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Are the Phillies foolish to pin their hopes on a Seranthony Dominguez comeback in 2022?

If there even is baseball in 2022.

St. Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

As the Phillies continue to search for a president of baseball operations and/or general manager, someone in the front office, presumably interim GM Ned Rice, is making decisions. One of those decisions involved relief pitcher Seranthony Dominguez, who has agreed to a one-year, $727,500 contract for a 2021 season in which he will not throw a single pitch.

Dominguez will miss all of next year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but the Phillies feel good enough about his ability to recover to put him on the payroll despite the pandemic-induced losses last season that could lead to a reduced payroll in ‘21. It’s a gamble, although a not overly expensive one.

Dominguez burst onto the scene on May 7, 2018 and proceeded to put together one of the most dominant stretches of relief pitching by any Phillies reliever ever. He did not give up an earned run in his first 12 appearances (14.2 IP, 16 Ks, 0 BBs) and had a 1.54 ERA through his first 19 games (23.1 IP, 31 Ks, 3 BBs). He finished his rookie season with a 2.95 ERA and a 2.85 FIP with 11.5 K/9 and was assured of a late inning role going into the 2019 season.

Unfortunately, Dominguez was never able to recapture the form that made him so dominant. In 27 games in ‘19, had a 4.01 ERA and saw his WHIP jump from 0.931 to 1.459. Elbow soreness forced him to miss the rest of that season and it was feared Tommy John surgery would be needed. Instead, Dominguez opted to rest and rehabilitate his elbow and former general manager Matt Klentak went into last season relying on Dominguez to contribute. Predictably, those elbow problems persisted and the COVID-19 pandemic delayed his arrival to the United States from the Dominican Republic, which delayed his Tommy John surgery until last summer. Dominguez has not pitched in a big league game since June 5, 2019 and will not pitch in another one until sometime in 2022.

Given the financial issues facing the Phillies and the need for impact arms in the bullpen now, making any kind of commitment to Dominguez in the hopes he returns to his early 2018 form in 2022, four full years since he was last an effective relief pitcher, could be a fool’s errand. And it’s fair to note that, from August 5 of his rookie season through the end of that year, he posted a 5.21 ERA in his last 19 games, with 25 Ks in 19 innings and nine walks.

Dominguez had been eligible for salary arbitration but, instead of just offering him a contract, the team signed him. Now, five additional Phillies are eligible for arbitration, including relievers David Hale and Hector Neris, starters Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez, and first baseman Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins, Eflin and Neris are likely, if not certain, to get offers, while Hale could be a cheap arm to keep around. Velasquez will be interesting, as noted in our recent Good Phight roundtable on his future in Philadelphia.