Did the Phillies just signal the weirdest rebuild ever?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 27: Seranthony Dominguez #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch during a game against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on April 27, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies won 12-9. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 27: Seranthony Dominguez #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch during a game against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on April 27, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies won 12-9. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /
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Instead of looking to contend, the Philadelphia Phillies may have indicated that they are about to rebuild.

Philadelphia Phillies fans have been pessimistic lately, following yet another non-winning season. Their general gripe is captured in a tweet by a friend, who has been a Phillies fan for decades: “My ticket plan rolled over to 2021. I keep waiting for the Phillies to do something, anything! They will probably let [Vince] Velasquez walk and he’ll end up with the Dodgers.”

As I typed that quotation out, there were four hours to go before the non-tender deadline, which definitely applied to Velasquez, who has wobbled through six inconsistent seasons with a high-velocity fastball he’s thrown too many times for balls. Neither my friend nor I would care much if he turned in his red pinstripes.

Speculation about an undeserved reward for Vinny Velo, ending up with the world championship team, drew out of me an additional layer of potential irony: Velasquez, I suggested, would learn to throw consistent strikes in LA.

More Phillies. The gaping hole behind the plate. light

Two other matters that preceded the non-tender deadline, though, might have suggested to my buddy he could be waiting another full year for something, anything from the Phillies. One was an early signing by another team of a player the Phillies had originally drafted. The other had to do with Philadelphia signing a player who won’t even play next year, or at best, only a few weeks in September.

The player the Phillies didn’t sign, Trevor May, was originally signed by them out of high school back in 2008 as a fourth rounder. He was eventually traded to Minnesota in 2012, and built a quite decent resume in the Twins bullpen.

On Dec. 1 May became the first free agent this winter to sign a multi-year contract – two years with the Mets. In other words, the Phillies had no use for an affordable guy who has thrown only 316 MLB innings, consistently pushing his WHIP down towards an even 1.000. He’s been under 1.160 for the past three years, with two under 1.075.

The player the Phillies did sign, Seranthony Dominguez, would have been eligible for arbitration. Like May, he is a right-handed reliever, and when healthy, can throw even harder than Velasquez. He underwent Tommy John surgery in June of 2019, and is expected to sit out ’21. He had a terrific campaign in 2018 with a 2.95 ERA and 0.931 WHIP in 53 games.

Now 26, Dominguez has been under Phillies contract since he was 16. On Dec. 2 Philadelphia decided to spend $727,500 for the team to, um, watch him heal and rehab. But the 2021 Phillies badly need relievers who can pitch in games next year after assembling a historically bad bullpen in ’20.

A miss on one day, a wait-’til-next-year signing on the next…

Could the Phillies be subtly signaling a “rebuilding” year of the tanking type in the middle of Bryce Harper’s prime? Delaware Valley baseball fans surely hope I’m proved wrong next week.

A larger question is: What does manager Joe Girardi think about these early non-moves? Girardi is on a three-year contract with a club option for 2023. The Phillies’ inertia, if it continues, seems to guarantee him a very high-pressure campaign in ’22.

Oh, and Vinny Velo? He was tendered a contract along with all of the other Phils (four) who were arbitration-eligible at the non-tender deadline. Two of those players were pitchers in that horrible bullpen, three if you count Velasquez, a starter-reliever now.

Next. Phillies playing politics with Realmuto. dark

So, any rebuild will apparently depend on trading players few teams likely want and signing players from the expanded list of free agents as of late Dec. 2. Perhaps the Phillies intend to attempt an oxymoron – rebuilding while standing pat.