Henderson Alvarez opens every start with a rather unique wind-up that he uses only on the first pitch of every game. It's part of his style, which has gained him the nickname "The Entertainer." Unfortunately, that style hasn't been on a major league mound since last April when he went on the DL with what was first termed shoulder inflammation. A cortisone shot and some rest figured to fix the problem, but on a rehab assignment, Alvarez was again bothered by pain in the shoulder and eventually needed surgery to repair a tear in his shoulder.
It wasn't the first time that Alvarez has had shoulder issues. In 2013, Valdez missed the first half of the season with shoulder inflammation and also missed a couple weeks in 2014 with the same issue. Perhaps, the surgery will have taken care of those concerns once and for all, but that remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen how his elbow, which reportedly also had a tear, will have healed. Some reports have Alvarez being a candidate for eventual Tommy John surgery because the tear is in the Ulnar Collateral ligament.
Alvarez made $4-million last season and would have likely been right around that figure again in arbitration, even though he made just four starts last season and likely won't pitch until at least some time in June this season. With money always being an issue, the Marlins decided to cut ties by not tendering him a contract for the 2016 season, although they've said they're interested in re-signing the 25-year old at a lower salary.
It's likely that Alvarez should have had shoulder surgery long before he finally did, possibly as early as when he missed time in 2013. The surgery should have fixed the problems with the shoulder and it's hoped that Alvarez won't be bothered by any reoccurance of the shoulder miseries that have limited him to just 51 starts over the last three seasons. The elbow problem, which may have been caused by Alvarez attempting to pitch with the sore shoulder, could actually be more problematic. If rest hasn't allowed the tear to fully heal, attempting to pitch could cause the injury to worsen and eventually lead to Tommy John surgery for the right-hander.
So, why should a guy with a balky right shoulder and a risky elbow interest the Phillies?
When he's right, Alvarez is quite simply a hell of a pitcher. He was an all-star in 2014 when he went 12-7 with a 2.65 ERA for the Marlins. He threw three complete game shutouts that season and averaged a little over six innings per start. His career average of just under one home run per nine innings allowed and just 2.1 walks per nine innings would play well in a ballpark like Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies aren't looking at 2016; they're looking more long term, meaning that they wouldn't be in a position to be tempted to rush him back for this season. They could give Alvarez a nice, lengthy amount of time to continue rehabbing the shoulder before working his way back up through minor league assignments and onto a major league mound.
Remember too, that the Phillies have a ton of money coming from Comcast from their television deal, so the financial aspect of a deal wouldn't be nearly as much of a deterant to signing him, especially if Alvarez would be willing to work out a contract that gives the Phillies some insurance. Maybe a deal for around $2.5-million with incentives starting after he makes 10 or 12 starts, so that if he comes back around the All-Star Break, he could still reach enough starts to bump the deal up to around the $4-million mark. And with that, throw in a club option for 2017 that would guarantee him a good, but not outrageous salary. That way, if all systems are go after next season, the Phillies could make a decision on whether or not he's worth the added financial risk.
Yes, the Phillies would be gambling some money, but thanks to Comcast, that's one thing they've got on their side right now. In the end, they could be adding another young, quality starter to their rotation for the next two seasons. By then, the Phillies should be good enough that if Alvarez is healthy, they would be a tempting place for him to stay. If he's not healthy, the Phillies let him go and spend the money elsewhere.
While it's not completely a low-risk, high-reward type of signing, the risk is small enough that it shouldn't be an issue.