The Opposite of Upside: Phillies Tap Tyler Cloyd as Roy Halladay's Friday Replacement

The Opposite of Upside: Phillies Tap Tyler Cloyd as Roy Halladay's Friday Replacement

Tyler Cloyd dealt eight innings of one-run ball and fanned 10 Indiana Indians his last time out at Lehigh Valley. Two days later, more highly-regarded prospect Adam Morgan was crushed for four runs in as many frames.

Maybe there’s more to the Phillies decision to tap Cloyd over Morgan as Roy Halladay’s replacement in the rotation for Friday in Arizona than "What Have You Done For Me Lately?"

Either way, the merits are flimsy.

Cloyd pitched as good as he (or anyone) could have at Triple-A last year, going 12-1 with a 2.35 ERA en route to International League MVP honors. Yet he was still battered like a fish stick with the varsity team, for a 4.91 ERA in six starts.

What happens this time, when he's got 5.40 ERA stuff in the minors?

At 25 years old and after five years in the system, Cloyd is what he is: a soft-thrower who to needs to induce ground balls – exactly what he couldn’t do in the majors last year. After forcing grounders on 44.4% of balls in play at Triple-A, Cloyd's GB% fell 12 percentage points.

And Cloyd fly balls leave the yard: he served more home runs (8) than he made starts, and had a 17.0 home run-to-fly ball rate. Yet this is the guy you want to debut at Chase Field, described by scouts as such:

"The thin desert air in Phoenix is also conducive to power hitters, as balls will travel a great distance in the air, even when the park's retractable roof is engaged to cut down on the desert heat."

Bronson Arroyo can be effective with Cloyd's 86.7 m.p.h. fastball, which if it qualified would’ve ranked fourth-slowest in the majors last year. Cloyd has yet to prove he can be. Why the need to find out?

However they've looked for 30 seconds on this road trip, the future of the Phillies, who own baseball's third-eldest roster and have $50 million coming off the books at year’s end ($20 million of it Halladay’s), is coming fast.

Unless they’re trying to shelter Morgan to shield his trade value for July (which would be absurd, because even if buying at the deadline is an option, a home-grown left-handed top prospect shouldn't be on the table for anyone other than Giancarlo Stanton, which, yeah, isn't happening) there’s no reason to not give him the ball now.

There’s minimal risk. The Phillies couldn’t possibly get worse production than they did from Halladay. And here, Morgan isn’t being anointed – he’s being used as spackle.

This is how you ease in Keith Law's pre-2013 No. 92 prospect: at first, in a pinch. You know, like the one the Phillies were the last time Halladay had to be plucked from the rotation, in spring training, when Morgan with little notice manned up against the Braves for 4 2/3 of one-run ball.

Today makes three weeks to the day since Charlie Manuel said it could be 6-8 weeks until the Phillies get John Lannan back. If Morgan wilts, they could still turn to Cloyd for the next two to four starts. But if Morgan pitches like Jonathan Pettibone, the Phillies could, believe it or not, have consistency from top to bottom in their rotation for the first time all year.

That’s the upside.

Someone explain to me the down?

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. -- Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen -- a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever -- that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.

Rangers: Gomez reaches deal to stay with team
OXON HILL, Md. -- Carlos Gomez is staying with the Texas Rangers.

The outfielder agreed to an $11.5 million, one-year contract, a deal subject to a successful physical.

"Many of the objectives of the Rangers for Carlos go beyond one year," his agent, Scott Boras, said Wednesday. "Certainly Carlos really enjoyed the team and the environment and feels he's got a great chance to win. So I think both parties' objectives were met by that deal."

Gomez, who turned 31 last weekend, figures to play center as general manager Jon Daniels structured an outfield that includes Shin-Soo Choo in right and Nomar Mazara in left. Ian Desmond left Wednesday for a $70 million, five-year deal with Colorado.

Gomez batted just .210 with five homers in 85 games this year for Houston and was released by the Astros in August. He signed with Texas and hit .284 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games. An All-Star in 2013 and '14 with Milwaukee, Gomez has a .257 average and 116 home runs in 10 big league seasons.

"J.D. was very clear from the onset about them wanting Carlos back, and we've had communication since the season's end to pursue that," Boras said. "So it was something in our minds and in their minds. It was just a constant dialogue."

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

Red Sox: Sale not worried about being ace
BOSTON -- New Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale says he isn't worried that he might not be the ace of the pitching staff after being traded from the White Sox to Boston.

The 27-year-old lefty told reporters on Wednesday, "We play for a trophy, not a tag."

Sale was traded to the Red Sox on Tuesday at the baseball winter meetings. He was the top starting pitcher on the market, and the Red Sox gave up touted prospect Yoan Moncada as part of a package to land him.

Sale has been an All-Star for five straight seasons and finished in the top six of the Cy Young Award voting each time. He joins a staff that already includes 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and '12 winner David Price (see full story).

Best of NBA: Cavs ride Big 3 to huge win over Knicks at MSG

Best of NBA: Cavs ride Big 3 to huge win over Knicks at MSG

NEW YORK -- LeBron James scored 25 points, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love also surpassed 20, and the Cleveland Cavaliers crushed the New York Knicks 126-94 on Wednesday night.

James had nothing to say Wednesday morning about Knicks President Phil Jackson and not much more about his decision to not stay with the team in a Donald Trump-branded hotel, but he and the Cavs made a loud statement at Madison Square Garden.

It was their second straight win after a three-game skid, and they did it easily in handing the Knicks their worst loss of the season. Irving led Cleveland with 28 points and Love scored 21, 16 in the first quarter.

Brandon Jennings scored 16 points for the Knicks, who had their four-game winning streak snapped and lost for the just the third time in 10 games. He started for Derrick Rose, who missed his first game of the season with lower back pain.

Tristan Thompson grabbed 20 rebounds for the Cavs. They played without guard J.R. Smith, who returned to Cleveland for additional testing after hyperextending his left knee Monday in Toronto (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo drops triple-double in Bucks’ win
MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo got his second triple-double of the season to lead the Milwaukee Bucks over the Portland Trail Blazers 115-107 on Wednesday night.

Antetokounmpo had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his seventh career triple-double -- second-most in franchise history -- and is the only NBA player averaging at least 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals this season.

Jabari Parker added 27 points for Milwaukee, which rebounded from a one-point home loss to San Antonio on Monday to win for the fifth time in six games.

The Bucks entered holding opponents to a NBA-best .311 shooting percentage from 3-point range, but Portland drill a season-high 17 of them.

Damian Lillard made five of them and scored a team-high 30 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists.

C.J. McCollum added 23 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Blazers continued a nine-game stretch of playing eight times on the road (see full recap).

Streaking Rockets roll over Lakers
HOUSTON -- Eric Gordon made a career-high eight 3-points and scored 26 points to help the Houston Rockets cruise to a 134-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

James Harden added 25 points in three quarters for the Rockets. They scored a season high and extended their winning streak to a season-best four games.

The Rockets were up by 12 in the third quarter, then had a 22-6 run to make it 96-68 and put the game out of reach with about 3 minutes left in the quarter. Houston made four 3-pointers and got a nifty one-handed dunk from Clint Capela in that run to pad the lead.

Gordon already had four 3-pointers seven minutes into the first quarter after making each of his first four attempts. It was his seventh straight game with at least four 3-pointers, which is a franchise record.

Houston's winning streak is its longest since taking five straight in January.

Lou Williams led the Lakers with 24 points. They have lost four in a row, their longest skid of the season (see full recap).