Phillies might have found their 5th starter on MiLB deal
By Matt Rappa
Lost in Tuesday’s news that the Philadelphia Phillies re-signed star catcher J.T. Realmuto to a five-year deal and are now shifting focus to finding a new starting shortstop, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and general manager Sam Fuld also made another notable free-agent signing.
As first reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the team inked veteran pitcher Ivan Nova to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. If Nova reaches the majors, he would earn $1.5 million.
Ivan Nova could be the fifth starting pitcher in the 2021 Phillies rotation.
The Phillies have reportedly targeted at least three starting pitchers this offseason, among them RHP Jose Urena — who signed with the Detroit Tigers — as well as fellow right-handed veterans Anibal Sanchez and Julio Teheran.
Last week, Dombrowski told reporters that, ideally, the Phillies would like to add some starting pitching depth: “Sometimes they are non-roster invitees that can come in and pitch,” he said. “But, I think that where we are, we have some young arms that we really like. I’m not sure how close they are to contributing right now. I think from an ideal perspective, it’s something we’re at least looking to see if we can find.”
Nova could very well be the non-roster invitee Dombrowski had in mind at the time of saying that quote. If he performs well in spring training, with the first workout scheduled for February 17, do not count him out to sneaking into the team’s starting rotation.
The 34-year-old made his big-league debut with the New York Yankees in 2010. He pitched under manager Joe Girardi there through August 2016, when he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates (2016-18). Since, the 11-year veteran has also pitched for the Chicago White Sox (2019) and Detroit Tigers (2020).
The past few seasons, Ivan Nova has been durable — which may prove to be valuable in the transition from a 60- to 162-game season.
So far through 240 career appearances and 227 starts, the Dominican Republic native has logged a 90-77 record, 4.38 ERA, 1.359 WHIP, and 963-368 strikeouts-to-walks ratio through 1,347 2/3 innings. This past season, Nova went 1-1 with an 8.53 ERA and 1.632 WHIP across four starts and 19 innings.
In 2019, Nova led the majors with 34 starts; he appeared in no fewer than 29 games in each of his previous three seasons as well. Therefore, Nova could be a valuable, durable arm for the 2021 pitching staff — as it will have to adjust pitching in a 162-game marathon., rather than a 60-game sprint.
Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez, for now, are favorites for the final two spots in the rotation to complement Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin. But, a lot could change. The 2011 American League Rookie of the Year finalist in Nova will have a lot to prove in spring training if he wishes to make the Opening Day roster and perhaps knock Velasquez down to the bullpen.