Phillies

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

Vince Velasquez is subject of serious trade talks between Phillies, Rangers

ATLANTA — Seven months after he was acquired from the Houston Astros and anointed a key piece in the Phillies’ rebuild, pitcher Vince Velasquez could be on the move again.

The Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez, a major league source told CSNPhilly.com on Friday night (see story).

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported by Jon Morosi of MLB Network earlier in the week and essentially confirmed when three Rangers scouts, including Scott Littlefield, one of that club’s top talent evaluators, showed up at Turner Field for Velasquez’s start against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Velasquez delivered a solid but unspectacular performance in a 2-1 loss to the Braves, but he still has the qualities that attracted the Phillies to him last winter. He’s just 24 years old and has a power arm that has produced a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has the upside to pitch at or near the top of a rotation if his development goes in the right direction and he stays healthy. That is a legitimate concern because he had Tommy John surgery as a young minor leaguer and spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a biceps strain.

The question now is: where will Velasquez continue his development? Philadelphia? Texas? Somewhere else?

Clearly, the Phillies’ big wintertime acquisition is in play as Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline approaches.

Manager Pete Mackanin said he knows nothing of the front office’s trade plans, but he offered his opinion on trading a young pitcher like Velasquez.

“Our whole goal was to get young pitchers because they’re the most expensive commodity and if you can develop young pitchers like him and have four or five of those guys, then you’re ahead of the game,” Mackanin said. “But at the same time, at least as far as I’m concerned, I’ll listen to any offers. If you get three guys that are really good looking prospects because pitching is such a commodity, I’m sure you have to consider it.”

With the Rangers' scouts looking on, Velasquez pitched six innings and gave up seven hits and two runs. He walked two and struck out five. His fastball reached 96 mph, proving that his stuff is good. Mackanin, however, said he thought Velasquez relied too much on his off-speed stuff instead of his power fastball.

“It was unusual to me the way he pitched,” Mackanin said. “It was almost like a finesse pitcher instead of a power pitcher. I’m not arguing with it because he did a good job, but he made me a little nervous here and there. I like the 16 strikeouts.”

That, of course, was a reference to Velasquez’s 16-strikeout complete game win over the Padres on April 14. Could anyone have imagined that he'd be the subject of trade talks 3½ months later?

Velasquez said he was aware of the trade buzz surrounding him and unbothered by it. He’s been down this road before. He said he would not be disappointed if he were traded because he understands baseball is a business.

“At first when I got traded from the Astros it was kind of tough for me, but you have to move on and make the best of what you've got,” Velasquez said. “If things happen, just let it happen. If I go to another team, then I've got to make the best of what I've got there. There's a lot of things that are in the future. I don't know what to expect is what I'm saying. Again, all I can do is live in the present and live another day tomorrow. If something happens, something happens. I've got to make the best of what you've got today.

“It's just one of those things I can't control. I had to fight, had to battle for a spot here in Philadelphia and I'm very thankful for the opportunity and everything. Again, I've still got to keep working hard and make the best of what I've got.”

Any team looking to acquire Velasquez would have to pay a steep price. In addition to having talent and upside, he won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2018 season and free agency until after the 2021 season.

The Phillies have a good knowledge of Texas’ deep farm system having scouted it extensively — and plucked from it — in making the deal for Cole Hamels a year ago. Are the Phillies about to fuel their rebuild with more talent from the Texas system? Stay tuned.

Velasquez isn’t the only Phillies starter who could move. Several teams remain interested in Jeremy Hellickson (see story), who is scheduled to pitch against Atlanta on Saturday night. The Rangers, in fact, have some interest in Hellickson as a fallback option if they don’t get a pitcher elsewhere. Velasquez is not the only pitcher the Rangers have on their radar, but from a Phillies’ perspective, he is certainly the most interesting.

Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard open up about frustrations with institutional racism

usa-060220-jimmy-rollins-ryan-howard-phillies-racism.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard open up about frustrations with institutional racism

Former Phillies stars Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard sat down this week for a wide-ranging discussion about race in baseball and in America.

The talk, hosted by The Athletic, comes amid nationwide protests speaking out about institutional racism in the United States and in its police system after last week's killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis last Monday night by a police officer in an incident caught on camera. The officer kneeled on his neck for an extended period of time while Floyd was handcuffed.

Rollins and Howard both discussed the frustration, anger, and sadness they felt from watching the widely-shared video of Floyd's death:

ROLLINS: [...] In the beginning, it was more shock. It was like, 'This dude, he really just sat there on his neck.' And then, the next day, you think about it, I remember I was picking up some food, and like Torii, I just started crying. Just angry. What do you do? This man has no remorse. There was not one second it appeared he considered (stopping). It was kind of like, 'I hear you, but I’m not going to do it. I don’t want to. I don’t have to do it. I’m protected by the badge. If he dies, he dies.' That was his attitude.

