The Phillies will soon have several decisions on their hands as veterans Brandon Kintzler, Tony Watson and Hector Rondon all have Wednesday opt-outs in their respective minor league deals with the club, per Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Phillies’ 40-man roster is full at the moment and doesn’t have an obvious candidate for the 60-day IL, so there aren’t any injury situations that could clear up a roster spot. Lauber notes that manager Joe Girardi prefers to carry a five-man bench and an eight-man bullpen, too, so it doesn’t seem likely that the Phils will simply carry an extra reliever early in the year. Kintzler has had the best showing of the three this spring, tossing 7 2/3 shutout frames. Watson would give the Phillies an experienced lefty to pair with the inconsistent Jose Alvarado and/or the yet-unproven JoJo Romero.
There are also luxury tax implications tied to these decisions — particularly with regard to Kintzler and Watson. Both signed minor league deals with rather hefty $3MM guarantees should they make the club. Rondon’s deal calls for a $1.5MM base if he makes the team. All three relievers could also earn at least an additional $1MM via incentives.
With veteran outfielder Matt Joyce also on a minor league pact, the Phils have too many non-roster veterans to carry them all without going over the $210MM luxury barrier. They’re currently about $8.3MM shy of that mark, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez, and most clubs prefer to leave themselves at least some slight wiggle room for in-season dealings.
There’s been some speculation throughout camp about the possibility of a Vince Velasquez trade, which would free up $4MM of breathing room. The right-hander’s upside has long tantalized the organization, and he has at times flashed brilliance in the Philadelphia rotation. But Velasquez has yet to demonstrate much consistency through parts of five seasons. It’s also worth noting that since the Phils made the decision to tender him a contract, they’ve hired a new president of baseball operations (Dave Dombrowski), a new general manager (Sam Fuld) and signed a pair of veteran arms to fill out the rotation: Chase Anderson and Matt Moore.
Velasquez himself told reporters earlier this spring that he knew he wasn’t a lock to be tendered a contract, and Lauber has previously reported that the Phillies at least “gauged interest” in Velasquez even after tendering him a contract. The situation is complicated somewhat by the fact that Velasquez has been sidelined by an oblique issue of late (link via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki), though he threw from 60 feet over the weekend.
As has been well-documented by now, teams are going to be more reliant on their rotation depth than ever before while monitoring workloads in the wake of last year’s shortened season. Because of that, there’s good reason to keep Velasquez around — even if he’s in the bullpen as a long man to begin the season. That appears the likeliest outcome at this point, leaving the Phils with some crucial decisions to make by week’s end. Opt-out clauses in minor league deals typically give a club 48 hours to put the player in question on the roster.