Victor Arano burst onto the scene in 2018 for the Philadelphia Phillies, posting a 2.73 ERA and 3.36 FIP across 60 games in his rookie season. In terms of their version of WAR, Baseball Reference says that Arano was the fifth-most valuable player on the team that season.
Like just about every reliever on the team, 2019 didn’t go as planned for Arano. Though he needed to start the season at Triple-A after an alarmingly bad spring training, Arano returned to the major league level by early April. However, he made just three appearances before requiring what turned out to be season-ending arthroscopic elbow surgery.
Since Arano had his surgery in May of 2019, he hasn’t returned to a major league mound. So what’s happened to the 25-year-old, who is just a couple seasons removed from looking like he could be an elite back-end-of-the-bullpen arm?
“Yesterday I saw that his [instrasquad] outing was pretty good, his velocity was up a little bit more,” Joe Girardi said Tuesday. “Obviously, we’ve made a lot of adjustments, but that was good to see – his max velocity was up a couple ticks, I believe. His slider was pretty good yesterday. So, it [him rejoining the team] could happen. Is it gonna happen today? No, but it could happen at some point.”
So why has Arano seemingly been brought along slower than some other pitchers who have since returned from injuries and/or COVID-19?
“I think he probably didn’t have the facilities that some other guys had when we went on this break in between [summer camp and spring training]. He’s coming off some injuries, those sort of things [as well].”
The timeline for Arano’s return, in multiple senses, is perplexing. Even if he didn’t have the most adequate set-up in Mexico, his native country, to stay in major league shape during baseball’s quarantine for COVID-19, the Phillies returned for summer camp nearly two months ago. Given the struggles of the team’s bullpen, one would think the Phillies would have called up him and given him a chance if he was capable of pitching at the major league level currently. If he’s still not, it’s hard to understand what the delay is.
Girardi mentioned that Arano is returning from an injury, which is true. However, when Arano first had his arthroscopic elbow surgery in May of 2019, then-manager Gabe Kapler estimated that Arano was two-and-a-half to three months away from being able to start a throwing program. Maybe that timeline proved to be a little eager, but it’s been 15 months since that procedure. As far as the Phillies have indicated publicly, Arano hasn’t had any setbacks in 2020 that have kept him from returning to the Phillies.
It would appear that 2020 may turn into a lost season for Arano. After acquiring Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree, David Hale and David Phelps, there’s no guarantee that the Phillies would recall Arano when they deem he’s capable of pitching at the major league level again.
That said, Workman can become a free agent after the 2020 season, as can Phelps if the Phillies don’t pick up his $4.5 million option for 2021. José Álvarez, Blake Parker and Tommy Hunter can all become free agents after the season as well.
Even if there doesn’t prove to be a place for Arano in the final month of the 2020 season, one would think the Phillies would like to have him as an option in 2021. Assuming he’s healthy, it would behoove the organization to try to figure out what it is that seems to keep Arano from being properly prepared to pitch whenever the team returns from the offseason (or a quarantine) and make alternate arrangements this winter. He’s too talented not to be making an impact for a team that certainly hasn’t had a surplus of qualified big-league relievers over the past few seasons.
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