You may have forgotten, but Henderson Alvarez made three starts for the Philadelphia Phillies during the waning weeks of the 2017 season. In those three starts, Alvarez logged 14.2 innings, posting a 4.30 ERA, but an alarming 6.36 FIP and a 6.65 xFIP, albeit in a very small sample size. At the conclusion of the season, the Phillies elected not to re-sign Alvarez, who instead signed a deal with Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican League.
The reason this is relevant to the 2018 Phillies is that while pitching in the Mexican League, Alvarez has posted an impressive 6-1 record with a 2.61 ERA in 11 games, 10 of which are starts. Jon Heyman of FRS Baseball says the Phillies are among a trio of teams that considering signing Alvarez:
Henderson Alvarez has been dominating for Cancun of the Mexican League, and the Phillies (who employed him last year), Nats and Twins have considered him.
It's not clear how seriously the Phillies considered Alvarez or what their plans would be for the 28-year-old righty if they did sign him. While Alvarez has a 2.61 ERA in 62.0 innings in the Mexican League, his 4.18 FIP and 4.50 xFIP suggest he could be due for some regression. Still, if the Phillies viewed him as an organizational depth signing - one who could crack the major league roster at some point in 2018 but isn't guaranteed to do so - he could make some sense.
Entering his start on Thursday afternoon, Vince Velasquez needed just 4.2 innings to match his total number of innings that he pitched last year at 72.0. At some point this season, he's going to be shut down by the Phillies, or moved to the bullpen in an attempt to avoid placing too much stress on an arm that threw far less than 100 innings a year ago. His rotation spot could be filled by any of Enyel De Los Santos, Cole Irvin or Jerad Eickhoff, but general manager Matt Klentak may not mind the idea of having another option to choose from as the season goes along. Injuries could always crop up to another starter, be it one already on the major league roster or one that is at Triple-A.
The other possibility is that while Alvarez has been almost exclusively a starting pitcher in his career, the bullpen-needy Phillies are interested in Alvarez as a bullpen arm. Although given that his average fastball velocity sat at 91.5 in both 2015 and 2017 (the last two seasons that he pitched in the majors where velocity data is available), that doesn't seem overly likely.
Alvarez, a native of Venezuela, did have some notable moments during the early parts of his major league career. After being traded to the Marlins prior to the 2013 season as part of the deal that sent Mark Beuhrle and Jose Reyes to Toronto, Alvarez tossed a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers in September of 2013. A year later, Alvarez joined Giancarlo Stanton as an All-Star representative. Since his early career success, Alvarez has struggled to stay healthy, as he's been forced to have multiple shoulder surgeries.