In the coming weeks, Phillies Nation’s Alec Whitaker will be reviewing trades from the rebuilding years that helped shape the current Philadelphia Phillies roster. He’ll then make the determination if the Phillies ended up with the better end of the deal or not. Things to take into consideration include the package the Phillies got back for the player, if they could’ve gotten a better package and how the former Phillie faired with his new team.
On December 19, 2014 the Phillies sent their all-time hits leader Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for two minor league pitchers, Tom Windle and Zach Eflin.
Rollins and the Dodgers went 92-70 in 2015 and won the National League West, but fell to the New York Mets in the NLDS. Despite the team’s success, the 36-year-old Rollins hit a career low .224 with 13 homers. He eventually lost his starting job to young stud Corey Seager and was relegated to a utility role by year’s end. Rollins and the Dodgers went separate ways after the season, with Rollins spending less than 50 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2016.
The left-handed Windle and the right-handed Eflin were both sent to Double-A Reading to start their Phillies careers. They both entered the season as top 10 prospects for the Phillies. They joined a rotation that included two former first-round picks, Aaron Nola and Jesse Biddle, and the recently acquired Ben Lively. Windle struggled and was eventually moved to the bullpen. He’s dealt with injuries since then and didn’t move beyond Reading until 2018, when he was promoted to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs bullpen. He posted a 4.17 ERA in 50 appearances for the IronPigs.
Eflin faired much better in the minors. The now 24-year-old posted a 3.69 ERA in 23 starts for Reading in 2015 and then breezed through Lehigh Valley with a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts the following year. In June of 2016, Eflin made his pro debut in Toronto against the Blue Jays. It’s a day he’d like to forget, as he gave up eight earned runs in 2.2 inning of work. Eflin eventually got into a groove in July, when he rattled off four straight impressive starts, going 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA. The streak also included two complete games, one of which was a shutout. His next three starts were not as impressive, as he gave up 20 earned runs in 13 innings. Eflin was then sidelined for the rest of the season with knee issues.
Eflin’s 2017 campaign was even more problematic as he continued to deal with knee trouble. He posted a 6.16 ERA in 11 major league outings and once again did not make it past the middle of August. 2018 was somewhat of revival for Eflin, though. He underwent a procedure in the off season to correct the knee problems. Eflin was still recovering from the procedure when the season started, so Ben Lively was given the fifth starter’s spot on the Opening day roster. Lively struggled mightily and the Phillies turned back to Eflin, who was producing in Lehigh Valley with a 1.69 ERA in three starts.
Eflin made his 2018 MLB debut on May 1 against the Marlins. From that point until July 9, Eflin was dominant, going 7-2 with a 2.97 ERA. He looked like a solid No. 2 starter behind Nola, who had emerged as a National League Cy Young Award contender. Unfortunately, his next 13 starts did not go as well. Eflin went 4-6 with an ERA of 5.74 and an opponent’s batting average of .287. Eflin finished the 2018 season 11-8 with a 4.36 ERA.
There’s reason to be optimistic about Eflin, though, as he showed glimpses of greatness and stayed healthy in 2018. He still won’t turn 25 until April. Windle will be 27 when the 2019 season rolls around; there’s still a chance he can turn into an effective Major League reliever, but a change of scenery may serve him well.
Considering that Rollins’ time with the Dodgers was short and on a personal level, not very successful, the Phillies were right to ship him off at that time. Being able to get at least one major league caliber starter back in that deal seems like a clear win.
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