Yesterday the Phillies announced that Andrew Vasquez was designated for assignment to make room for the trade deadline acquisitions. It came as a surprise to many that Vasquez was the one who was sent down instead of right-hander Dylan Covey. You can say that Covey has been less than stellar this year and his first impression with the Phillies was less than ideal.
Why did the Phillies DFA Andrew Vasquez instead of Dylan Covey?
Let’s dig a bit deeper to see what they front office saw.
Dylan Covey made his debut with the Phillies on May 17 and went four innings while giving up two earned runs. The Phillies were still working out what to do at the fifth starter spot and they were going with the “bullpen” game. He made his next appearance six days later and had a solid outing, allowing just one run over five innings. But then it fell apart. He started the next time out on May 28 and couldn’t get out of the first inning. He was charged with five earned runs and recorded just two outs. The Phillies faithful had seen enough and was ready to move on and send him away from the big-league team. However, Thomson and the front office had a different idea. He has stuck around ever since despite the 7.71 era he ended May with.
It’s hard to get that type of performance out of your head when you see Covey run on to the field from the bullpen. Every time Thomson calls on him, the first thought races to the seven runs allowed in less than an inning but the reality is, he has found his footing and has been as solid as they come. Over the next 11 appearances, he has pitched 15.1 innings allowing six earned runs to come to a 3.52 era. Those numbers are more than serviceable for the last guy in the bullpen, long-reliever and mop up duty guy. Looking at his number even more recent, over his last eight appearances, over 11 innings pitched he’s surrendered just two earned runs for a 1.64 era. Caleb Cotham and the pitching coaches may have found something and it could have clicked for Covey.
When the decision was made that Covey would remain on the team over Vasquez, Alex Coffey tweeted that Thomson was quoted saying that he has been developing a changeup/split to help with left-handed hitting and that his fastball has a sink to it that induces more ground balls. Thomson has put his faith in the 31-year-old and has said he will be used in more high leverage situations.
Now that we’ve dissected Covey’s numbers more to get a better understanding of his recent outings and what the front office liked let's take a look at his competition and the pitcher who was sent down instead of him. The numbers reveal even more of why they made their decision. Andrew Vasquez been a part of this Phillies bullpen since opening day and has done everything he’s been asked. Through May, he has thrown 25.1 innings over 17 appearances and giving up just four earned runs for a 1.42 era. Though the majority of those outings came in low to mid leverage situations. Taking a look at the same time frame in which Covey started to find his stuff, from the beginning to June to now, Vasquez has pitched 14.1 innings with an era of 3.77. Not the shutdown relief pitcher that he was originally pegged for at the start of the year. He’s also only pitched more than one inning three times out of 13 appearances as opposed to Covey who’s pitched multiple innings five times in 11 appearances since the start of June.
While the optics of sending down a 29-year-old reliever with a 2.27 era in favor of a 31-year-old with an era of 5.04 does not seem right. When looking at the versatility, recent performances, and future outlook, the Phillies made the right, but tough, call.