For the time being, Odubel Herrera will remain in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
As expected, Herrera cleared waivers Thursday, going unclaimed after the Phillies waived the 28-year-old earlier this week. Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia now says that Herrera has been outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, noting that “the plan, for now, is to bring him to minor-league camp, but his long term future with club remains uncertain.”
After being arrested for a domestic incident involving his girlfriend last May, Herrera was ultimately suspended without pay for the final 85 games of the season after it was determined that he violated MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assualt and Child Abuse policy. Though charges didn’t end up getting pressed against Herrera, an initial police report said that Herrera left “handprint marking to her neck area and small scratches to her arms” on his 20-year-old girlfriend at the Golden Nugget Casino Hotel in Atlantic City.
The issue that the Phillies have run into is that Herrera has already been punished by MLB. Whether or not that suspension was enough, his representatives (and the MLBPA) could suggest that the Phillies are punishing Herrera a second time if he were released.
Herrera hasn’t been a good player since the 2018 All-Star Break. In the second half of the 2018 season, Herrera hit .214 and posted just a .622 OPS. He was hitting just .222 after 126 at-bats in 2019 prior to his arrest. The Phillies could attempt to release him by citing his recent track record. They may be forced to prove, though, that if Herrera had just struggled in 2019 and not been arrested, they would have considered releasing him based solely on his on-field play.
Given that he went unclaimed on waivers and will almost certainly draw no trade interest, the Phillies may have determined that stashing him in their minor league system is the best way to distance themselves from Herrera without facing a legal battle.
Herrera is still owed $20.5 million and is set to count as $6.1 million against the luxury tax in each of the next two seasons, as noted by Matt Gelb of The Athletic. From his perspective, there’s no reason not to continue showing up to work – regardless of what level he’s at – if he continues to be paid by the Phillies.
One solution to get the former All-Star altogether out of the organization could be to workout some sort of settlement. Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic says that the Colorado Rockies reached a buyout agreement with Jose Reyes under somewhat similar circumstances in June of 2016.
There’s a very real possibility, though, that no team gives Herrera a second chance if he were to exit the Phillies organization. If he stays in the organization – even if it’s in the minor leagues – he has the chance to remind teams that he can be a productive player and hope some team takes a chance on him at some point.
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