Earlier this afternoon, the Milwaukee Brewers formally announced the signing of right-hander David Phelps to a one-year contract with an option for 2021. Per the terms of the agreement, Phelps will receive a base salary of $1.25 mil for the upcoming season along with a $4.5 mil team option for 2021 that includes a $250K buyout, bringing the total guarantee to $1.5 mil. Additionally, Phelps can earn up to another $1.9 mil in bonuses for 2020 based on his number of appearances.
“We look at David as someone who’s not too far removed from being one of the better relievers in this game. What happened in the interim was Tommy John surgery. Now, two years removed from that Tommy John, that’s generally a pretty good spot where pitchers can begin to really get that velocity back and get back to where they were previously.”
Phelps, 33, has put together quite a nice career since debuting in the big leagues back in 2012. The former 14th-round pick owns a 3.86 ERA across 588.0 innings pitched covering 269 appearances (65 starts). His best work came during the 2016-17 seasons with the Marlins and Mariners, when he posted a 2.72 ERA and 3.09 FIP while working 142.1 innings over 118 outings. As Stearns mentioned, however, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2018 season while recovering. He returned to pitch in 41 games and log 34.1 innings with the Cubs and Blue Jays last season, authoring a strong 3.41 ERA though with less enticing peripherals.
Phelps’ fastball velocity in 2019 was down some two MPH from where it was prior to the surgery, down to 92.8 MPH. His swinging-strike rate of 7.8% was the worst total he’s posted since 2015, though he did manage to punch out 9.44 batters per nine innings. His 4.46 BB/9 was a career-worst, as was his 1.31 HR/9 allowed. FIP- (101) and DRA- (111) were far less enthused by Phelps’ work in 2019 than his actual run prevention totals (76 ERA-) would suggest.
To make room for Phelps on the roster, the Brewers designated reliever Deolis Guerra for assignment. Guerra signed a minor league deal with Milwaukee prior to last season and had only one disastrous MLB outing for the Brewers, but he did enjoy a superlative campaign for Triple-A San Antonio, posting a 1.89 ERA and 88:16 K/BB ratio in 66.2 innings. He became a minor league free agent after the season concluded, but the Brewers re-signed him to an MLB contract a couple weeks later and bestowed upon him a spot on the 40-man roster. He didn’t even last the whole winter, though, and is now likely headed back to the open market assuming he clears waivers and is outrighted.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus