Phillies remove Odubel Herrera from 40-man roster, claim Nick Martini from Reds

Phillies remove Odubel Herrera from 40-man roster, claim Nick Martini from Reds

The Phillies took a step toward cutting ties with outfielder Odubel Herrera when he was designated for assignment on Tuesday.

The move immediately removes Herrera from the 40-man roster and makes room for outfielder Nick Martini, who was claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday.

The Phillies have seven days to decide a course of action with Herrera, who served an 85-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy last season.

As a matter of procedure, Herrera will be placed on waivers and another team could claim him and the $20 million that remains on his contract. That, clearly, will not happen.

When Herrera clears waivers, he could be sent outright to the minor leagues. If he refuses the assignment, he would forfeit his salary and become a free agent. It is doubtful he would do that.

Other possible courses of action:

Herrera could be traded. That is doubtful, however, as the Phillies have made him available all winter and received no interest.

He could be released.

While releasing Herrera in the coming days remains a possibility, it seems more likely that the Phillies could allow him to participate in minor-league spring training camp, where he would continue to collect his salary and possibly regain a role in the organization or attract some trade interest with his play. Of course, releasing Herrera, with pay, at any point in minor-league camp remains an option for the Phillies.

Herrera was involved in a domestic assault incident in May in Atlantic City. Legal charges were dropped but Herrera was suspended by MLB. Herrera did not play for the Phillies after the incident and the team removed banners bearing his image from Citizens Bank Park.

By agreement between MLB and the Players Association, the Phillies cannot release Herrera for his infraction. He has already been punished and served his time. General manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday night that the decision to DFA Herrera was made for baseball reasons. After Herrera’s suspension last season, the Phils acquired outfielder Jay Bruce and brought up Adam Haseley from the minors. Last month, Klentak said he expected Haseley and Roman Quinn to get the bulk of the work in center field in 2020. Those comments were an indication that the Phils were moving toward parting with Herrera and Tuesday's DFA clearly puts him on the exit ramp though not at the end of it.

“The construction of our outfield now is very different than it was last spring when Odubel was first suspended,” Klentak said Tuesday night. “And on top of that, Odubel wasn’t very good the first couple months of last season.”

When contacted Tuesday night, the Players Association declined comment. 

"I have no reason to believe they will object," said Klentak, stressing that there were sound baseball reasons for the decision.

Herrera, 28, is still owed $20 million — $7 million in 2020 and $10 million in 2021 with two buyouts in 2022 and 2023 totaling $3 million.

His average salary of $6.1 million will count toward the competitive balance tax this season and next.

Over five seasons with the Phils, Herrera hit .288 with a .774 OPS in his first three seasons and his slugging percentage rose each season, but that's where he leveled off. 

He's always been an unconventional player who extends the strike zone. When he's going well, he can turn pitches out of the strike zone into singles. When he's not, he's one of the easiest three-pitch outs in baseball.

Herrera was one of the least productive regulars in the majors in 2018-19, hitting .249/.306/.405 in 187 games.

Klentak and the Phillies signed Herrera to a five-year, $30.5 million contract in December 2016. He had completed just two big-league seasons and was a year away from the arbitration process but the Phillies thought they had an ascending talent so they locked him up early. 

“It hasn’t played out exactly how we would have hoped,” Klentak said of the contract.

As for Martini, he has two seasons of big-league experience with the Athletics and Padres. He hit .226 with a .653 OPS last season for those clubs. He should provide outfield depth. He's had a successful run at Triple A, hitting .305 with a .401 on-base percentage in parts of five seasons. He will have a chance to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench in spring training.

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More on the Phillies

Former NL manager in play for Phillies pitching coach position

Former NL manager in play for Phillies pitching coach position

The Phillies wanted an experienced manager and the same appears to be true of their open pitching coach position. 

Former Reds manager and longtime big-league pitching coach Bryan Price has emerged as a strong candidate, according to multiple sources. Price turned down an offer to be the Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitching coach, leading some to wonder if he’s moving toward an opportunity elsewhere. That could be Philadelphia. Or that could be Boston. Philadelphia seems more likely because the Red Sox only introduced their new general manager, Chaim Bloom, on Monday. The Phillies also made an introduction Monday, unveiling new manager Joe Girardi. During a session with reporters after the news conference, Girardi admitted that the Phillies have already conducted “a couple of interviews” for their open pitching coach job. That would seem to indicate that the Phillies are ahead of the Red Sox in this process. 

Price, 57, managed the Reds for five seasons (2014-18). Prior to that, he was the pitching coach for the Mariners, D-backs and Reds. 

If the Phillies hire Price, they’ll have a ton of experience between Girardi, Price, bench coach Rob Thomson, infield coach Bobby Dickerson and bullpen coach Jim Gott, who pitched in the majors for 14 seasons. Third base coach Dusty Wathan is another potential future manager. 

Larry Rothschild, who was Girardi’s pitching coach for seven seasons in the Bronx, would seem to be another candidate for the job, especially if the Phillies are seeking experience. Rothschild was let go by the Yankees on Monday and his name came up at Girardi’s introductory presser (see story).

In addition to Price and Rothschild, the Phillies could consider a couple of in-house candidates in assistant pitching coach Dave Lundquist and minor-league pitching coordinator Rafael Chaves.

The Phillies also have a vacancy for the hitting coach job. It would not be surprising to see them consider a reunion with Matt Stairs, their hitting coach in 2017.

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More on the Phillies

Larry Rothschild a favorite for Phillies pitching coach job after being let go by Yankees

Larry Rothschild a favorite for Phillies pitching coach job after being let go by Yankees

On the day the Phillies are set to introduce Joe Girardi as their new manager, news out of New York could affect one of their next hires.

Larry Rothschild is out as Yankees pitching coach after nine seasons in the role, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Rothschild instantly becomes a strong candidate for the Phillies pitching coach position on Girardi's staff. He was Girardi's pitching coach in New York for seven seasons and has been in baseball as either a coach or manager for the last 33 consecutive years. He's spent time on the staffs of the Reds, Braves, Marlins, Cubs and Yankees and also managed Tampa Bay from 1998 to 2001.

Asked about Rothschild on Monday afternoon, Girardi praised him for his work when they were together in New York. "Obviously I have close ties to Larry and (GM Matt Klentak and I) will discuss everything," he said of the pitching coach search.

Other potential candidates for the Phillies' pitching coach position include former Reds manager Bryan Price, Phillies assistant pitching coach Dave Lundquist and Phillies minor league pitching coordinator Rafael Chaves.

Price was a pitching coach for 13 seasons (Seattle, Arizona, Cincinnati) before managing the Reds from 2014-18.

Lundquist is coming off his first season as Phillies assistant pitching coach, having been promoted to the role after an impressive three-year run as the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs' pitching coach.

Chaves was a special assistant involved in player personnel prior to joining the Phillies after the 2014 season. He was the Mariners' pitching coach in 2006 and 2007.

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