After 29 other teams pass, Phillies send Odubel Herrera to minor leagues

After 29 other teams pass, Phillies send Odubel Herrera to minor leagues

As expected, Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera quickly cleared waivers on Thursday. He has been assigned outright to Triple A.

Herrera was designated for assignment on Tuesday. The move immediately removed him from the Phillies’ 40-man roster and cleared a spot for outfielder Nick Martini, who was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati.

Herrera, 28, was involved in a domestic abuse incident in New Jersey in May. Though legal charges were eventually dropped, he served an 85-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s policy against domestic violence. As a matter of procedure, he was reinstated to the 40-man roster in November, but that hardly assured his future with the club, even though he is signed through 2021 and owed $20 million.

When Major League Baseball and the Players Association forged its joint policy on domestic violence, both sides agreed that a player violating the policy could not be punished by being released or having his contract voided.

On Tuesday, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said there were “sound baseball reasons,” for removing Herrera from the roster. He pointed to Herrera’s inconsistency and struggles last season and the fact that the Phillies had added outfielders Jay Bruce and Adam Haseley to the roster after Herrera’s suspension.

“The construction of our outfield now is very different than it was last spring when Odubel was first suspended,” Klentak said.

The Phillies plan to give Haseley a shot to win the starting centerfield job in spring training. He will be pushed by Roman Quinn.

Herrera could very well be on his way out of the organization, but he’s not there yet. He is expected to report to minor-league spring training camp, where he will continue to collect his full salary while working toward regaining a role with the big-league team or trying to catch the eye of a team that might be interested in trading for him. So far, there has been no trade interest. 

Participating in minor-league camp does not ensure that Herrera will be with a Phillies’ minor-league club during the regular season. He can still be released at any time, as long as the Phillies establish that the move is for baseball reasons, as they did earlier this week when they designated him for assignment.

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Sixers Talk podcast: Ben Simmons beasting early, but not scoring late

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Sixers Talk podcast: Ben Simmons beasting early, but not scoring late

On the latest Sixers Talk podcast presented by Wilmington University, Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Tobias Harris coming up big late in games and explain why Ben Simmons isn't scoring late in games.

• The home dominance continues as we're starting to see a pattern down the stretch.

• Simmons has been a monster early in games, but has been held scoreless in the fourth over his last three. Should we be worried?

• More games like Wednesday's for Harris, please!

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Why we shouldn't expect Ben Simmons to be a 'crunch-time scorer' yet

Why we shouldn't expect Ben Simmons to be a 'crunch-time scorer' yet

In the first few minutes of a game, Ben Simmons so frequently looks like the best player on the floor. He sometimes is for the duration of the game, too, but especially so during that opening burst when he tends to barrel at the rim and make a loud, early imprint.

Over the Sixers’ last three contests, he’s scored six of the team’s first nine points, eight of its first 17, and 10 of its first 18, respectively. 

However, as NBC Sports national NBA insider Tom Haberstroh notes, Simmons’ usage has plummeted in fourth quarters. He has just a 15.4 usage rate in the fourth this season.

Haberstroh posits that, during the time Joel Embiid is sidelined after having surgery for a torn ligament in his left hand, the Sixers should “make Simmons a crunch-time scorer.”

The idea that Simmons should sustain his early aggressive mindset is certainly fair, and it seems hard to dispute.

The belief that he has the ability to be quite as effective late in fourth quarters, though, is a bit optimistic. His obvious limitations as a shooter allow defenses to play off him in the half court. The Sixers have been employing Simmons more as a screener when Josh Richardson or Tobias Harris are handling the ball, which has been promising. On Wednesday vs. the Nets, Brett Brown also encouraged Simmons to drive and quickly evaporate the open space the Nets were giving him. He called plenty of “12,” an action that begins with a wing coming up from the baseline to either set a ball screen for Simmons or take a handoff. Furkan Korkmaz got several good looks out of the action and scored nine points in the fourth quarter.

Though Simmons only had five of his 20 points against Brooklyn after halftime, the Sixers were at least able to put him in some impactful positions. It helped that Harris was tremendous in the fourth, too, hitting a string of tough, game-clinching shots and finishing with 34 points.

Brown admitted he had some regrets when asked before Wednesday's game about Simmons’ following up a 20-point first half Monday against the Pacers with a four-point second half. 

If you got to the fourth period — because I will own the large majority of it in the third period — we played through J-Rich and he had it rolling. … I think in the third period I could have posted him more. I could have gotten him the ball more. Did I think that he shied away from anything? I did not. He was running some play calls that I asked him to run and in the light of day, probably I could have gotten him the ball more. 

Another clear reason why Simmons might be limited late in games even if he adopts an attacking mentality is his poor free throw shooting. After a 2-for-7 performance Wednesday, he’s hitting 58.2 percent of his foul shots this year. He also hasn’t increased his free throw volume the way Brown said he hoped he would on Dec. 7.

On that night — on which Brown famously proclaimed that he wanted “a three-point shot a game, minimum" — he also said he wanted Simmons attempting eight free throws per game. He’s averaging 4.6 this year, 5.1 since that statement. 

The bright spot for Simmons is that he’s made 10 of 13 “clutch” free throws this season, generally responding well when teams have turned to a “Hack-a-Simmons” strategy. 

Like any team, the Sixers would love to have a diverse, dangerous array of late-game scoring options. But, if we’re being realistic, their fourth-quarter offense will likely run through Embiid when he returns, as it did before his injury. Richardson and Harris have also shown that they can create and make shots in crunch time.

Simmons should be be a more prominent figure than he is currently, but his value will likely stem more from his passing, screening and rolling, and ability to spark offense in the open floor as a result of elite defense than from his scoring.

As Haberstroh writes, the Sixers can find ways to develop while their All-Star big man is out. Maybe Simmons’ confidence in late-game situations will improve while Embiid is away, but he likely won’t be who the team centers its late-game offense around in the playoffs. He shouldn’t be, either. 

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