odubel herrera

Odubel Herrera took one small step toward earning back the trust of his biggest fans

Odubel Herrera took one small step toward earning back the trust of his biggest fans

Odubel Herrera has a lot of work to do. He has to remain remorseful, show that he's grown, genuinely repair his image and also try to work his way back onto the Phillies' 40-man roster.

GM Matt Klentak was as definitive as ever Thursday morning describing all that Herrera has to do to reclaim a spot with the Phillies. Herrera was suspended for the final 85 games last season for violating Major League Baseball’s policy against domestic violence. 

The incident involved his then-20-year-old girlfriend and took place at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.

Herrera's girlfriend "had visible signs of injury to her arms and neck that was sustained after being assaulted by her boyfriend, David Odubel Herrera, during a dispute," according to the police report. Herrera was charged with simple assault. Charges were dropped six weeks later and Herrera was cleared legally when she refused to press charges.

On the field, Herrera had not produced for over a year. His plate selection had eroded, his defense was shaky, the baserunning blunders continued and he wasn't doing enough bad-ball hitting to make up for any of it. All of that was and is secondary.

No single comment or act will serve as repentance for Herrera, and in the words of Klentak, "he has to do everything 100 percent right on and off the field." But one story that came to light on social media Thursday shows that he is trying.

Back in 2017, three-year-old Ellie Davis really wanted to go to Phillies game after a three-day hosptital visit. (She's perfectly healthy now.) Dad took her, they had great seats down the first-base line and she even got a ball from Herrera.

"She jumped up and down & yelled his name," her father, Drew Davis, recalled. "He waved back — she was all smiles. When he got done warming up, he brought her a ball. She went from being scared and sad to the happiest kid in the world."

That's not the uncommon part. Kids get baseballs from players all the time. 

"In July (2017), we went to picture day," Drew Davis said. "It felt like he remembered her. He brought her under the ropes and gave her a big hug. He found her later and gave her another ball and then went out and hit a home run. She said “THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!”

Still haven't gotten to the most surprising part.

When news broke of Herrera's domestic violence incident, Drew Davis felt extremely conflicted. Here was someone his daughter looked up to in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Drew wrote a letter to Odubel reminding him how important he was to some kids. The note made its way to Herrera and it led to a night out late last summer with Odubel Herrera as the special dinner guest, a surprise for Ellie.

"I had a lot of trepidation but nothing ever seemed orchestrated or for publicity," Davis told NBC Sports Philadelphia. "The plan was to have some appetizers, spend some time and that would be it. Instead, he had apps, entrees, dessert, coffee ... it was pretty incredible. Checked all the boxes that I could’ve hoped for."

"He told my daughter how he played volleyball as a kid. She talked to him about her swimming. He said he’d come and watch her in the Olympics some day. He gave my son swing tips and my son (he’s 3) showed him how to bat flip. My nerves were eased almost immediately.

"I wasn’t ready to get rid of those memories — but I didn’t want to create new memories if he wasn’t working on being a role model. That part remains to be seen, but I was happy with what I saw." 

One small step in the right direction.

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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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Phillies remove Odubel Herrera from 40-man roster, claim Nick Martini from Reds

Phillies remove Odubel Herrera from 40-man roster, claim Nick Martini from Reds

The Phillies took a step toward cutting ties with outfielder Odubel Herrera when he was designated for assignment on Tuesday.

The move immediately removes Herrera from the 40-man roster and makes room for outfielder Nick Martini, who was claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday.

The Phillies have seven days to decide a course of action with Herrera, who served an 85-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy last season.

As a matter of procedure, Herrera will be placed on waivers and another team could claim him and the $20 million that remains on his contract. That, clearly, will not happen.

When Herrera clears waivers, he could be sent outright to the minor leagues. If he refuses the assignment, he would forfeit his salary and become a free agent. It is doubtful he would do that.

Other possible courses of action:

Herrera could be traded. That is doubtful, however, as the Phillies have made him available all winter and received no interest.

He could be released.

While releasing Herrera in the coming days remains a possibility, it seems more likely that the Phillies could allow him to participate in minor-league spring training camp, where he would continue to collect his salary and possibly regain a role in the organization or attract some trade interest with his play. Of course, releasing Herrera, with pay, at any point in minor-league camp remains an option for the Phillies.

Herrera was involved in a domestic assault incident in May in Atlantic City. Legal charges were dropped but Herrera was suspended by MLB. Herrera did not play for the Phillies after the incident and the team removed banners bearing his image from Citizens Bank Park.

By agreement between MLB and the Players Association, the Phillies cannot release Herrera for his infraction. He has already been punished and served his time. General manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday night that the decision to DFA Herrera was made for baseball reasons. After Herrera’s suspension last season, the Phils acquired outfielder Jay Bruce and brought up Adam Haseley from the minors. Last month, Klentak said he expected Haseley and Roman Quinn to get the bulk of the work in center field in 2020. Those comments were an indication that the Phils were moving toward parting with Herrera and Tuesday's DFA clearly puts him on the exit ramp though not at the end of it.

“The construction of our outfield now is very different than it was last spring when Odubel was first suspended,” Klentak said Tuesday night. “And on top of that, Odubel wasn’t very good the first couple months of last season.”

When contacted Tuesday night, the Players Association declined comment. 

"I have no reason to believe they will object," said Klentak, stressing that there were sound baseball reasons for the decision.

Herrera, 28, is still owed $20 million — $7 million in 2020 and $10 million in 2021 with two buyouts in 2022 and 2023 totaling $3 million.

His average salary of $6.1 million will count toward the competitive balance tax this season and next.

Over five seasons with the Phils, Herrera hit .288 with a .774 OPS in his first three seasons and his slugging percentage rose each season, but that's where he leveled off. 

He's always been an unconventional player who extends the strike zone. When he's going well, he can turn pitches out of the strike zone into singles. When he's not, he's one of the easiest three-pitch outs in baseball.

Herrera was one of the least productive regulars in the majors in 2018-19, hitting .249/.306/.405 in 187 games.

Klentak and the Phillies signed Herrera to a five-year, $30.5 million contract in December 2016. He had completed just two big-league seasons and was a year away from the arbitration process but the Phillies thought they had an ascending talent so they locked him up early. 

“It hasn’t played out exactly how we would have hoped,” Klentak said of the contract.

As for Martini, he has two seasons of big-league experience with the Athletics and Padres. He hit .226 with a .653 OPS last season for those clubs. He should provide outfield depth. He's had a successful run at Triple A, hitting .305 with a .401 on-base percentage in parts of five seasons. He will have a chance to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench in spring training.

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