The Phillies made a small roster move to add flexibility to their bullpen by trading for righty reliever Michael Rucker, sending cash considerations to the Chicago Cubs.

To make room for Rucker on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated reliever Andrew Bellatti for assignment.

Here’s what you need to unpack from this trade:

  • It’s all about the flexibility – Rucker has an option remaining and does not need to start the season on the active roster and can be shuttled back and forth between the Majors and Triple A.
  • Because he has yet to reach two years of MLB service time, he won’t qualify for arbitration for at least a year, if not longer, meaning he can be retained, if he proves to be a regular major league contributor, for some time into the future.
  • Bellatti, 32, was out of options, so he either had to make the team or he would be DFA’d.

That’s pretty much it. If you look at Rucker’s time in the majors of the past three seasons, he’s been O.K. His numbers are pretty close to league average. He has a career 4.96 ERA and a 1.386 WHIP. He doesn’t give up a lot of hits, averaging less than one per inning the past two seasons, but he got a little wild last year, with 19 walks in just 40 1/3 innings.

If you’re into the more advanced numbers, his ground ball rate is 46.6%, his strikeout rate is 22.6%, and his walk rate is 9.4% for his career. All are pretty much middle-of-the-road stats. However, his ground ball rate in 2023 alone was pretty solid (51.8%), especially among right-handed pitchers.

Rucker, 29, was DFA’d by the Cubs last week after they signed former Phillie Hector Neris.

And while Bellatti has similar numbers, the roster flexibility offered by Rucker is more attractive.

This doesn’t mean Bellatti is gone from the Phillies yet. They have one week to try to trade him or attempt to pass him through waivers. If a trade doesn’t materialize and he clears waivers, he could still be with the Phillies in Spring training as a non-roster player.

My guess though is he would be claimed on waivers as he was valuable in 2022 and early on last season before injuries and ineffectiveness derailed his 2023 campaign.

Rucker will likely compete with Dylan Covey, Connor Brogdon, Yunior Marte, and probably a few others for one of the final spots in the Phillies’ Opening Day bullpen.