The winter meetings end Thursday and while the Phillies haven’t been active on the free-agent market, it’s been a pretty eventful past week for the ballclub for better or worse.
We’ve recently heard about trade rumors involving Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins. None of those three are expected to be moved anytime soon but a rumor emerged Thursday involving a player that’s much more likely to be traded.
According to Matt Gelb of The Athletic, the Phillies have received “numerous” trade inquiries on starting pitcher Vince Velasquez. Last week, the Phillies tendered Velasquez a contract but the two sides have not agreed to a salary for the 2021 season. If the two sides don’t come to an agreement by mid-January, both Velasquez and the Phillies will exchange their respective salary figures.
After that, Velasquez and the Phillies will have another chance to agree on a salary and if that doesn’t happen, the two will head to arbitration at some point during the early weeks of spring training. A panel of arbiters will be tasked with choosing either the Phillies’ proposed salary or Velasquez’s. Last year, the Phillies won their salary arbitration case against J.T. Realmuto.
All of this wouldn’t matter, however, if the Phillies dealt Velasquez at some point during the offseason.
So why haven’t the Phillies traded Velasquez yet? Most agree that Velasquez could benefit from a change of scenery.
Per Gelb, the team preferred to keep Velasquez and explore how he’ll fit in on the 2021 roster. Perhaps they’re wondering if new pitching coach Caleb Cotham can unlock something in Velasquez. It might be wishful thinking considering Velasquez has had four different pitching coaches during his tenure in Philadelphia and things never seemed to click.
The Phillies’ decision to keep Velasquez boils down to the high cost of starting pitching on the free-agent market as well as their lack of pitching depth both on the big-league roster and in the minor league system.
There was some optimism surrounding Velasquez in 2020. He made an impression during summer camp with a new-look pitch arsenal that included a cutter. That success, however, did not translate to the regular season. He had a 5.56 ERA in 34 innings pitched and looked like the Velasquez we are used to seeing, a pitcher who flashes brilliance occasionally but struggles to get past the fifth inning on a regular basis.
Per MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration salary projections, Velasquez is scheduled to make between $3.8 and $4.8 million in 2021.
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