Odubel Herrera is a frustrating player to watch, and surely he’s a frustrating player to manage. After Tuesday’s 5-0 loss to Houston in which the talented yet enigmatic center fielder bat-flipped a fly ball out and failed to even attempt to run out a third strike that had eluded the Astros catcher, Herrera was gone before the media had a chance to ask him about his antics.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin was there, and had a rather odd answer for whether or not he’s concerned about Herrera’s effort, despite the fact he opted to pull him from the lineup after the strikeout situation. Per Ryan Lawrence at the Philly Voice:
“Odubel does a lot for us,” Mackanin said. “He’s just a different character and we have to deal with him in a certain way. I’ll have a nice talk with him tomorrow and he’s going to be fine. He’s been doing very well in that regard in the last month or so. But he just needs a reminder.”
The Phillies stink, and with the trade deadline mere days away, there’s been talk of what players the team can deal to grow the young nucleus for the future. As the team struggles and fan frustration grows, nobody is safe from trade speculation, especially a player who is seen not hustling. If there’s one thing Philly does not stand for, it’s a guy not giving his all.
And so, it’s predictable that the topic of conversation Wednesday morning centered on Herrera. His effort is a concern, especially when reporters talk to his teammates about it and, well, they’re frustrated too.
Let’s not forget, this is a team that has nearly twice as many losses as they have wins, so they’re frustrated in general. But this is different, and it’s become a real issue. All of which has conspired to this: Should the Phillies trade Herrera?
On its face, the question is preposterous to even ask. But it’s what people are asking. It’s just surprising how many people seem to want the answer to be yes.
Through 2,300 votes as of earlier this morning, the WIP Morning Show’s poll asking if it’s time to trade Herrera had a 65-percent return of yes. Now, granted, a sports-talk radio audience is hardly the most level-headed bunch, but it’s still a telling stat that this many people want to see him gone.
This many people are stupid.
Herrera was the team’s lone All-Star last season and after a slow start and a dreadful May at the plate, he’s batting .272 with 100 hits in 368 at bats, including 42 extra base hits. He’s been on a relative tear the last two months, hitting .331 in the 45 games in June and July, with 20 doubles and 27 total extra-base hits. His OPS in 19 games in July is 1.031 and his on base percentage is .408 in that span. Sure, that’s a small sample size, but it’s a helluva good sample.
As Lawrence pointed out in his piece, Herrera is also one of the five best defensive players in baseball this year, and the second-highest rated outfielder, according to Fangraphs. You want to trade that guy over a couple of ill-time bat flips and not feigning effort on a play he was dead-to-rights out on anyway?
The issue for many, though, isn’t the production. It’s the effort. This same thing happened years ago with Jimmy Rollins, and it got so bad that he became seen as a lazy player who didn’t care enough. Perhaps Mackanin isn’t just defending Herrera to the press. Maybe he’s right. Maybe the guy is just wired differently, And maybe the Astros dugout mocking him for bat-flipping earlier in the game did get in his head during his later at bats. It’s without question a reason to talk to him. And it’s probably even reason enough to bench him for a game or two. But trade him? This is nuts.
It’s also why sports talk radio callers (and hosts) aren’t general managers. Matt Klentak and the Phillies brass face zero pressure to trade Herrera right now. He’s making just $1.6 million this season and is slated to earn $3.35 million next year, $5.35 in 2019 and $7.35 in 2020. In 2021, when Herrera will still be under 30 years old, he’s set to make $10.35 million and then the team has two years in which they have a club option to keep him or buy him out.
Trading him is insane. There is not a player on the market with his skills that would come to Philly at that value. So, of course, we’re having the conversation. And obviously, the sports talk radio listeners among us mostly want him gone.