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Phillies claim reliever Kent Emanuel off waivers from Houston, make two trades, protect three from Rule 5 trade

Emanuel made 10 relief appearances as a rookie last season with Houston before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery.

Reliever Kent Emmanuel was claimed off waivers by the Phillies on Friday.
Reliever Kent Emmanuel was claimed off waivers by the Phillies on Friday.Read moreMichael Wyke / AP

The Phillies claimed a reliever off waivers Friday for the second time this month, picking up Kent Emanuel, a 29-year-old left-hander who had elbow surgery in May after serving an 80-game suspension for a performance-enhancing drug he denied taking.

Emanuel made 10 relief appearances as a rookie last season with Houston before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery. He avoided a second Tommy John surgery, which he had in 2015, and should be ready for spring training.

Emanuel pairs a low-90s sinker with a slider and changeup. He allowed five earned runs last season in 17⅔ innings with 13 strikeouts and four walks. The Phillies are in the market for several relievers after last season’s bullpen posted a 4.60 ERA and blew a franchise-record 34 saves.

The Phillies will take fliers this winter on pitchers like Emanuel and Ryan Sheriff, who they claimed from Tampa Bay, but that does not deter them from adding the high-leverage arms they need.

» READ MORE: What we learned from the GM meetings about the Phillies’ offseason plans

A third-round pick in 2013, Emanuel was suspended in August of 2020 after testing positive in the minors for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone. He challenged the suspension, denied using the drug, and wore No. 0 last season because that was how many games he said he deserved to miss.

He was part of a group of players who strongly denied using DHCMT - which is also called oral turinabol - after testing positive. Two Phillies pitchers were suspended for it in 2015 and denied knowing how it entered their system. Emanuel posted a 10-minute video to Instagram after being suspended to detail how he believed he was wronged.

“There are innocent players getting in trouble for stuff they really can’t control,” Emanuel said last April.

First trades of offseason

The Phillies acquired relief pitcher Nick Nelson from the Yankees and bolstered their catching depth in a pair of minor deals as Dave Dombrowski made his first trades of the offseason.

Nelson, who turns 26 in December, has a 6.43 ERA over the last two seasons in 22 appearances. He racked up 22 strikeouts last season in 14⅓ innings but also walked 16 batters. He leans heavily on his fastball, which tops out near 99 mph, and uses a changeup as his preferred secondary pitch.

The Phillies also acquired minor-league catcher Donny Sands and sent the Yankees left-hander Joel Valdez and first baseman T.J. Rumfield. Valdez, 21, pitched last season in the Dominican Summer League and Rumfield, 21, was drafted last summer in the 12th round.

In a second trade, the Phils acquired 28-year-old catcher Garrett Stubbs from Houston for outfielder Logan Cerny, a 22-year-old who was drafted in last summer’s 10th round. Stubbs has played 51 major-league games over the last three seasons with a .485 career OPS in 87 plate appearances. He hit .265 last season with a .781 OPS in 146 plate appearances at triple A.

Nelson, Stubbs, and Sands were all added to the 40-man roster and have minor-league options remaining. Dombrowski said the Phillies would add a backup catcher this offseason while planning for prospects Rafael Marchan and Logan O’Hoppe to play everyday in the minors. Stubbs and Sands could be candidates to backup J.T. Realmuto while also providing the team with depth if they decide to trade one of their catching prospects to fill another need.

Phillies protect three

The Phillies added three prospects – Luis Garcia, right-hander James McArthur, and outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz –to the 40-man roster Friday, which protects them from being selected next month in the Rule 5 Draft.

Garcia, a 21-year-old strong defensive shortstop, hit .243 last season with a .767 OPS in 103 games between single A Clearwater and high-A Jersey Shore. McArthur, who turns 25 next month, had a 4.48 ERA in 74⅓ innings with double-A Reading, mostly working as a starter. He pitched this month in the Arizona Fall League. Ortiz, who the Phillies signed in 2015 for $4 million when he was 16, had an .834 OPS with 23 homers in 95 games with Jersey Shore and Reading.