It wasn't supposed to end this way with Odubel Herrera
by Scott Butler 1/26/20

Odubel Herrera

The Odubel Herrera story, which began with such promise and reached its peak when he became an All-Star in his sophomore season, now appears likely to end as a Shakespearian tragedy.

Herrera, who the Phillies selected 9th in the 2014 Rule-5 draft, was the first multi-year contract handed out by Matt Klentak when he signed the Venezuelan to a 5-year/$30.5 million contract. It initially looked like a potential steal for the Phils and the first building block of the next great core. Herrera's former manager, Pete Mackanin, suggested that “El Torito” would win a batting title in his career.

Mackanin appeared prophetic when Herrera became an All-Star in 2016. Through his first year and a half, Odubel hit .296 with a .356 OBP, 18 homers, and 63 extra-base-hits in 915 plate appearances.

Little did we know at the time, but this would be the peak of Herrera’s career. Always a streaky hitter, Odubel began an icy stretch from which he never recovered, batting .222 with just one homer and an unsightly OPS of .629 and an OPS+ of 62 (with 100 being average, it means he was 38% worse than the average big leaguer). It’s quite possible another hot streak was right around the corner, but any chance of that happening vanished when he was arrested on May 28.

Perhaps that arrest could end up being the wake-up call he needed as a hitter, but don't expect the Phillies to benefit from it. After eliminating Herrera from the 40-man roster (making him a $7 million minor leaguer), any future success will likely come in another uniform.

It’s easy to forget the detrimental impact this has on the Phillies. Instead of entering the 2020 season with an established hitter who can beat you in many ways, the Phillies will count on second-year center-fielder Adam Haseley. It doesn't help that Odubel will still collect the remainder of the $20.5 million still owed to him. More importantly, Matt Klentak could have desperately used Herrera's $6.1 million Average Annual Value to fortify the starting rotation or the bullpen.

Who knows, maybe the Phillies will look back fondly on the script-changes in the Herrera story. For starters, Odubel might have been a liability this season. Herrera batted .249 in 736 plate appearances in 2018 and 2019, a large enough sample size to suggest more of the same in 2020.

As for his replacement, most projections peg Adam Haseley as a league average hitter, but what if he exceeds those expectations and locks down the center-field position. Even if Haseley just treads water in 2020, replacing the potentially toxic Herrera with a more professional Haseley, it might be worth it.

That would be a fascinating turn of events, but I think the Phillies script writers would be perfectly content to re-write Herrera's first three seasons and take their chances.

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