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.
Max potential of Herrera's deal with Phillies is 52 million over seven years; could end up being bargain if he becomes star— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyNBCS) December 15, 2016
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.