Odubel Herrera's new 5-year deal looks like great value for Phillies

Odubel Herrera's new 5-year deal looks like great value for Phillies

The Phillies on Thursday rewarded Odubel Herrera with a five-year contract, one that could also prove to be team-friendly.

Herrera, who was set to become a free agent after 2020, instead gets a five-year deal with two club options that could keep him with the Phils through 2023. 

The contract is worth a guaranteed $30.5 million, a major league source tells CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury. The club options are in 2022 and 2023 at $11.5 million and $12.5 million. There is no no-trade clause.

The Phillies clearly see their 24-year-old centerfielder as a building block.

Herrera, who hit .297 as a rookie in 2015, took a step forward in his sophomore season, controlling the strike zone better and developing some power.

He made the NL All-Star team in 2016, hitting .313 with a .462 on-base percentage in April and walking 34 times in the season's first two months. 

Overall, .286/.361/.420 in 656 plate appearances, with seven more homers (15) and nine more stolen bases (25) than he had in 2015. He walked 35 more times and cut his strikeout rate by nearly four percent.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin spoke often about Herrera's paradoxical approach — he's not this eagle-eyed, disciplined hitter and he'll sometimes swing himself out of an at-bat, but his ability to foul off pitches and diagnose a pitcher's plan of attack (or what he has going on that night) allows him to draw walks.

Herrera hit a bit of a lull as the All-Star break approached, and the walk rate dropped significantly as the season progressed. He walked 29 times in 108 games from May 1-on.

But he rebounded late in the second half, hitting .371 with eight extra-base hits in his last 18 games.

That last little hot streak might have been important for the Phillies to see. In two seasons, Herrera has had a terrific half each year and a slow half each year.

In 2015, he hit .335 with a .391 OBP in his last 80 games.

In 2016, he hit .306 with a .396 OBP in his first 80 games.

Can you fluke that two years in a row? Herrera hasn't looked like a player about to experience a stiff drop-off in production. He's a left-handed hitter with bat speed (crushed a few balls out to right field), but also the ability to poke one over the shortstop's head. In two years, he has nine bunt hits and 48 infield singles.

There's a lot to like.

As for the contract, it might actually make Herrera more tradable as he's now cost-controlled for the next seven seasons at a manageable price. The final three years of Herrera's deal take the place of what would have been his first three free-agent years. And they'll cost the Phillies about $30 million.

That's great value if Herrera keeps it up. Dexter Fowler just got five years, $82.5 million from the Cardinals. Herrera and Fowler are equals right now, and Herrera's 5½ years younger. Plus, inflation.

This new contract puts guaranteed money in Herrera's pockets but also allows the Phillies to save some on the back end, when they will likely be more competitive and need their payroll space more than they do now.

Herrera does has some flaws. When he's gone cold, his bat has been wild and he's chased a lot of bad pitches. He had more gaffes in center field last year than he did as a rookie. The advanced defensive metrics say he was about the same; the eye test said he took a small step back.

But Herrera is here to stay, in a Phillies outfield picture that is more crowded than it was a few years ago. Howie Kendrick is pencilled in as the LF for 2017. Beyond that, Nick Williams has yet to fulfill offensive expectations, Roman Quinn has been oft-injured, and Aaron Altherr lost some important development time in 2016 after breaking his wrist in spring training. The Phillies have high hopes for Dylan Cozens coming off a 40-HR season at Double A but he'll need to trim his strikeout rate and improve against lefties before factoring into their top-level plans. Mickey Moniak, the high school outfielder taken first overall in the 2015 draft, will be at Single A this season. His approximate ETA to Citizens Bank Park is 2019 or 2020.

Herrera's turning out to be one of the better Rule 5 picks in recent memory. The Phillies took him eighth overall in the 2014 Rule 5 draft, 10 years after uncovering a gem in Shane Victorino the same way.

Herrera, then a second baseman in the Texas Rangers' farm system, was coming off a season in which he hit .321 at Double A and then .372 in the Venezuelan Winter League. Thinking he possessed the ability to play the outfield, Phillies director of professional scouting Mike Ondo and his staff targeted Herrera and landed him. Seven teams have kicked themselves at some point.

The main reason Herrera was even available to the Phillies then was the strength of Texas' farm system, particulary in the middle infield. A team can protect only so many players and Herrera didn't make the cut.

Seven months after acquiring Herrera, the Phillies added five more prospects from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade. So far, Herrera has outperformed all of them.

On Thursday, he was rewarded for it.

Best of MLB: Matt Kemp walk-off HR lifts Braves over Giants

Best of MLB: Matt Kemp walk-off HR lifts Braves over Giants

ATLANTA -- Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer off Cory Gearrin in the 11th inning to lift the Atlanta Braves to a 5-3 win over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night.

The homer, the third of the game for Atlanta, was Kemp's seventh game-ending shot of his career.

Gearrin (1-2) walked Nick Markakis with one out before Kemp's homer barely cleared the right field wall..

Matt Adams hit a two-run homer and Tyler Flowers also homered off Jeff Samardzija.

Braves Sean Newcomb, who gave up one run in six innings, was denied his first win when Hunter Pence's homer off Braves closer Jim Johnson tied the game at 3-3 in the ninth. It was Johnson's fifth blown save in 18 chances (see full recap).

Diamondbacks ride 10-run 4th inning to victory
DENVER -- Taijuan Walker pitched six solid innings and slapped an RBI single during Arizona's biggest inning ever on the road -- a 10-run fourth -- and the Diamondbacks went on to beat the Colorado Rockies 16-5 on Wednesday night.

