Phillies

Phillies make roster moves, reinstate Odubel Herrera, but for how long?

Phillies make roster moves, reinstate Odubel Herrera, but for how long?

The Phillies had a busy day tidying up their roster on Monday.

Let’s get right to it:

The club declined 2020 contract options on pitchers Jared Hughes, Pat Neshek and Jason Vargas. They are all free agents, though there is nothing preventing them from re-signing with the Phillies later in the offseason.

The team outrighted the following five players from the 40-man roster and all elected free agency. They include pitchers Jerad Eickhoff, Mike Morin, Blake Parker and Edubray Ramos and infielder Phil Gosselin. These players are also eligible to re-sign with the Phillies later in the offseason.

Eickhoff is the most notable departure on the list. The 29-year-old right-hander came to the Phillies from Texas in the Cole Hamels deal in July 2015. He was the Phils’ top starter in 2016, recording a 3.65 ERA in 33 starts, but was hampered by injuries in subsequent years.

In a huge no-brainer, pitcher Jake Arrieta exercised his $20 million player option for 2020. Arrieta had long ago conceded that he would not opt-out of his deal, as was his right. His market would not have been good after going 18-19 in his first two seasons with the Phillies and having elbow surgery in September. Arrieta is expected to be fully healthy by spring training.

Arrieta was reinstated to the 40-man roster from the 60-day injured list. Pitchers Víctor Arano, Seranthony Domínguez, David Robertson, Robert Stock and Adam Morgan and outfielder Andrew McCutchen were also reinstated from the 60-day injured list. Players on the 60-day IL don't count against the 40-man roster, but they must be reinstated a week after the World Series.

In another long required procedural move, the Phillies removed outfielder Odubel Herrera from the restricted list. He now counts toward the 40-man roster.

Herrera had been suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s policy against domestic abuse after an incident in May. Though legal charges were dropped, Herrera was still disciplined by MLB.

Herrera still has two years and more than $20 million remaining on his contract. The Phillies cannot void his contract and they can only release him for baseball reasons. He could be traded, with the Phils eating a big chunk of his salary, but his value is low and takers could be few. A decision on his future would likely come closer to spring training, after the Phillies have completed their offseason work. Herrera last played for the Phillies on May 26. There’s a chance that will be his last game with the club.

Monday’s roster moves left the Phillies with five open spots on their 40-man roster as the free-agent market gets set to open.

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At the Yard podcast: So many questions about Phillies free agency

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At the Yard podcast: So many questions about Phillies free agency

The Phillies free agency questions have been pouring in this offseason and Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman answered some on Monday's At the Yard podcast.

• Does MLB need a free agency deadline?

• Notable early signings last year

• Who will close?

• Future outlook for Aaron Nola

• Astros sign stealing

• What would make 2020 a success for Phillies?

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Phillies free-agent target: Gerrit Cole

Phillies free-agent target: Gerrit Cole

Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.

We start with pitcher Gerrit Cole, who is bound to sign a record-setting contract.

The vitals

The powerful 29-year-old right-hander and former No. 1 overall draft pick (by Pittsburgh in 2011) is the unquestioned prize of this winter’s free-agent class. He has built an impressive career resume, especially recently. He is 35-10 with 2.68 ERA and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 65 starts over the last two seasons for the Houston Astros. He is durable and postseason tested. He went 20-5 with an American League-best 2.50 ERA in 33 starts in 2019. He had an 0.895 WHIP and led the majors with 326 strikeouts. For the season, his fastball averaged 97.1 mph, according to Statcast. Only the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard chucked it harder at 98.1 mph. 

Why he fits

Because he’s one of the best pitchers in the game and would immediately make the Phillies better as they try to live up to general manager Matt Klentak’s goal of winning now. Cole would give the Phils an ace who could stand up to Max Scherzer in Washington, Jacob deGrom in New York and the lineup in Atlanta. As an unquestioned No. 1, he’d take pressure off Aaron Nola, who felt some down the stretch in 2019.

Why he doesn’t fit

“If this were major-league Christmas, we would be looking at 30 stockings that clearly wanted a lump of Cole,” agent Scott Boras said of his client as the market opened last week.

The competition for Cole will be intense as teams from the game’s largest markets bid for his services. Cole is from Southern California and word is the Los Angeles Angels are ready to back up the truck for him. The mega-rich New York Yankees also want him. That sets up a nirvana-like situation for Boras, who can play the two markets off each other. The Phillies will be in on Cole — they’ve already touched base with Boras — and they cannot be counted out because they have money and an owner willing to spend. However, given what it might take to sign Cole, the Phillies might be better off spreading their money around and trying to fill multiple holes in the rotation and lineup.

The price tag

Cole is right in the middle of his prime years. There has been speculation that he could fetch $300 million in a long-term deal. He almost surely will eclipse David Price’s $217 million deal with Boston, a record for a pitcher, and could top Justin Verlander’s annual salary of $33 million, also a record for a pitcher. In other words, he’ll be expensive.

Scout’s take

“It took a while, but it looks like he found out how good his stuff is and his success has given him great confidence. He really knows how to utilize that great fastball high in the strike zone.”

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