It’s getting to be that time of year when teams announce which players from their minor-league system will be invited to big-league spring training camp.
How about Odubel Herrera?
The talented but troubled outfielder will eat up more than $10 million in payroll in 2021.
Will the Phillies give him a chance to earn that money in the majors?
Will they give him a second chance?
“We’re still in a position where we are discussing that internally,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said on Monday. “I know he has done a lot himself as far as addressing the situation that took place in counseling, but it’s something that we still have to continue to talk through from an internal perspective.”
Herrera, 29, was charged with assaulting his girlfriend in May 2019. Though the charges were dropped, Herrera served an 85-game suspension without pay in 2019. The joint policy on domestic violence between Major League Baseball and the Players Association prohibits a team from voiding the contract or releasing a violating player. That did not stop the Phils from removing Herrera from their 40-man roster and assigning him to the minor leagues a year ago. At the time, then general manager Matt Klentak said Herrera would have to earn whatever future opportunity he got with the Phillies.
Herrera publicly apologized to the Phillies and Phillies fans 11 months ago, saying no one regretted his actions more than he did. He talked about undergoing counseling and how he was still with his girlfriend. He talked about his desire for a second chance with the Phillies.
Herrera had been slated to play in the minors in 2020 before the pandemic wiped out that season. He has one more year left on the five-year, $30.5 million contract that he signed after making the National League All-Star team in 2016. The Phils have struggled to find a regular center fielder in the time that Herrera has been away. There is definitely a fit – if Phillies management/ownership decides to let him compete for the job in spring training, which begins in a month.
In some circles of the organization, there does seem to be sentiment for giving Herrera a look in spring training – i.e., a second chance. In others, it’s not so clear. The clubhouse is one of the areas that might need convincing. There were players last spring who privately expressed misgivings about having Herrera return. Similarly, there were also players who said they were willing to accept Herrera, provided he was contrite and had learned from his mistake.
A number of teams have had to deal with similar decisions in recent years. Up the road in New York, the Yankees are ready to give pitcher Domingo German a look in spring training after he served a suspension for violating baseball’s domestic abuse policy last year.
Will the Phillies give Herrera a similar look?
The matter is being discussed. And it’s almost decision time.