The Philadelphia Phillies and Vince Velasquez are reuniting for a sixth season together.
The writing was on the wall already. And even if it wasn’t, surely his final start of 2020 was the proverbial last straw. Staked a 4-1 lead against Tampa in that series opener, Velasquez couldn’t make it out of the bottom of the fifth, posting a quintessential “Vinny V.” start: 4.1 IP, 3 runs on 6 hits, a pair of walks, 92 pitches. He didn’t take the L in that defeat, but he might as well have. It was a perfect summation of all the problems he’s had for five years in Philadelphia. But at least the Phils would finally be free.
Except, now they’re not. By their own choice. Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse.
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The dollar figure isn’t set, but Velasquez is likely to command around $4 million, which is the first time that “Velasquez” and “command” have ever been used in the same sentence. The upshot here is that he’ll yet again have a chance to compete for a rotation spot, just in case his first seven chances haven’t already convinced people that he doesn’t belong there.
The reasoning behind this, as infuriating as it is, isn’t hard to figure out. With their bank account hurting, the Phils are all about cost certainty right now, and the free agent pitching market is just too rich for their blood. You can blame this mostly on the Atlanta Braves, whose baffling $11 million contract to Drew Smyly a few weeks ago effectively broke the pitching market during what most people assumed would be an offseason marked by decreased spending.
Atlanta followed that up by giving a one-year, $15 million deal to Charlie Morton, setting the mark for what an actually good pitcher would cost. You can bet that the Phillies were watching this closely and quickly decided to pivot to Plan B (or Plan V). Maybe they did seriously consider Morton or a number of other free agents like Chris Archer, as I suggested, to fill out their rotation. But not at these kinds of prices. So they’ve simply decided to give Velasquez another go, basically opening up the “Stick with your wife” barrel of fortune cookies for 2021.
There was a time that Velasquez had a lot of potential. Then we all thought he could still be salvageable and made into something useful despite obvious shortcomings. Now we’re left with a 28-year old thrower, not a pitcher, who has a 4.99 ERA over the last four years. Not only does this move have “bargain basement” written all over it, but it’s a damning indictment of the Phillies’ threadbare farm system that nobody in it merits serious consideration to step in and produce better results than Vince Velasquez right now.
In defense of Vinny V., he isn’t the biggest issue. And jettisoning him isn’t going to vault the Phils into contender status. They’re not one roster move away from being a good team. But he continues to be a physical representation of the mistakes of this organizational regime under Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak, who isn’t even the GM anymore but sure seems like it. It’s just another sad indicator of how lost this team is.
If the Phillies think that Velasquez is somehow going to improve and give this team a shot in the arm in 2021, they’re sorely mistaken. As the guy has shown us over and over again, he’s just a placebo and an ineffective one at that.