Figuring out the Phillies rotation without any additions

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 26: Starting pitcher Aaron Nola #27 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park on May 26, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 26: Starting pitcher Aaron Nola #27 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park on May 26, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /
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With the odds of the Phillies adding another starter this offseason dwindling, let’s try to figure out what the rotation could look like next year.

The Phillies made plays this offseason to try and add to the rotation, but their two biggest targets (J.A. Happ and Patrick Corbin) both wound up signing somewhere else. Philadelphia was outbid by the competition in both instances as they viewed adding to the rotation more of a luxury than a need.

Barring a blockbuster trade, it appears the Phils will head into next season with the same starters on the roster from the end of this season. This isn’t a bad thing at all as the team had one of the better rotations in the league in 2018.

Philadelphia’s starters ranked seventh in wins above replacement (15.5), sixth in fielding-independent pitching (3.76), eighth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.16), and ninth in skill-interactive ERA (3.88). Had the defense behind the pitchers been better, their numbers could have ranked even higher.

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When looking at the rotation, the first couple spots are more or less locked in. Aaron Nola was a Cy Young finalist and is now in the conversation when talking about the best pitchers in the league. Jake Arrieta is still getting paid $45 million over the next two seasons, so he’s not going anywhere. Nick Pivetta took a major step forward last year and should continue to develop.

After these three, things start getting weird.

Vince Velasquez improved compared to his 2017 season, but he still didn’t jump off the page: 4.85 ERA, 3.75 fielding-independent pitching, 1.343 WHIP, and 2.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Zach Eflin started off the season well but fell apart down the stretch with a 5.43 ERA once the calendar turned to July.

Then you have Jerad Eickhoff, who had all the makings of a mid-rotation starter before injuries derailed him in 2017 and 2018. He looked good to end the season with eight strikeouts against 15 batters faced, but that’s certainly not enough to bank on.

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Plus, you still have Enyel De Los Santos and Ranger Suarez still in the mix after making a couple spot starts last year. Without the addition of a left-handed starter, Suarez has to be given some extra consideration as the only one on the 40-man roster.

So where does this all put the Phillies? They have to decide which five starters they want to put on their Opening Day roster with five different ones having a claim to the last two spots. The main competition will be between Velasquez, Eflin, and Eickhoff, but De Los Santos and Suarez still have their arguments.

Ultimately, I think Velasquez and Eflin will have the advantage since they spent last year in the rotation.

With that being said, if Eickhoff looks good in spring training, he may swipe a spot from them.

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All of this goes completely out the window if the team makes a trade between now and spring training involving a starter, but that seems unlikely at this point.