Surprisingly, 25-year-old right-handed starter Henderson Alvarez was non-tendered by the Miami Marlins. Shockingly, the Marlins were unable to find another team willing to part with a mid-level prospect to acquire the 2014 All-Star. To be fair to the Marlins, Alvarez is coming off significant shoulder surgery, and will not be ready until May 2016 at the earliest.
Alvarez led the National League with three shutouts in 2014, received Cy Young votes that year, and does have a no-hitter on his resume. He was part of the trade that sent Mark Beuehrle and Jose Reyes to the Toronto Blue Jays. In his two years with the Blue Jays, Alvarez had struggled to put it all together at the big-league level, recording a win-loss record of 10-17 with a 4.52 ERA. His first two years with Miami were much better. Alvarez was 17-13 with a 2.98 ERA in 47 starts in 2013 and 2014. He threw the aforementioned no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers at the end of the 2013 season.
The potential is there with Alvarez, despite the injuries. He is a pitch-to-contact type of pitcher, but throws one of the better sinkers in the league. When his arm was healthy, Alvarez was typically able to limit walks to under two per nine. In 2013, he gave up two home runs in over 100 innings pitched.
Most of the league will be inquiring on Alvarez, but one team that should really take a long, hard look at him is the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies have already traded for another reclamation project this offseason in Jeremy Hellickson. The former American League Rookie of the Year has had his own struggles with injury and inconsistency, but comes with plenty of upside. Hellickson is a fly-ball pitcher, whereas Alvarez gets most of his outs on the ground. When it comes to low-risk, high-reward starting pitching projects, Alvarez may be a better fit for the Phillies given their home park. If Hellickson could not keep the ball in the yard with the Arizona Diamondbacks, calling Citizens Bank Park home for a year won’t help all that much.
As the Phillies continue to rebuild, they can afford to take a risk on a pitcher like Henderson Alvarez in a way that most other teams in the league cannot. There are really only two definite long-term answers in the starting rotation right now — Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff. Jerome Williams and Aaron Harang started games for the Phillies last year. The Phillies have plenty of financial freedom, and plenty of reason to give Henderson Alvarez a chance to pitch in their starting rotation in 2016. While it is far too early to label one team the favorite to sign the 25-year-old, Philadelphia definitely makes sense.