pivetta was demoted to triple-A early in the season, while Velasquez was temporarily moved to the bullpen. Jake Arrieta has a bone spur floating in his right elbow that will eventually require surgery, and Zach Eflin has a 9.90 ERA over his last four starts.
The Phillies also haven't had a lefty as a full-time member of the rotation since Adam Morgan at the end of the 2016 season.
Smyly was an up-and-coming pitcher early in his career, first with the Tigers and then the Tampa Bay Rays. With a solid changeup and a fastball that he elevated successfully to get strikeouts, his best season as a starter came in 2014, when he posted a 3.24 ERA in 153 innings between the two teams, including a 1.70 mark in seven starts with the Rays.
But Smyly dealt with shoulder issues in 2016 before injuring his elbow in 2017 and requiring Tommy John surgery. He bounced from the Rays to the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago Cubs during his rehabilitation and began this season with the Texas Rangers. He posted an 8.42 ERA in 13 appearances (nine starts) before getting released in June.
Smyly signed a minor-league deal with the Brewers and had a 4.97 ERA in three triple-A starts before opting out this week.