Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak didn’t say Thursday morning that former All-Star outfielder Odubel Herrera will never play for the team again. He didn’t mince words, though – the odds are stacked against Herrera.
The 28-year-old outfielder is in Clearwater, but he isn’t getting set to join all Phillies position players at major league camp this Sunday. Instead, he’ll report to minor league camp after the Phillies designated him for assignment and he cleared waivers in January.
Last Memorial Day, Herrera was arrested for a domestic incident with his girlfriend, and ultimately suspended for the remainder of the 2019 season. Klentak said Monday that there’s no guarantee that Herrera will ever play for the Phillies at the major league level again.
“That’s largely going to be up to him,” Klentak said Thursday when asked about whether Herrera could ever return to the major league level with the team. “Odubel served his time…he served his punishment that was bargained between the union and the league. We are not in position to further penalize him by rule. So he, as you mentioned, is in minor-league camp. He’s now off the roster. And anything that happens to him from here on out is going to be something that he has to earn. So there is a path for him to return, but he is going to have to do everything 100 percent right – both on the field and off – to even have a chance. And having said that, those things would need to align with an opportunity at the major league level. Ultimately, that’s going to have to be up to him.”
One would think that if the Phillies were planning to seriously consider having Herrera play for the major league team in 2020, he would have been asked to be at major league camp in some form. After all, the Phillies are expected to have north of 70 players at camp at this time next week. Only 26 can be on the Opening Day roster.
It’s possible that Herrera simply fizzles out at Triple-A and never recaptures what made some believe he could be a franchise cornerstone just a few years ago. After all, he posted just a .622 OPS after the All-Star Break in 2018. In 126 at-bats in 2019, Herrera was hitting an underwhelming .222. Baseball is a strange game, and sometimes guys aren’t able to rediscover what once allowed them to thrive on the sport’s highest stage.
What will be interesting, though, is if Herrera tears up Triple-A. He’s been a very streaky player in the parts of five seasons that he’s spent with the Phillies. If a hot streak from him coincides with struggles from Adam Haseley – who is expected to get the right of first refusal in center field this season – there will be some that call for Herrera to get a second chance with the Phillies. Nothing they’ve done since his arrest suggests that the Phillies have any interest in being the place where Herrera gets another opportunity.
This isn’t just a 2020 problem. Herrera is guaranteed $7 million in 2020, and $10 million in 2021. If the Phillies don’t want to risk a grievance being filed against them for punishing Herrera a second time by releasing him – which it sounds like they don’t – they’re going to have to keep him in their organization for the next two seasons. Their only possible out would be if Herrera performs so well in the minors that another team becomes interested in trading for him. So far, it’s reportedly been crickets on the trade market for Herrera.
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