PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are giving Vince Velasquez another shot.
They offered the 28-year-old right-hander a contract before Wednesday’s 8 p.m. ET deadline to tender deals to players eligible for salary arbitration. Velasquez was a non-tender candidate, based on his inconsistencies the past four seasons and a projected $4.55 million salary, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, while the organization cuts costs and personnel after claiming losses of more than $150 million following a pandemic-shortened 60-game season.
In the end, the Phillies’ lack of starting pitching depth pushed them to keep him.
The Phillies agreed to one-year contracts with right-handers Seranthony Domínguez ($727,500), Zach Eflin ($4.45 million), David Hale ($850,000) and Héctor Neris ($5 million) and catcher Andrew Knapp ($1.1 million), avoiding arbitration with those players. The Phillies also tendered a contract to first baseman Rhys Hoskins.
If the Phillies had non-tendered any of those players, they would have become free agents.
Eflin, Hoskins, Neris and Knapp were locks to return. Domínguez was a safe bet, too, even though he had Tommy John surgery in July.
The Phillies could have gone either way with Velasquez and Hale.
Velasquez’s status as the key piece in former general manager Matt Klentak’s first major trade with the Phillies in December 2015 -- he shipped Ken Giles to the Astros in a six-player deal -- made him the most noteworthy player entering Wednesday’s deadline. Velasquez posted an encouraging 4.16 ERA, a 3.96 FIP and a 101 ERA+ in 24 starts with the Phillies in 2016, but was a combined 19-28 with a 4.99 ERA, a 4.60 FIP and a 86 ERA+ from 2017-20.
The Phillies must hope that new pitching coach Caleb Cotham can unlock the key to Velasquez’s success.
The Phils have a formidable front three in the rotation with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Eflin. There are questions after that. Spencer Howard projects to be in the rotation in 2021, but he has missed time each of the past two seasons with shoulder issues. Ranger Suárez, Damon Jones, Cole Irvin and Adonis Medina will get a chance to prove themselves this spring, but none has an extensive track record.
The Phillies should look outside the organization for help. It is unclear if they will. No Phillies official has spoken publicly since late October.