December 15, 2016
The Phillies have spent the last two years not only rebuilding, but assessing what they had on their major league roster at the same time. While waiting for prospects to graduate to the major leagues, they were evaluating the players that already arrived, trying to decide who might be a part of their future.
On Thursday afternoon, the front office sent a strong signal that they are content with their center fielder of the present and the future.
The Phillies announced they had come to terms with All-Star Odubel Herrera on a five-year contract that also includes two club option years. According to CSNPhilly.com, the five-year deal is worth $30.5 million, while the two option years are $11.5 million and $12.5 million, respectively, and does not include a no-trade clause.
Herrera, who turns 25 in two weeks, has hit .291 with a .773 OPS in 306 games with the Phillies in the last two seasons. Selected away from the Texas Rangers in the Rule 5 Draft two years ago this month, Herrera was the Phillies' lone representative at the All-Star Game this summer in San Diego.
In his second big league season, Herrera hit .286 with a .361 OBP, 15 home runs, and stole 25 bases in 32 attempts. He was also one of three finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for the National League's top defensive centerfielder.
In the last two seasons (since his MLB debut) Herrera is one of just six major league outfielders who have an OBP over .350 along with at least 20 home runs, 40 stolen bases, and 50 doubles. The other five: Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Charlie Blackmon, Mookie Betts, and Lorenzo Cain.
The contract extension is a good one for both player and team. Herrera, who made $528,000 last season, was not eligible for arbitration until next winter and could not have become a free agent until after the 2020 season.
The new contract gives the Phillies as much as three more years of control of the multi-talented Herrera. The deal also gives the center fielder financial security in the form of guaranteed money ($30.5 million), rather than letting the arbitration process play out in the coming years.
While some speculated last year that Herrera could move to one of the corner outfield positions in the coming year, both general manager Matt Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin shut down such talk in the last two months.
At last month's General Managers Meetings, Klentak said Herrera graded out very well in defensive analytics in center, better than rising prospect Roman Quinn. Mackanin voiced similar confidence in Herrera's skill set at last week's Winter Meetings.
"Right now, no," Mackanin said on whether Herrera could move out of center. "He's done very well and analytics show him to be at the top echelon of that position. And here is a guy who has played two years in the big leagues as a Rule 5 and has hit over .290 and has done well defensively. He's had his hiccups along the way, but he's pretty darn good."
And so the Phillies have their center fielder for 2017, and for the future, too. The likes or Quinn and fellow outfield prospects Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens will compete in the coming year(s) with Aaron Altherr and others for playing time in the corner spots.
It's fair to remember outfield depth is not a bad problem to have: toward the end of the 2007 season the Phillies had Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino, Aaron Rowand, Jayson Werth, and Michael Bourn on their active roster. Rowand left as a free agent, of course, and Bourn was used as trade bait to reel in closer Brad Lidge, who helped guide the team to the 2008 World Series championship.
The Phillies have a press conference scheduled for 11 a.m. tomorrow at Citizens Bank Park. Herrera, Klentak, and Mackanin are all scheduled to attend.