Velasquez was on the injured list at the time of his designation (although he had begun a minor league rehab assignment). Injured players can’t be placed on outright waivers, and with the trade deadline having passed, Velasquez’s designation meant he’d wind up released. That’s mostly a formality anyhow, since he would’ve had the right to reject an outright assignment in favor of free agency while still retaining his entire salary as a player with more than five years of MLB service time.
If Velasquez clears release waivers, he’ll be free to sign elsewhere. That seems likely, as claiming him would require a team to assume the remainder of his $4MM salary (approximately $452K through season’s end). If he clears waivers, a new club could sign the right-hander for the prorated portion of the league minimum while leaving the Phils on the hook for the bulk of the salary.
Whether he’s claimed or signed as a free agent after clearing waivers, Velasquez wouldn’t be eligible for a new team’s postseason roster since he was released after August 31. It’s still possible a team on the fringes of contention could look to bring him in for a couple weeks in an attempt to bolster their pitching depth as they try to make a playoff push. Velasquez worked 3 2/3 innings during his rehab outing last Wednesday, so he’s seemingly nearing readiness in his recovery from the blister issue that landed him on the IL last month.
The release concludes an up-and-down tenure for Velasquez in Philly. Acquired from the Astros as part of the December 2015 Ken Giles trade, the 29-year-old spent parts of six seasons with the Phils. He got off to a very promising start, tossing 131 innings of 4.12 ERA ball while striking out 27.6% of batters faced, a mark that dwarfed that year’s 20.2% league average for starting pitchers. That ultimately proved to be the high-water mark of Velasquez’s tenure in Philadelphia, though.
Over the next five seasons, Velasquez never posted an ERA below 4.85. He showed flashes at times, working in the mid-90s and missing bats at a league average or better rate. But he also issued walks at a higher than average clip in four of his last five seasons (2019 being the exception) while giving up a fair amount of hard, airborne contact. That predictably led to consistent troubles with home runs — particularly in Philadelphia’s hitter-friendly home ballpark — that inflated his run prevention totals.
Velasquez’s up-and-down performances will make him an interesting free agent this winter. (Even if he signs elsewhere for this season’s final couple weeks, he’ll again reach the open market this offseason). He’s still only 29 years old, and Velasquez has shown enough bat-missing promise to remain intriguing. Between their park and lackluster team defenses in recent years, the Phillies haven’t been in position to get the greatest results from their pitching staffs. Perhaps a club with a more pitcher-friendly environment and/or solid defense feels they can yet coax mid-rotation production out of Velasquez, with a multi-inning relief role a fallback possibility if he continues to scuffle as a starter.