Odubel Herrera emerged in 2015 as a legitimate everyday player. His development continued this season and a solid first half earned him his first All-Star nod.
He's a fun, exciting, flashy young player with the kind of skills that lead you to believe he can be a career .290 hitter. But there are imperfections in his game, flaws that when combined with the structure of the Phillies' organization could make him a tradable player.
Phillies insider Jim Salisbury outlined Wednesday the logic and rationale behind the Phillies' potentially shopping Herrera on the trade market this winter. The gist is that Herrera has taken a step back defensively, the Phillies have better, more natural defensive options in center field and an outfield picture that is suddenly getting crowded.
Nick Williams could debut with the Phillies in September, if not August. Roman Quinn, 24 years old and already on the 40-man roster, could get a look in September as well. Both are building blocks — Williams is a corner outfielder with impressive bat speed and 20-homer, 40-double potential, and Quinn is a switch-hitting speedster with more pop than you'd expect.
Dylan Cozens, who like Williams must be added to the 40-man roster this winter so he's not eligible to be selected by another club in the Rule 5 draft, is farther away than Williams and Quinn. Cozens will likely get an invite to big-league camp next spring and open 2017 in Triple A.
But even if only two of those three players stay healthy and pan out, the Phillies would have four outfielders for three spots when you include Herrera and Aaron Altherr.
The suggestion here is not that the Phillies trade Herrera. The suggestion is they do indeed shop him and see what sort of returns they find. It's merely a logical idea at this point, the same way shopping Ken Giles was once just a logical idea.
Herrera's defense is a big issue in all of this. He has the most errors among all MLB centerfielders — eight, which is three more than any other CF — and even that high total doesn't tell the whole story. Herrera has some lapses of judgment and isn't always instinctive on balls hit right at him or over his head. Altherr is a much more graceful centerfielder. Keep in mind Herrera was never an outfielder until the Phillies made him one, and he was not a highly thought-of defender at second base in the Rangers' farm system.
Herrera's approach at the plate is another flaw. He walked in 16.3 percent of his plate appearances over his first 54 games but that rate is all the way down to 5.3 percent over his last 60. That's not a tiny sample — that's two months.
If Herrera eventually settles in as a .290 hitter with just passable defense and inconsistent plate selection ... well then what's so different about him and Ben Revere?
The Phillies should trade Herrera only if they're offered someone young and intriguing who has already had a bit of big-league success. You don't trade a proven .290-hitting outfielder for a lottery ticket.
The Phillies could create more roster balance if they find the right return for Herrera. Most, if not all winning teams need that roster balance to contend. The Red Sox needed to add starting pitching to complement their offense and got it. The Yankees needed speed and contact to complement their elite bullpen and couldn't find it, thus the sell-off. The struggling Mets' offense needed to find a way to be less reliant on home runs, hasn't, and is toward the bottom of the league in runs as a result. The Dodgers needed to find the right mix of players despite all the talent they already had. It's just the way this game works.
In my opinion, the right return for Herrera would be a young, power-armed starting pitcher because it's what the organization lacks.
Here's where you might respond: Wait, trade an everyday player for another pitcher? Don't the Phillies already have a bunch of young pitchers in Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin?
They do. But of that group, only Velasquez is a power pitcher. The rest rely on command and the break of their secondary stuff. Sometimes you need power. Sometimes you need a way to give teams different looks in a three-game series. Right now, Velasquez is the only pitcher on the Phillies' roster with an (at times) electric fastball. And the Phils' starting pitchers at the upper levels of the minors — Mark Appel (injured), Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta — they're not true power pitchers either.
Who are some pitchers who fit the description of what I'm suggesting? Yordano Ventura of the Royals and Luis Severino of the Yankees are two examples. I'm not saying the Phillies should trade Herrera straight-up for either player, but it's a pitcher like that who would move the needle and probably improve the Phillies' rotation.
For what it's worth, the Yankees wouldn't trade Severino for Herrera. They need the pitching themselves, and already have two budding young outfielders in Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier, who was acquired from the Indians in the Andrew Miller trade.
The Ventura-Herrera idea might be a bit more realistic if either side is interested, but again it's only an example. Ventura is a 25-year-old with top-tier velocity who has had success (2014) and is on a team-friendly, long-term contract. But he's also failed to live up to his potential, and he's been embroiled in controversy at times, mostly for throwing at or barking at hitters. Like Herrera, he's an intriguing, skilled but imperfect player.
There's no indication that a power pitcher is even what the Phillies would be seeking if they shopped Herrera. That's just what I'd be seeking because in this organization I see future pieces in the outfield, at shortstop, third base, behind the plate and in the bullpen. The point of moving Herrera would be to find something you don't have. Another option would be packaging Herrera and another young player (maybe a Thompson, maybe an Eflin) for an already established big-leaguer on the verge of stardom.
We'll see this winter.