Odubel Herrera was the Phillies’ lone All Star this season, this we all know. We all know how great a start he got off to, we all know how the former Rule 5 pick became a more disciplined hitter, and we all know the guy can seemingly roll out of bed and hit .300 when he wants to.
But, a funny thing has happened here in the second half of the season. None of those things have been the case.
Yes, Herrera’s offensive numbers are still pretty good this year, and are at least as good if not better in most offensive categories compared to last year.
But since the All Star Game, Herrera has fallen on hard times across the board.
On Tuesday, manager Pete Mackanin said Aaron Altherr is going to start playing some center field, meaning Herrera will start shifting to some corner outfield here in the second half. And CSN Philly reported that Reading center fielder Roman Quinn is expected to be a September call-up at the end of the month.
Not only that, Pete Mackanin put Herrera on the bench for a number of games during this west coast swing, apparently not happy with his faltering plate discipline. Mackanin said...
"I’m giving him a little bit of a reprieve here just to back off a little bit and maybe he’ll come in and ask me how come he’s not playing, or maybe he’ll take advantage of the time off to clear his head and get back to where he was before. He’s a little less disciplined than he was earlier. He’s swinging at too many bad pitches."
So it makes sense that CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury is speculating that Herrera could be shopped over the winter. On Tuesday, Mackanin noted that his defense in center field is not as good as it was last year.
"He adapted to center field so well last year," Mackanin said Tuesday. "This year, he's not quite the same guy."
The defensive metrics bear that out, although defensive statistics admittedly have to be taken with a grain of salt. Last season, Herrera was worth 10 defensive runs saved and had a UZR of 9.9. This year, he has 0 DRS and his UZR is -2.8.
Those less-than-stellar defensive metrics are what has his fWAR trending at a lower pace that last year’s.
While it won’t happen immediately in 2017, the Phillies are facing a potential numbers crunch in the outfield. The Phils clearly want to see Aaron Altherr play a lot, and in 12 games he’s done well, batting .245/.339/.469 with three homers in 56 PAs and a wRC+ of 117.
Quinn will start off next season in AAA, but the team liked what they saw of him in spring training. If he can stay healthy, he’s an elite defensive center fielder with speed that can make him a very dangerous base stealer in the Majors. There is also Nick Williams, who will likely be given a chance to win the everyday job out of Clearwater next year.
And there is slugger Dylan Cozens, who will undoubtedly start in Lehigh Valley next year, but could be knocking on the door if he can sustain his power numbers in AAA, cut down on his strikeouts and start doing better against left-handed pitching.
Herrera has also found himself in the doghouse at numerous points in his nearly two years with the team. He was benched earlier this year for not hustling, and Juan Samuel mentioned publicly after the All Star Game that they didn’t want Herrera to get a "big head," and noted a few off-the-field items they were concerned about regarding their center fielder. From Meghan Montemurro’s piece:
Samuel said he's spoken with Herrera about running out every ball so he doesn't develop a reputation as someone who doesn't hustle. Opposing players in the visitor's dugout have routinely yelled at Herrera to stop stepping out of the batter's box and lollygagging between pitches. Samuel, who has clearly heard those comments from other teams while standing in coach's box at third base, has tried to work with Herrera to cut down on those bad habits. Samuel said he's warned Herrera that he'll rack up fines he continues to do that.
"I just want to see him be a little bit more responsible," Samuel said. "That's basically it. You have to go get him for a lot of stuff. And when you're trying to find him he's on his cell phone somewhere. Hey, there's a certain time where we need to cut things off and start preparing for the game. So far he's doing it [on the field], but we need to take care of that part."
As the Phillies showed last year, they are not averse to moving a young star player if they can get top value for him, and there may be no better time to trade Herrera than this off-season.
And for those of you who wonder why Herrera can’t be moved to second base, the position he played throughout his minor league career, reports were not positive regarding his defense at that position, and the Phillies don’t seem to be considering that as an option.
There is no doubt Herrera would be an attractive option on the open market. He’s still just 24 and is under team control through the 2021 season. He’s not even eligible for arbitration until 2018, so he costs nothing. A team might be willing to give up a young starting pitcher who throws hard in exchange for the All Star.
It is important to note that Herrera is very young, the baseball season is a very long one, and a hot streak in the last month and a half could erase all of this. In fact, since July 22 (arbitrary end point alert!!!), Herrera has hit .288/.347/.455 in 73 PAs, with two homers, a double, and two triples, with a wRC+ of 111.
No one wants to see Odubel Herrera traded away, but we all said the same thing about Ken Giles last year and that deal has worked out pretty well so far. Trading Herrera would be a similar move, a sell-high opportunity that could net the Phils multiple, quality pieces.
The Phillies future outfield is still murky, at best. But there are no shortage of potential choices, which could allow the Phils to consider sending their lone All Star representative for this year packing.