Phillies trade for Cubs pitcher and announce corresponding 40-man roster move

The Phillies acquired right-hander Michael Rucker on Tuesday, designating Andrew Bellatti to make room on the 40-man roster.
Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies have made a trade. The team announced this afternoon the Phillies have acquired right-handed relief pitcher Michael Rucker from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for cash considerations. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Andrew Bellatti was designated for assignment.

The move for Rucker comes at a time when the free agent market for quality relief pitchers has thinned considerably in the last few weeks. Earlier this week, two Phillies targets signed with new teams. Phil Maton has reportedly reached an agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays, and Jakob Junis reached a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night.

Rucker was designated for assignment by the Cubs to make room for recently signed former Phillies relief pitcher Héctor Neris on Feb. 1.

What should Phillies fans expect from Michael Rucker?

While this is a minor trade, the 29-year-old Rucker has flashed some upside in his short MLB career. Drafted by the Cubs in the 11th round of the 2016 Draft out of BYU, the right-hander debuted for Chicago in a 20-game sample in 2021. Last season, Rucker had a record of 2-1 with a 4.91 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings over 35 appearances.

In 2022, Rucker had a great season coming out of the Cubs bullpen. In 40 appearances, Rucker went 3-1 with a 3.95 ERA to go along with 50 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings. Overall in his career, Rucker is 5-2 with a 4.96 ERA with 120 strikeouts in 123 1/3 major league innings.

According to Baseball Savant, Rucker features four pitches, with his four-seamer, cutter, and slider being his primary offerings. His 85.8 mph slider was a very effective pitch in 2023, as opposing hitters could only muster four hits (all singles) and a .133 batting average while striking out 14 times on a 51 percent whiff rate against the pitch. His four-seamer sits at 94.6 mph and was less effective last season, but held hitters to a .222 average in 2022 while producing 14 strikeouts.

The Phillies obviously see some upside in Rucker. It's possible that he could reestablish his four-seam fastball in 2024 and dominate hitters with his plus slider. Every season, players like Rucker emerge and find roles in good major league bullpens. Could we be looking at this season's version of Jeff Hoffman? That's what the Phillies might have been thinking with this move.