By announcing on Tuesday that they have designated Odubel Herrera for assignment, the Philadelphia Phillies made the only move they could, albeit for a different reason than was officially stated.
I’ll admit it. I was highly in favor of the 5-year, $30.5 million contract that the Philadelphia Phillies gave to Odubel Herrera in December of 2016. To me, it seemed like a shrewd move to lock up a young player who could help the club for years to come at a bargain price.
Few could have guessed how sideways things would go after that point.
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When Herrera was arrested for a domestic violence incident last year, both Major League Baseball and the Phillies acted swiftly, as they should have. All of the right steps were taken. And to anyone with half a brain, something that Herrera has too often showed a lack of, it was apparent that Odubel’s days in a Phillies uniform were over.
But the timing of the situation was also a bit interesting, if I could use such a banal word for a serious situation, in that it came when Herrera was struggling mightily and arguably at his lowest point as a major leaguer.
Even before his arrest, many were calling for the Phillies to move on from him entirely, citing that his frequent gaffes far outweighed any of his talent and potential. He was hurting the team, people claimed, and they weren’t wrong.
But every once in a while, Herrea would do something special to pull you back in. It had been that way for a while. He’d lead you on, disappoint you, then bring you back again. Finally, last season, there were no glimmers of hope at all.
Herrera was hitting a pathetic .222 with one home run in 39 games at the time of his arrest and suspension. You’d have to think that if the Phillies weren’t still on the hook for over $20 million, they would have just cut him right then and be done with it.
MLB would go on to hand Herrera an 85-game suspension, ending his 2019 season and casting serious doubt on his baseball future, in Philadelphia or anywhere else. Now, because of what basically amounts to “double jeopardy“, the Phillies cannot officially release Herrera for the same offense for which he was already punished.
All of this leads us to the comments made on Tuesday by Phillies GM Matt Klentak, comments that were basically bogus but that Klentak was forced to make in defending the move to designate Herrera for assignment as being for baseball-related reasons only.
Come on, we all know better.
In a way, the Phillies just got lucky that Herrera was playing so poorly in 2019 and had a run-up of uneven performance prior to it. In turn, this was used to justify his removal from the 40-man roster.
To be clear, I don’t fault Klentak for lying to us, as he had no choice. Mentioning anything about Odubel’s suspension being a reason for the decision would have started a conflict with the players’ union.
Instead, we just have to sit here and take it as Klentak and the Phillies feed us the equivalent of “Old Sparky ran away and is living on a farm upstate”. The end result is the same, but it just feels messy.
There are no winners in this scenario, especially as Odubel Herrera still remains under contract with the Phillies. We have yet to see the final chapter of this whole thing play out, which will likely be his unconditional release at some point, including the Phillies having to eat all of his remaining money.
At the very least, we know for sure that we won’t see Herrera in a Phillies uniform again, which is the direction he was headed even before what happened last May.
Unfortunately, the route to get to this point was an awful one, paved with legal issues, potential crimes and finally the stretching of the truth behind why the Phillies actually let him go.
Despite his struggles, Herrera is objectively still a major-league caliber player. He’s 28 years old on a team-friendly contract and is a career .276 hitter. You don’t let go of a player like that unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Nobody should be under the impression that DFA’ing Herrera was for anything other than his off-the-field issues. But I suppose that a correct decision is still correct, despite the ultimate reasoning given behind it.