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Ranger Suárez’s expected late arrival to Phillies camp could be a cause for concern


While the rotation is generally considered a strength for the Phillies, there are some notable question marks heading into 2022. Zach Eflin, who is recovering from knee surgery, is likely to miss some time at the beginning of the season. Kyle Gibson regressed since coming over in a trade with the Texas Rangers in July and Aaron Nola is looking to bounce back from a rough 2021 campaign.

Ranger Suárez posted a 1.36 ERA in 2021. (Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)

For Ranger Suárez, his ETA to spring training, whenever that happens, could be an issue. His agent Daniel Szew told Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer that the 26-year-old lefty’s meeting to obtain a visa is in mid-March. If MLB and the MLBPA happen to come to an agreement on a new CBA by Feb. 28, Suárez, a native of Venezuela, is expected to arrive late to Phillies spring training in Clearwater.

All of this could be a moot point if the lockout extends into mid-March, but in the event that common sense prevails and the regular season starts on March 31, Suárez and dozens of other MLB players who reside in their home countries overseas may be in a tough spot.

It’s not necessarily the player’s fault when visa appointments are scheduled later than expected. The pandemic has made attaining visas more difficult. Players are also unable to seek help from their employers in the process because teams cannot have any contact with players during the owner-imposed lockout. The article in the Inquirer could be how the Phillies front office learned about Suárez’s expected late arrival to camp.

Once the lockout ends, all 30 teams and its players will have to deal with the residual effects of going months without speaking to each other. The visa issue isn’t just limited to Suárez from a Phillies perspective. In 2021, outfield prospect Simon Muzziotti had to be placed on the restricted list prior to the regular season because he could not obtain a visa to re-enter the United States. He eventually arrived in Clearwater during the summer, but missed a lot of development time in the process. For the Phillies and Muzziotti, it’s important that the 23-year-old doesn’t face the same issues he did last season since he does have a chance to earn playing time with the big league club. Like Suárez, Muzziotti cannot contact the Phillies because he is on the 40-man roster.

In the event that spring training does begin in early March and Suárez is late, he might not have enough time to ramp up properly before the season begins. It’s unlikely that Suárez would start the season in the bullpen, but the Phillies may have to gradually build up his workload the same way they did when he moved from the ‘pen to the rotation last August. The Phillies could only assume that Suárez has began throwing, but the team won’t fully know where he is once he arrives at spring training.

This might not be a big issue if the Phillies had more starting pitching depth. The Phillies could insert Bailey Falter or Hans Crouse in the No. 5 spot until Eflin gets back. Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies front office could also look to the free agent market for another starting pitcher. Suárez’s situation could further entice them to look for help elsewhere.

At the same time, the situation could be a net positive for the Phillies. Unlike his teammates Nola and Zack Wheeler, Suárez is not expected to approach 200 innings in 2022. A slower buildup could prove to be an effective method to control his innings.

As Lauber noted in his piece, for Suárez, the outcome of the current labor negotiations will have a massive impact on his future earnings. In the current arbitration system, Suárez missed the “Super Two” cutoff by about four days. If the two sides agree to slightly expand the “Super Two” class, a subset of players between two and three years of service time who are eligible for arbitration, Suárez would become arbitration eligible. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Suárez could earn $1.8 million, up from the owners’ proposed minimum salary of $640,000, in his first year of arbitration eligibility if the class does expand.

Suárez put together an incredible season in 2021. Over 106 innings, Suárez posted a minuscule 1.36 ERA and excelled as a long reliever, closer and traditional starter

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