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Phillies sign reliever Seranthony Domínguez to one-year deal, continue to discuss a center-field trade

The Phillies have discussed a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.

The Phillies hope Seranthony Dominguez will fill a late-inning role in 2022.
The Phillies hope Seranthony Dominguez will fill a late-inning role in 2022.Read more Yong Kim

Staring at deadlines on multiple fronts, the Phillies were busy Tuesday, even though they made only one move to retain a player who was already under their control.

The Phillies signed reliever Seranthony Domínguez to a one-year deal hours before teams had to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players. Domínguez will make $727,500 in 2022, according to a source, or the same compensation that he was paid this year while recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery.

Locking up Domínguez doesn’t satisfy the Phillies’ need for a closer. They are counting on him, though, to help fill the late-inning role vacated last weekend when free agent Héctor Neris agreed to a two-year, $17 million contract with the Houston Astros.

But what about center field and left field, positions that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski recently described as “complete necessities?”

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With major-league owners poised to lock out the players upon the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement after 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, the Phillies remained engaged with the representatives of several free-agent outfielders who could hit in the middle of the lineup. They also continued talking with the Tampa Bay Rays about a potential trade for three-time Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, multiple sources confirmed.

Although indications Tuesday night were that a Kiermaier trade isn’t imminent, the situation may be fluid.

The Rays dealt arbitration-eligible infielder Joey Wendle to the Miami Marlins for a prospect before they would’ve had to tender him a 2022 contract. Perhaps they will now turn their attention to Kiermaier. Despite signaling that they aren’t shopping the 31-year-old, he’s due to make $12.17 million in the final year of his contract. The low-budget Rays have a less expensive center-field alternative in Manuel Margot, who was tendered a contract.

Kiermaier may fit into a remade Phillies outfield. He’s a .249/.310/.410 career hitter in nine seasons in Tampa Bay, including .259/.328/.388 this year. But he leads all major-league outfielders with 131 defensive runs saved since 2015. If the Phillies prioritize offense over defense in left field by signing Kyle Schwarber or Nick Castellanos, they could offset that move by putting Kiermaier in center.

A lockout would freeze all offseason transactions until a new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. The last few days have featured a slew of signings. But while the Phillies didn’t participate in the free-agent frenzy, it’s worth noting that their top middle-of-the-order and closer targets are still on the market.

Domínguez, 27, posted a 2.95 ERA in 53 appearances as a rookie in 2018 and was widely viewed as the Phillies’ future closer. But he tore a ligament in his elbow midway through the 2019 season, endured a setback in spring training of 2020, and underwent Tommy John surgery. He completed his comeback by tossing a scoreless inning in the Phillies’ season finale Oct. 3 in Miami.

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At the recent general managers meetings, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski listed Domínguez, Connor Brogdon, Sam Coonrod, and lefty José Alvarado as the top holdovers for the 2022 bullpen. There are signs, though, that Domínguez isn’t all the way back. His average fastball velocity was 94.8 mph in his Oct. 3 appearance, down from 97.5 mph in 2019.

“I’ll be more comfortable when I come back in the spring and keep working hard in the offseason, work on my body, and get stronger, keep my mind stronger and be ready for whenever they need me,” Domínguez said in October. “I just want to be ready.”

Neris thanks Phils

In a video conference from Houston, Neris said he “prepared my mind” that free agency may lead him away from the Phillies, who signed him for $17,000 as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic. He departs as the franchise’s all-time leader among relievers with 520 strikeouts.

“I appreciate everything the Phillies did for me,” Neris said. “They made the Héctor you see right now.”

Neris will see many of his former teammates on opening day. The Phillies are scheduled to begin the season in Houston, a fact that wasn’t lost on Neris.

“Yeah, but now it’s my enemy,” he said, laughing.

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Extra bases

As expected, the Phillies tendered contracts to three arbitration-eligible players: Alvarado, Zach Eflin, and Rhys Hoskins. ... Outfielder Roman Quinn was non-tendered after being designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for right-hander Yoan López, a waiver claim from the Atlanta Braves. López, 28, has a 4.25 ERA in 113 major-league appearances, including a 6.57 mark in 13 games this year for Arizona. Quinn’s career has been marred by injuries, including a torn left Achilles tendon that required surgery in June. ... The Phillies also non-tendered lefty reliever Kyle Dohy and re-signed him to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. They have one vacancy on the 40-man roster.