DOMONIC BROWN entered this offseason eligible for arbitration for the second straight winter.
The likelihood that he was going to be tendered a contract wasn't strong: Brown made $2.6 million last year, the second consecutive season when he failed to regain his status as an important young cog in the middle of the Phillies' lineup.
The Phillies got ahead of the process a couple of months early.
Brown, 28, an All-Star in 2013, was among four players outrighted off the 40-man roster on Monday. Teams have until Dec. 2 to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players.
Brown can elect to become a free agent, as reliever Justin De Fratus did two weeks ago when he was also outrighted off the 40-man roster.
"He understood (the decision)," said interim general manager Scott Proefrock, who delivered the news to Brown on Monday. "He was appreciative of the opportunity we'd given him . . . He did have some positive contributions for us in the early years of his career. For whatever reason, it didn't work out for the long term."
Brown was joined by former top catching prospect Tommy Joseph, former second-round pick Kelly Dugan, and Brian Bogusevic as players outrighted by the Phillies.
Like Brown, Bogusevic can immediately become a free agent. Dugan can become a minor league free agent five days after the conclusion of the World Series. Joseph, meanwhile, remains under team control; he hasn't accumulated enough minor league seasons to become a free agent yet.
If you subtract the soon-to-be free agents, the Phillies will have 31 players on their 40-man roster heading into free agency next month.
"We're trying to get as much flexibility on the roster as we can," Proefrock said. "The thought process was to do that as quickly as possible. From the standpoint of Domonic, it's the same thing with De Fratus - it was better for them to do it sooner rather than later."
Brown, rated as the top prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America in July 2010, one spot ahead of Mike Trout, hit .272 with an .818 OPS and 27 home runs in 139 games in 2013. But he struggled to reconnect with his productivity in the next two seasons: Brown hit .233 with a .634 OPS and 15 home runs in 207 games in 2014 and 2015.
After hitting 23 home runs in 95 games before playing in the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field, Brown hit .239 with a .650 OPS and 19 home runs in 251 games in the last 2 1/2 years.
Brown, who hit .228 with five home runs in 63 games with the Phillies this season, ended the year on the disabled list after suffering a concussion on Sept. 2 in New York. It was Brown's second trip to the disabled list in 2015.
He began the year on the DL (Achilles') and was optioned to Triple A when he returned to health. Brown was out of options at the time, cleared waivers, and accepted an assignment to Lehigh Valley. He is likely to opt for free agency in the coming days.
"Obviously, the league adjusted to him and he didn't make the adjustment necessary to have the success he had," Proefrock said. "He had some injuries along the way . . . but again, this is a game of results, and we were not going to tender him a contract. We figured it was time to move on."
Joseph and Dugan, two of the others outrighted on Monday, each had his own issues staying healthy.
Joseph, 24, was the leading piece the Phillies received from San Francisco in the July 2012 trade that sent Hunter Pence to the Giants. But Joseph repeatedly suffered concussion problems and was moved off catcher to first base early in the 2015 season.
Joseph played in only 149 games in the last 3 1/2 seasons since begin acquired. A former second-round pick by the Giants in 2009, Joseph has hit .250 with a .720 OPS and 63 home runs in parts of six minor league seasons.
Dugan, 25, was selected 20 picks after Joseph in the 2009 draft; the California prep outfielder was the Phillies' top pick that summer (they didn't have a first-round pick).
Dugan has hit .290 with an .800 OPS and 43 home runs in parts of seven seasons in the Phillies' minor league system. He hit only three home runs in 83 games (351 plate appearances) with Class A Clearwater, Double A Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley this season and played more than 83 games in only two of his six full seasons because of an assortment of injuries.
Dugan, a nonroster invite to major league camp in 2015, never got on the field with the major league team in March after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot in February.
Bogusevic, who was playing for his fourth organization in four years in 2015, spent most of the season at Triple A Lehigh Valley. Bogusevic, 31, hit .259 with two home runs in 22 games with the Phillies in September.
Team president Andy MacPhail has done an admirable job conducting his search for a general manager in secrecy, but at least a handful of names has emerged as potential candidates this month, and one was labeled a "heavy favorite" by USA Today on Monday. That person: J.J. Picollo, a Cherry Hill native and current assistant general manager of the Kansas City Royals.
According to the same USA Today report, the Phillies were still scheduled to interview six more people for the position, which became vacant when Ruben Amaro Jr. was fired last month. Others in the running are Matt Klentak, Thad Levine, Kim Ng, Matt Slater, Ross Atkins and Ben Cherington.
According to an ESPN.com report, Cherington is the "favored choice" of ownership partner John Middleton. Both Cherington, the former Red Sox GM, and Middleton are Amherst College alumni.
The Phillies hope to make the GM hire within the next week to 10 days. The front office is holding its annual organization meetings in Clearwater, Fla., beginning on Monday.
On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21