In a surprise move Tuesday afternoon, the Phillies released outfielder Chris Coghlan, who seemed very likely to make the club after being a non-roster invitee to Spring Training. Coghlan had a good spring, and by all accounts figured to fill a utility role coming off the bench, but the Phillies have apparently decided to go in a different direction and proceed without Coghlan, who had an opt-out clause in his contract.
Taking Coghlan out of the equation, leaves Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Jesmuel Valentin fighting for two remaining spots on the Phillies bench. Of the three players, only Valentin is on the 40-man roster, which is going to be a major consideration for moves coming in the final days of Spring Training.
To clear one spot on the 40-man, the Phillies later announced that right-hander Alec Asher had been dealt to the Baltimore Orioles for cash or a player to be named later. Asher was in a battle for one of the remaining bullpen spots, which now appears may go to left-hander Adam Morgan. Both Asher and Morgan are former starters, who were being groomed for the bullpen by the Phillies.
Asher, 25, served an 80-game suspension last season for a positive PED test, but pitched for the Phillies late in the season, going 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in five major league starts. The Phillies acquired Asher as part of the package of players that came over from the Texas Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade.
Orioles executive vice president, Dan Duquette, told the Baltimore Sun that his team has had an interest in Asher for a couple of years and that they view him as a solid major league pitcher who can help their club this season. Asher still has an option remaining, and Duquette was non-committal whether Asher would open the season in the majors and also didn't commit to whether he would be used as a starter or out of the bullpen. Asher was placed on the Orioles 40-man roster.
Coghlan hit .231/.319/.282 this spring with the Phillies, and is a career .260 hitter in the majors, having played with the Marlins, Cubs and Oakland A's. Coghlan won a World Series ring with the Cubs last season, hitting .252/.391/.388 in 48 games with Chicago after having been reacquired by the team from Oakland during the season.
In addition to the moves with Coghlan and Asher, the Phillies informed pitchers Cesar Ramos, Hoby Milner, Colton Murray and Pat Venditte, along with infielder Pedro Florimon, that they will not make the club, but will stay with the big league club through Friday. All five players are likely going to be with Triple-A Lehigh Valley to open the season.