The Phillies and Braves have been on remarkably similar paths this winter, seeking to boost near-term performance without jeopardizing their long-term rebuilding plans. Most notably, that has involved collecting veteran pieces (especially starters) on expensive, one-year deals.
While neither of the N.L. East rivals appear to be ready to add truly significant, long-term pieces via free agency, both were willing to make targeted investments to enhance their control over their own players this winter. Specifically, Philadelphia and Atlanta found common ground with their young center fielders, Odubel Herrera, who turns 25 on Thursday, and Ender Inciarte, who just turned 26.
It’s probably not entirely coincidental that the two pacts — struck within about a week of one another — were structured so similarly. Both players are in the 2+ service class, meaning they each already had four years of team control to go, though Inciarte had qualified as a Super Two. Instead, each player committed at least one would-be free-agent year to his team, in exchange for nearly identical guarantees: Herrera gets $30.5MM, Inciarte $30.525MM. The only meaningful difference came on the option front. The Phils can control Herrera for two more seasons (at $11.5MM and $12.5MM), while the Braves only get one additional year of control over Inciarte, but need pay him only $9MM to utilize it.
Of course, the two are hardly identical players. Herrera possesses a bigger bat, having produced at a 111 wRC+ rate over his first two MLB seasons, while Inciarte is more of a league-average hitter. Though both add value with their legs and gloves, the latter is the more accomplished in both regards. All things considered, both have established themselves as solidly above-average regulars and appear set to provide plenty of value to their respective employers over the duration of their new contracts.
Herrera arguably comes with greater upside, given the increasing power (and improved walk rate) he demonstrated last year. But you could also reasonably suggest that Inciarte’s superior value in other aspects of the game makes him a surer bet to remain a quality center fielder into his early thirties. So, just for fun, which player’s contract looks like the better bet? (Those using the Trade Rumors mobile app can weigh in here.)