Phillies

Does Odubel Herrera become trade bait if the Phillies sign Bryce Harper?

Does Odubel Herrera become trade bait if the Phillies sign Bryce Harper?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Odubel Herrera is a man of much interest in this Phillies camp.

He is coming off a disappointing finish to the 2018 season, one that led to management’s order to get into better physical condition.

Herrera arrived to camp early and in noticeably better shape. But that hasn’t made him immune to the injury bug — or speculation about his future in Philadelphia as the club negotiates with free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper.

Herrera pulled out of a first-to-third baserunning drill on Wednesday and hobbled off the field. A couple of hours later, he left the ballpark wearing a wrap on his left leg.

Manager Gabe Kapler called it a "mild" hamstring strain. Actually, it was a recurrence of a hamstring injury that Herrera suffered during workouts a few days before camp officially opened. Herrera had an MRI after the initial injury and had recovered to the point where he could participate in on-field workouts.

“It was tightening up on him during baserunning drills so we’re getting it checked out,” Kapler said.

Kapler was unsure whether Herrera would have another MRI.

There is plenty of time for Herrera to get healthy for the Phillies’ season opener. Or any team’s season opener, for that matter. The Phillies whiffed on Manny Machado on Tuesday and while that likely rescued third baseman Maikel Franco from the trading block, it may have put Herrera on it — or, at the very least, made him a consideration to be placed on it because he might fetch some value in a deal.

With Machado off the board, the Phillies are now 100 percent on Harper and there is enormous public pressure for them to land him and put an exclamation point on the Winter of Stupid Money. Harper, of course, is an outfielder. If the Phillies land him, they would likely have to subtract an outfielder.

If the Phillies were to land Harper, they could trade Nick Williams or send him to the minors. Both Aaron Altherr and Roman Quinn are out of minor-league options, but one could be a trade candidate. It would seem likely that the Phils would want to hang on to Quinn, who has the speed and arm to be a difference-making centerfielder — if he can finally put together a healthy season. Quinn’s inability to do that makes it difficult to bank on him as the regular centerfielder and that could convince the Phillies to hang onto Herrera, who has started 524 games in centerfield the last four seasons.

And there’s another reason to hang on to Herrera: He is talented and at 27 could still develop the consistency needed to be a star — or the batting champion that former manager Pete Mackanin once predicted he’d be. Herrera also is a left-handed hitter, which the Phils are short on.

Herrera was an All-Star in 2016. He signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension later that year. Last season, his overall game — the physical and the mental — slipped badly in the second half and he lost playing time in center to Quinn. Herrera hit just .189 with a .530 OPS over the final two months of the season, prompting management to order him to get into shape and improve his focus.

At the moment, all indications are that Herrera is in the Phils’ plans for this season and beyond.

But something will have to give if Harper dons red pinstripes.

Phillies officials remained in pursuit of Harper on Wednesday. Out on the field, players went through early-camp workouts in preparation of Friday’s Grapefruit League opener.

“My focus is on the camp,” Kapler said in response to a question about Harper-Mania. “I’m not saying we’re not aware of the things going on around us, but the focus is on crisp, efficient workouts.”

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Phillies finally add to bullpen by agreeing to deal with Drew Storen

Phillies finally add to bullpen by agreeing to deal with Drew Storen

The Phillies finally added a reliever, agreeing this week to a minor-league deal with former Nationals closer Drew Storen, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Storen had some really good seasons with the Nationals at the beginning of the decade. From 2010-15, he had a 3.02 ERA in 355 appearances, most of which were high-leverage.

He had an unceremonious exit from D.C. after two poor postseason showings. He allowed the game-tying and game-winning runs to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS, and allowed a game-tying run in the 2014 NLDS as well.

When the Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies for Nick Pivetta in the summer of 2015, it led to the narrative that Storen's confidence was shaken and he was never the same.

Storen was traded to Toronto a calendar year after the Nats got Papelbon, and he's since spent time in the organizations of the Blue Jays, Reds and Royals. He underwent Tommy John surgery late in 2017 and has barely pitched the last two seasons, making just nine appearances in the minors with the Royals, all at Double A.

Storen is a classic buy-low reliever. Maybe things click in spring training and he makes the team and can provide the Phillies another quality right-handed relief option. The odds are probably against it, but the Phillies do have plenty of open roles in their bullpen.

The big wild-card in the Phils' bullpen is Seranthony Dominguez, who missed most of last season with arm injuries but could be a much-needed and useful weapon if he can revert to his 2018 form.

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J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

More than once last summer, J.T. Realmuto expressed his affection for Philadelphia and said he’d one day be up for signing a long-term contract extension with the Phillies.

The specter of his upcoming salary arbitration hearing hasn’t changed his outlook.

“Not at all,” he said before the 116th annual Philadelphia Sports Writers Association banquet Monday night. “Anybody who knows about the arbitration process knows it’s business. It’s not necessarily me against the Phillies right now. There’s definitely not going to be any hard feelings there. So I feel like we’re at the same place we were two or three months ago as far as with the contract extension.”

Before the two sides go to work on a long-term contract extension, Realmuto is likely to play the 2020 season on a one-year contract. Barring an unlikely settlement, Realmuto will have his 2020 salary decided by an arbitration panel next month. He is seeking $12.4 million. The Phillies’ arbitration offer is $10 million. The arbitration panel will hear arguments from both sides then pick one number or the other.

Realmuto knows the game. He went to arbitration with the Miami Marlins two years ago and lost.

“I have a good understanding of the process,” he said. “I know it’s not the Phillies trying to slight me. It’s more the system. There are no hard feelings there.”

Realmuto, who turns 29 in March, is coming off a season in which he solidified himself as baseball’s best catcher while making $5.9 million. He was an All-Star. He was the catcher on the inaugural All-MLB team and he won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in the National League. He led all big-league catchers in hits, RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits while swatting a career-high 25 homers. He threw out 37 runners trying to steal, the most in the majors.

Realmuto’s 2019 season put him in a good position to win his arbitration case.

But he made it clear that this is about more than just himself.

"It’s not me against the Phillies,” he said. “It’s the system that we’re trying to fight right now.  I’m trying to go out and set a precedent for future catchers in the game and I feel like I had a season worthy of doing that so I’m going to fight for that.

"This is not because the Phillies didn’t give us a chance to come to an agreement. We’re fighting for a cause, fighting for the rest of the catchers. Historically, catchers have not been treated well in the arbitration process and we feel like this is an opportunity to advance that for the catchers. Just being able to fight for those guys is something I take pride in. I believe in fighting for future generations and I’m excited to do it."

Once Realmuto’s 2020 salary is established in mid-February, the Phillies are expected to initiate talks on an extension that would begin at the start of the 2021 season. Those talks should commence during spring training. A contract extension is expected to cover up to five seasons with an average annual value of over $20 million.

Realmuto, who was honored as the PSWA’s Athlete of the Year for 2019, was joined by new Phillies manager Joe Girardi at the banquet.

“I’m really excited to play for him,” Realmuto said. “I feel like he’s got a lot of feel. He knows exactly what he wants to do as a manager and has a lot of confidence and he’ll be able to instill that confidence in us.”

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