And that’s the part that really, really gets to you. How many other people, whether behind the badge or just in life, literally have the same feeling, think the same way? That if this person dies because I’m white and he’s black, and he didn’t listen to what I said, then I’m going to do what I want with him until I get his compliance? And if he dies, he dies.

HOWARD: It’s kind of like what Jimmy said: This dude was just sitting on his neck. But what got me was, he’s telling you he can’t breathe. You haven’t learned from the past in the sense of what happened in Ferguson and other cities? This man is telling you. He’s on the ground. He’s handcuffed. You’ve got four or five different police officers right there. There’s no need for that. My man started crying out for his mother. At what point do you think this dude is a threat, when he’s calling for his mom?

Howard then went on to recount a time he was pulled over by police in Philadelphia late at night, in what he believes was 2007 or 2008, without being provided a clear reason from a police officer.

HOWARD: Everybody knows what the police-car lights look like. I’m like, 'OK, let me act right because this cop is right behind me. I’m going to try and let this dude pass.' We pull up to the same light. He pulls up next to me. I’m going left. He’s going right. The light turns green, boom, my signal is on, I’m doing everything proper. I make my left turn. He sits there at the light. Two seconds later, boom, he makes the left and follows me. Pulls me over and asks for a license, registration, the whole nine yards.

I said, 'Officer, can you tell me what I was doing?' He said, 'Well, I ran your plates and nothing came back.' I was like, 'Isn’t that a good thing? I didn’t speed, didn’t run any lights. I wasn’t doing anything crazy, but you felt the need to pull me over.' Then another police officer pulled up, a black police officer. He went over to the dude and said, 'You know who that is?' He came over and talked to me, the dude wound up leaving.

I said, 'Look, man, if I’m breaking a law, I don’t care who I am, what I do, that don’t matter. If I’m running a light or not signaling and you pull me over, that’s fine. But when he tells me he pulled me over because he ran my tag and nothing came back what am I supposed to do?' The black officer said, 'Yeah, that dude has done that a few times.' He ended up getting reprimanded by his superiors. But when you have people like that working in that capacity, what can you do?

The whole conversation, which also includes former Phillie Doug Glanville and other former MLB players, is extremely important reading, and well worth your time.

It's important to note the differences in Howard's experience and that of former Flyers winger Todd Fedoruk, who noted in 2015 that Philadelphia police officers were known to give hockey players, an overwhelmingly white group of athletes, free passes on dangerous harmful behavior, like driving drunk.

Rollins and Howard are the latest Philadelphia athletes to publicly voice their frustrations with instituional racism and abuse of power by police officers.

In the last week, Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Bryce Harper, Jason Kelce, and dozens of other local athletes have spoken up in support of the black community, and against racism.

Subscribe and rate the Phillies Talk podcast:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19 / YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Brett Myers' walk against CC Sabathia was an all-time Philly sports moment

Brett Myers' walk against CC Sabathia was an all-time Philly sports moment

I was sitting in section 110 at Citizens Bank Park when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. “They actually did it,” I remember thinking. It was a truly remarkable feeling.

It was the first championship I ever witnessed a team from Philadelphia pull off.

But if you asked me what the most memorable play that I witnessed in person from that run was, my answer probably wouldn’t be from Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Or even from any of the three World Series games I attended in South Philly that series.

That’s because Brett Myers drew a walk.

NBC Sports Philadelphia will re-air Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers this evening and I’ll get to watch Shane Victorino take CC Sabathia deep for a legendary grand slam once again.

But it was all made possible by the Phillies' starting pitcher working a remarkable at-bat against the Brewers' ace that had the 46,208 screaming fans at Citizens Bank Park going ballistic.

"Myers looked like a woodchopper as he fouled off pitches to prolong the at-bat and the full house loved it. The crowd and the length of the at-bat clearly weighed on Sabathia because he walked the next batter, Jimmy Rollins, on four pitches to load the bases,” is how Jim Salisbury described it today. My memory is pretty similar, but from the vantage point of the second row in the third level in right field where I was sitting with my dad and friend Matt.

One of the aspects of sports that makes it such a joy is its unpredictability. Myers shouldn’t have stood a chance against Sabathia, and yet with each fouled-off pitch, the roar of the crowd grew, the white rally towels waving higher.

And the chants. How can you forget the chants?!

“CEEEEE! CEEEEE! … CEEEEEE! CEEEEEE!”

Man, that sure was fun. One of the most joyous moments of being a Philly sports fan I've experienced.

“Most f******g insane [stuff],” Matt texted me yesterday when reminiscing.

“SHANE.”

That’s all that needed to be said. No questions asked.

I took out my camera prior to the seventh pitch of the Myers' at-bat and started recording. My favorite part of the video is the laughing at what we were witnessing. So rewatch the TV broadcast of the 2008 NLDS tonight but enjoy the view from the crowd once more below. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies