Opinion

Point: Phillies, Herrera cash in with contract

CLEARWATER, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  <a rel=The Phillies won big time in their decision to extend Odubel Herrera to a five-year deal, with the possibility of seven. Sure, Herrera cashes in because two years ago he was a 22-year-old second baseman in the Rangers system still carving out his niche. That niche has since been carved after the Phillies plucked Herrera two years ago in the Rule 5 Draft. We now have ourselves a bat-flipping, hand-clapping, all-star speedster center fielder who’ll be donning pinstripes for years to come.

Herrera is the first major investment of this so-called “rebuilding” process. According to a tweet from ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the Phillies have no one else under contract beyond 2017. So, Herrera is it – the face of the Phillies for the moment.

Herrera’s deal is for five years with a guaranteed $30.5 million over that span. The Phillies have two club options, one for year six and another for year seven. Here’s how the money breaks down:

Year 1: $1.6 million
Year 2: $3.35 million
Year 3: $5.35 million
Year 4: $7.35 million
Year 5: $10.35 million
Year 6: $11.5 million (club option)
Year 7: $12.5 million (club option)

I get that the first five years are guaranteed, but this contract screams incentives without having any. With gradual increases each year, the contract is structured in a way to keep Herrera level-headed. Matt Breen of Philly.com discussed the Phillies “real concern” of complacency taking over the 24-year-old. And yes, complacency talk resurfaced again at yesterday’s presser, though both Pete Mackanin and Matt Klentak said they have no concerns.

Herrera has financial security, no one denies that, but the center fielder doesn’t make serious money until year five of the deal – and at that point – if Herrera becomes a headache (or doesn’t perform up to potential), each party can go on their merry way from there. The Phillies did a tremendous job with structure, which will hopefully keep Herrera locked in for the duration of the deal.

Stark also noted, in another tweet, that he doesn’t see Herrera as untouchable moving forward. The outfield is expected to be crowded in 2019 and ‘20. Dylan Cozens, Nick Williams, Roman Quinn and 2016 first-overall pick Mickey Moniak are destined to be established big-league players by that time. That’s without mentioning any possible free-agent signings (such as Bryce Harper or Mike Trout). A trade of Herrera at any point of his contract won’t handcuff the Phillies or the team trading for him.

That’s what the contract says to me. But like everyone else, including the Phillies, I really hope this works. The last two years, Herrera has hit .291/.353/.419 with 23 home runs and 41 stolen bases. The only outfielders to outperform Herrera in all of those categories over the last two years are Mookie Betts, Charlie Blackmon and Mike Trout. Betts is not eligible for arbitration until 2018 but will probably get a deal in the ballpark of Trout’s current six-year, $144.5 million pact. Blackmon, who is already 30 years old, made $3.5 million in 2016, is set for arbitration. And we all know the deal Trout inked in 2014; the Millville, N.J., native will rake in $119 million over the last four years of his contract ($33.25 million per year 2018-20). Herrera will cost the Phillies $34.35 million combined in his last three years, and that’s if the Phils even exercise both club options.

We can all agree that Trout stands in a class of his own. But the degree of discrepancy in the money Herrera can potentially earn is mind boggling, considering the center fielder may not have reached his full potential. The Phils made a clear investment, but they didn’t put all their eggs in one basket. They won the day just as much as Herrera.

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