Odubel Herrera walked out of the Phillies’ clubhouse early Sunday night and headed for an offseason of uncertainty.
Two winters ago, Phillies officials were so high on Herrera that they awarded him a five-year, $30.5 million contract after he’d played just two seasons in the majors.
But Herrera ended a disappointing season Sunday. He lost the coveted center field position to Roman Quinn down the stretch. And he was essentially called out by his manager for not being in good enough physical condition.
“I will consider it a failure on my part if Odubel does not come into camp (in February) in his peak physical condition,” manager Gabe Kapler said Saturday. “If you look back a couple years you see a version of him that is fast, athletic, explosive.”
Herrera, who turns 27 in December, finished the season with career-high totals in homers (22) and RBIs (71). But his batting average (.255) and OPS (.730) were both career lows.
Over the final two months of the season, when the Phillies were in a pennant race and needed Herrera the most, he hit just .189 with a .530 OPS.
So who is the real Herrera? The guy who was inconsistent and often unfocused in 2018, or the guy who hit to a .288 average and a .774 OPS over his first three seasons?
Herrera is confident he can rebound in 2019. He said he will start the process by getting in better shape.
“The manager wants me to do it and I’m going to give it a try,” he said. “It’s for my benefit. I don’t see anything negative to it.”
Kapler wants Herrera and Quinn to both approach the offseason as if they are centerfielders. That won’t be a problem for Herrera. He still believes the position is his.
“My mindset is that I am still the centerfielder,” he said. “That’s why I’m going to put in the work in the offseason. That’s why I’m going to report to spring training ready to go, in better shape mentally and physically. Because that’s where I want to be — in center field. But if they tell me I have to play somewhere else, I have to respect that decision, too.”
Whether he plays center field or one of the corners is not even the biggest question Phillies officials face with Herrera this winter.
With Quinn emerging, Nick Williams improving and Bryce Harper possibly on the horizon, the Phillies could look to trade Herrera.
So Herrera joins Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco on the list of one-time core players who might have played their last game with the Phillies.
“We all know how baseball is,” Herrera said Sunday night. “It’s a business. I can’t really tell you what is going to happen. But I’m going into the offseason still thinking I’m a Phillie and if something happens it’s nothing I can control.”