Shaking off Tuesday's tough loss in which Colorado rallied late for a one-run win, the Diamondbacks sent 14 men to the plate and pounded out nine hits, including a two-run double and RBI single by Brandon Drury in his two at-bats in the inning. Drury finished with four hits and career-high six RBIs and the Diamondbacks established season highs in run and hits (20).

David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt also connected for two hits in the inning and combined for three RBIs, helping the Diamondbacks snap the Rockies' winning streak at six games and setting up Thursday's match between the NL West rivals as the decisive game in the series (see full recap).

Royals rally past Red Sox on Perez grand slam
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Salvador Perez hit his first career grand slam, connecting in the eighth inning to rally the Kansas City Royals over the Boston Red Sox 6-4 Wednesday.

The Royals have won nine of 11 and moved within a game of .500.

Perez homered over the Kansas City bullpen in left field on the ninth pitch from Robby Scott (0-1). With Boston leading 4-2, reliever Matt Barnes started the inning by walking Jorge Bonifacio and Lorenzo Cain on 12 pitches.

Scott was summoned to face Eric Hosmer, but walked him on four pitches to load the bases for Perez. The All-Star catcher fouled off three full-count deliveries before hitting his 15th home run of the season.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Perez was the first Kansas City player to hit a grand slam in the eighth inning or later with the Royals trailing since Frank White in 1986.

Jorge Soria (3-2) worked a spotless eighth. Kelvin Herrera pitched the ninth for his 17th save in 19 chances (see full recap).

Phillies on pace for 111 losses after bizarre late-game bullpen meltdown

Phillies on pace for 111 losses after bizarre late-game bullpen meltdown


In the big picture — and that's what has really mattered right from the beginning of this season — something quite positive happened for the Phillies on Wednesday night: A young, promising pitcher took a nice step forward and for the second straight start offered hope that he might just be a reliable piece of the rotation when this rebuilding club is ready to be relevant again.

But in the narrow view, it was easy to look right past Nick Pivetta's six innings of three-run, 10-strikeout ball. That's how bad the losing has been. Every night offers a gaper delay on the highway to 100 losses.

Did we say 100?

How about 111? That's the Phillies' current pace after an ugly 7-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals (see Instant Replay) — and 111 losses would match a franchise high set in 1941 when Doc Prothro's club went 43-111.

It's bad, folks.

But you already knew that.

This one was especially unsightly for how the Phillies lost it. They blew a five-run lead under the weight of a barrage of home runs — two against the bullpen in the eighth and ninth innings — had the potential winning run cut down at the plate by 20 feet in the bottom of the ninth then lost it in the 10th after a troubling meltdown by reliever Edubray Ramos.

You almost had to see it to believe it. And if you didn't see it, don't bother looking for a replay. It will only hurt your eyes.

"We let that five-run lead get away from us," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Real disappointing night. Pivetta did a really good job for us, gave us six good innings. And we had 16 hits; you have to win a game when you get 16 hits. We couldn't push any more runs across until that 10th inning. Very disappointing."

Pivetta — 19 strikeouts in his last two starts — took a 5-0 lead to the mound in the fifth and was tagged for a home run on a 3-2 fastball in that inning. No problem. He issued a two-out walk in the sixth then served up a first-pitch, two-run homer to Jedd Gyorko. Little problem, but not fatal.

Things started to turn bad in the eighth when reliever Joaquin Benoit served up a first-pitch homer to Jose Martinez to make it a one-run game and they got worse when Hector Neris blew his second save in three games when he gave up a game-tying homer to Tommy Pham (his second of the game) on a 1-1 fastball in the ninth.

In the 10th, Ramos gave up a leadoff double to Martinez. The reliever then balked Martinez to third and gifted him home plate on an errant pickoff throw to first base. (It sailed way over Tommy Joseph's head.) The Cards ended up scoring two runs in the frame. The second one came in handy when the Phils pushed across one in the bottom of the inning.

Ramos looks like a pitcher who needs to go to the minors to clear his head. In his last three outings, he has faced eight batters and allowed three hits, three walks and seven runs. He has also committed a costly balk and a costly error, signs that's he becoming a little overwhelmed.

"I don't know what to tell you," Mackanin said. "It looks like he's mixed up or something. He's not the same guy."

Ramos declined to speak with reporters after the game.

But Odubel Herrera and Pat Neshek did agree to chat.

Neshek, the Phillies' best reliever, was conspicuously absent from a close game. He threw 28 pitches Sunday, had a day off Monday and threw 11 on Tuesday. He was not available. What was curious was that Mackanin said Neshek had told him he was sore. Neshek said he never said such a thing, that he showed up to the ballpark and was told he was getting a day off, which he actually thought was a good idea. But sore? Not so, he said.

As for Herrera, he drew attention for running through third base coach Juan Samuel's stop sign in the bottom of the ninth inning and getting nailed at the plate for the final out. Samuel said it was the first time a player had ever run through one of his stop signs. In this case, Herrera almost ran him over.

"It's just bad timing for it," Samuel said.

There was some question as to whether Samuel's stop sign went up too late, but Herrera dismissed that. He said he was simply running with his head down.

"I was playing aggressive," he said. "I wanted to win the game. So when I was rounding third, I put my head down. I kept going to home plate. I saw [the stop sign]. But I saw it late. I put my head down. That's my mistake."

Making a mistake didn't make Herrera unique Wednesday night.

"The mistakes we're making are giving the other team too many pitches to hit," Mackanin said. "Those are our mistakes. Especially late in the game."