TODAY: Herrera has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, the Phillies announced.
JANUARY 14: The Phillies announced Tuesday that center fielder Odubel Herrera has been designated for assignment. His 40-man roster spot will go to Nick Martini, whom the Phillies have claimed off waivers from the Reds.
Not long ago, such a move would’ve been unthinkable for the Phils, who extended Herrera on a five-year, $30.5MM deal spanning the 2017-21 seasons. However, Herrera sat out the the final 85 games of the 2019 season under a domestic violence suspension, and even when he was on the field in 2019, he failed to produce at the plate or with the glove. After batting .281/.325/.452 and drawing strong defensive marks across the board as recently as 2017, Herrera turned in an awful .222/.288/.341 line in 2019 with below-average marks from Ultimate Zone Rating, Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average.
While Herrera has played poorly in each of the past two seasons, he might well have been given another chance in 2020 were it not for the charges levied against him and the subsequent suspension. He’s still owed a hefty $19.5MM under that aforementioned extension, but the Phils are apparently willing to eat the remainder of that contract to cut ties with Herrera.
During Herrera’s absence, he was surpassed on the depth chart by former No. 8 overall pick Adam Haseley, who debuted with a .266/.324/.396 slash line and plus defensive ratings (per DRS, UZR and OAA) — all of which look to be improvements over Herrera’s 2018-19 play. The Phils could yet look to add a platoon partner for the left-handed-hitting Haseley, or they could play the versatile Scott Kingery in center field against tough lefties. Speedy Roman Quinn remains on hand as an option as well, and he’ll surely make the club given that he’s out of minor league options.
Martini himself will give the Phils another option at any of the three outfield spots, as he has at least 1900 minor league innings in left, center and right field. The left-handed-hitting Martini has been a veritable on-base machine in the upper minors, hitting at a robust .305/.401/.435 clip in parts of five Triple-A seasons.
While he doesn’t hit for much power, Martini has walked in 13.5 percent of his career plate appearances in Triple-A. That general profile has carried over to the big leagues, where in 288 plate appearances between the Padres and A’s, Martini has slashed .269/.372/.380. He still has a minor league option remaining, so Martini will give the Phillies some roster flexibility in addition to his intriguing on-base prowess.
The Phillies will have a week to trade Herrera, put him on outright waivers or release him. It’s likely that they’ve tried and failed to find a taker for his services prior to designating him for assignment, though, and he’ll surely go unclaimed on waivers. He doesn’t yet have five years of MLB service, so while he could reject an outright assignment, doing so would mean forfeiting the remainder of his contract, which obviously won’t happen. If the Phils wish to retain him, they could outright him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. If not, the likeliest outcome is that they’ll simply release Herrera, at which point any club would be able to sign him for the league minimum (which would be subtracted from the sum owed to him by the Phillies). Whether he’d even draw interest at that minimal level of commitment remains to be seen, however.