Odubel Herrera's new 5-year deal looks like great value for Phillies

Odubel Herrera's new 5-year deal looks like great value for Phillies

The Phillies on Thursday rewarded Odubel Herrera with a five-year contract, one that could also prove to be team-friendly.

Herrera, who was set to become a free agent after 2020, instead gets a five-year deal with two club options that could keep him with the Phils through 2023. 

The contract is worth a guaranteed $30.5 million, a major league source tells CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury. The club options are in 2022 and 2023 at $11.5 million and $12.5 million. There is no no-trade clause.

The Phillies clearly see their 24-year-old centerfielder as a building block.

Herrera, who hit .297 as a rookie in 2015, took a step forward in his sophomore season, controlling the strike zone better and developing some power.

He made the NL All-Star team in 2016, hitting .313 with a .462 on-base percentage in April and walking 34 times in the season's first two months. 

Overall, .286/.361/.420 in 656 plate appearances, with seven more homers (15) and nine more stolen bases (25) than he had in 2015. He walked 35 more times and cut his strikeout rate by nearly four percent.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin spoke often about Herrera's paradoxical approach — he's not this eagle-eyed, disciplined hitter and he'll sometimes swing himself out of an at-bat, but his ability to foul off pitches and diagnose a pitcher's plan of attack (or what he has going on that night) allows him to draw walks.

Herrera hit a bit of a lull as the All-Star break approached, and the walk rate dropped significantly as the season progressed. He walked 29 times in 108 games from May 1-on.

But he rebounded late in the second half, hitting .371 with eight extra-base hits in his last 18 games.

That last little hot streak might have been important for the Phillies to see. In two seasons, Herrera has had a terrific half each year and a slow half each year.

In 2015, he hit .335 with a .391 OBP in his last 80 games.

In 2016, he hit .306 with a .396 OBP in his first 80 games.

Can you fluke that two years in a row? Herrera hasn't looked like a player about to experience a stiff drop-off in production. He's a left-handed hitter with bat speed (crushed a few balls out to right field), but also the ability to poke one over the shortstop's head. In two years, he has nine bunt hits and 48 infield singles.

There's a lot to like.

As for the contract, it might actually make Herrera more tradable as he's now cost-controlled for the next seven seasons at a manageable price. The final three years of Herrera's deal take the place of what would have been his first three free-agent years. And they'll cost the Phillies about $30 million.

That's great value if Herrera keeps it up. Dexter Fowler just got five years, $82.5 million from the Cardinals. Herrera and Fowler are equals right now, and Herrera's 5½ years younger. Plus, inflation.

This new contract puts guaranteed money in Herrera's pockets but also allows the Phillies to save some on the back end, when they will likely be more competitive and need their payroll space more than they do now.

Herrera does has some flaws. When he's gone cold, his bat has been wild and he's chased a lot of bad pitches. He had more gaffes in center field last year than he did as a rookie. The advanced defensive metrics say he was about the same; the eye test said he took a small step back.

But Herrera is here to stay, in a Phillies outfield picture that is more crowded than it was a few years ago. Howie Kendrick is pencilled in as the LF for 2017. Beyond that, Nick Williams has yet to fulfill offensive expectations, Roman Quinn has been oft-injured, and Aaron Altherr lost some important development time in 2016 after breaking his wrist in spring training. The Phillies have high hopes for Dylan Cozens coming off a 40-HR season at Double A but he'll need to trim his strikeout rate and improve against lefties before factoring into their top-level plans. Mickey Moniak, the high school outfielder taken first overall in the 2015 draft, will be at Single A this season. His approximate ETA to Citizens Bank Park is 2019 or 2020.

Herrera's turning out to be one of the better Rule 5 picks in recent memory. The Phillies took him eighth overall in the 2014 Rule 5 draft, 10 years after uncovering a gem in Shane Victorino the same way.

Herrera, then a second baseman in the Texas Rangers' farm system, was coming off a season in which he hit .321 at Double A and then .372 in the Venezuelan Winter League. Thinking he possessed the ability to play the outfield, Phillies director of professional scouting Mike Ondo and his staff targeted Herrera and landed him. Seven teams have kicked themselves at some point.

