The Chicago White Sox just fleeced the Washington Nationals.
We watched it. We all saw it. It happened right in front of our eyes. The Washington Nationals, in a pure desperation, win-now mode move, acquired a very good outfielder in Adam Eaton.
Eaton is a six-win player under team control for another six seasons at 28 years old. It’s likely Washington will plug him in at the top of the lineup and make him their everyday center fielder for the next few seasons. That’s a very nice new toy to have.
But in grabbing Eaton, general manager Mike Rizzo appeared to massively overpay, sending one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, Lucas Giolito, as well as two other very good young arms in Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning, to Chicago in exchange for Eaton.
That deal has gotten everyone in Phillies Twitter-land excited about the potential haul their own center fielder, All-Star Odubel Herrera, could bring back to the Phils should GM Matt Klentak decide to make him available.
Make no mistake, there are no untouchables on this team. Every Phillie could be had for the right price. But it seems as though, based on the Eaton news, many Phils fans want the team to get aggressive in marketing Herrera to other GMs.
I’m going the opposite way here, kids.
The Nationals are in a situation where they have two years of contention left. Bryce Harper is leaving that team as a free agent after 2018. So their motivation to deal is greater than most, hence the overpay for Eaton.
If you already have a very good young center fielder, one who is 24 years old and, in his first two seasons has a slash line of .291/.353/.419 with 23 homers, a wRC+ of 111 and a combined fWAR of 7.8, why wouldn’t you want to keep him? Wouldn’t you want to build your team around that guy?
Take a look at the numbers from Eaton’s last two seasons and Herrera’s first two seasons in MLB, and remember that, prior to last year, Herrera had never played a single game above AA ball.
Eaton has been the better, more consistent player the last two seasons, but he’s also slightly less than four years older than Herrera. And Herrera is an above average defensive center fielder, worth 6 defensive runs saved last season while playing every game in center.
Eaton played just 45 games in center in 2016 and 113 games in right field. The year before he was worth -14 DRS in center and was at -2 last season, although he was an excellent defender in right.
Oh hey, and look where Herrera stands among qualified MLB center fielders over the last two years.
That’s right, he has the 7th-most fWAR among MLB center fielders over the last two seasons. I also think there is 20-homer potential in his bat, which would make him even more dangerous as he begins to enter his prime.
Make no mistake, if a team comes to the Phillies with an offer similar to the one the Nationals gave the White Sox, Klentak would be stupid not to pull the trigger. But barring that, shopping Herrera just doesn’t make any sense.
If a team is truly desperate to deal, they’ll come to you. No sense chasing after blockbusters that aren’t there.
We all want the Phillies to do something exciting, and I know Herrera is not perfect. He struggled at times last year and was benched for plate discipline issues, and his effort was questioned by the team at points. And yes, the team does have a seemingly excellent young player in Roman Quinn on the verge of being a Major League player, if he can stay healthy.
But young, talented center fielders are hard to come by and, as we saw with the Nationals, can be expensive to purchase if you don’t have one. So why should the Phillies look to get rid of theirs?
Keep in mind that the Phillies have not done nothing this winter. They traded for a professional hitter in Howie Kendrick that will help the lineup a little. They signed the second-best free agent pitcher on the market to a one-year deal. And they upgraded their bullpen with the signing of Joaquin Benoit and the trade for Pat Neshek. Those are four moves that will help the Phils in 2017.
It would be great if they could add another bat. CSN Philly’s Corey Seidman suggested a trade for Seth Smith, which I wholeheartedly endorse.
But trading Odubel Herrera because you think there’s a potential blockbuster deal out there for him would be folly. Herrera is a really good player, and sometimes it’s OK for those guys to just play for your team and not be trade commodities.