January 16, 2020
The Phillies appeared to make good on what many hoped they would do with regard to Odubel Herrera, their one-time star outfielder who was arrested for domestic abuse last spring. They designated him for assignment, which gave all other 29 MLB teams a chance to nab him from Philly.
News came out Thursday that the 28-year-old had in fact cleared waivers, which means he will not be playing for any other team to start 2020 barring a trade or some other move. According to reports, Herrera remains in the Phillies' organization (for now) and is looking like he'll be a member of the Iron Pigs.
Phillies announce that Odubel Herrera, as expected, has cleared waivers. He has been outrighted to Triple A. The plan, for now, is to bring him to minor-league camp, but his long term future with club remains uncertain— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyNBCS) January 16, 2020
What seems in theory like an easy situation — just let the man walk — is made extremely complicated by the more than $20 million he is owed by the Phils over the next two years. Even cutting him for baseball reasons (and there are plenty, as he played pretty badly last year) does not alleviate the team's financial burden.
For a team so close to the luxury tax threshold, the Phillies could really use that money, and it appears they are not closing the door on letting Herrera at least earn it, as opposed to getting it for free.
Here's what GM Matt Klentak had to say the last time he addressed the issue:
“Anything that happens from here on out is going to be performance driven and he has to earn whatever he’s going to get. His standing on our club is impacted by both how he performs, but also what happens around him. Some of this is within his control and some it is not. He’s in Miami, he’s working out and he’s getting himself in good shape. He understands that he’s going to have to earn whatever he gets in his career and he’s taking that seriously.” [h/t NBC Sports Philadelphia]
If he does indeed start the year in minor league camp — as opposed to MLB spring training — a roster spot is far from a given, as he is now no longer on the 40-man roster. But there are some very sticky potential situations of which the Phillies are surely wary.
For one, him suiting up and playing in Lehigh Valley could lead to, well, lots and lots of boos. He was not acquitted of the charges, they were just dropped by his then girlfriend. How will he handle the treatment he will get? Will the Phillies put him out there and risk him getting harassed (perhaps rightly?) by fans?
And what if he goes on a tear? The Phillies need another outfield bat and have yet to target one late in the offseason. If he is hitting .350 and bashing Triple-A pitching, what will the team do?
This saga is far from over, and his clearing waivers just puts even more pressure on the Phillies to do the right thing. Whatever that may be.
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