The main reason Herrera was even available to the Phillies then was the strength of Texas' farm system, particulary in the middle infield. A team can protect only so many players and Herrera didn't make the cut.

Seven months after acquiring Herrera, the Phillies added five more prospects from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade. So far, Herrera has outperformed all of them.

On Thursday, he was rewarded for it.

MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees to force Game 7 in ALCS


HOUSTON — Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dusty Baker fired by Nationals after 2 NL East titles


Dusty Baker fired by Nationals after 2 NL East titles

WASHINGTON -- Dusty Baker's time as the manager of the Washington Nationals is over after two seasons, two NL East titles and zero playoff series victories.

The Nationals announced Friday that they would not be bringing Baker back. His two-year deal with the club is expiring.

The contracts for the members of Baker's coaching staff also are finished. The team said it will work with its new manager to fill those positions.

The moves come the week after Washington was eliminated from its NL Division Series against the Chicago Cubs with a 9-8 loss at home in Game 5. The Nationals also were bounced from the postseason in the NLDS round in 2016 -- also with a Game 5 loss at home by one run, that time against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This outcome, essentially, is what Baker was worried about as far back as spring training in February, when he made clear his desire for a new contract, knowing his was up after 2017.

Before the series against the Cubs began, Baker was asked about his possible future in Washington.

"I've given some thought to some things, but we were told that we were waiting until after the season to make a determination," he said at the time. "There's a good chance I'll be back."

He expected negotiations to pick up after the season ended (see full story).

Turner, Taylor repay Dodgers' patience by sharing NLCS MVP
CHICAGO -- Justin Turner and Chris Taylor shared MVP honors in the NL Championship Series, repaying a Dodgers organization willing to roll the dice on players whose big league careers were stalled.

In Turner's case, it was then-bench coach Tim Wallach who rediscovered him playing in a Cal State-Fullerton alumni baseball game four years ago, after his career appeared all but over.

In Taylor's case, it was Los Angeles' willingness to gamble that an offseason of grueling workouts would enable the young utilityman to rebuild his swing in a matter of months.

The co-MVPs turned up in the interview room together after the Dodgers eliminated the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs 11-1 in Game 5. They were champagne-soaked with hats turned backward, a pair of goggles still perched on Turner's head. Fittingly, they doused each other with praise.

"He's a dynamic player and a table setter," said Turner, who hit .333 for the series, with two home runs and seven RBIs. "When he goes, we usually go as a team."

"I talk to him as much as I can. He's one of the reasons I decided to make the changes I did," said Taylor, who finished at .316 with two homers and three RBIs. Both men also walked five times, as many as the entire Cubs roster (see full story).

Rare Jackie Robinson rookie jersey up for auction
NEW YORK -- A rare jersey from Jackie Robinson's historic rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers 70 years ago could be available for someone with a few spare millions.

The jersey, part of a Heroes of Sports offering by Heritage Auctions, has been certified by Mears, one of the top memorabilia authentication companies. It is accompanied by a letter from Robinson's widow, Rachel, saying it is the one brought home by the Hall of Famer at the end of the 1947 season, when he became the first black player in the majors and earned Rookie of the Year honors.

"This is the only one known from the `47 season, the only one that survived," Chris Ivy, Heritage's director of sports auctions, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "It stayed in his closet for five decades plus until it was eventually sold to a private collector in the early 2000s."

The online auction opened Friday and closes at 11 p.m. on Nov. 19. The entire collection is from one owner and can be viewed on Heritage's website. Other items available for bidding include Babe Ruth's pants from the Hall of Fame induction in 1939, Keith Hernandez's 1978 Gold Glove award, a Wilt Chamberlain jersey from 1966, Bill Vukovich's Indianapolis 500 trophy from 1953 and Muhammad Ali's shoes from his fight against Ken Norton in 1973.

Ivy said the Robinson jersey has been valued at more than $3 million. He wouldn't be surprised to see it exceed that.

"It's tough to estimate a piece like this -- it's a one of a kind," he said. "As far as collectibles a rookie (jersey) is always sought after, something that's significant."