Phillies Commit Highway Robbery with Odubel Herrera Extension

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Jun 2, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera (37) celebrates after a home run by third baseman Maikel Franco (7) during the fourth inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 2, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera (37) celebrates after a home run by third baseman Maikel Franco (7) during the fourth inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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Odubel Herrera’s contract extension is as team friendly as it can get for the Phillies

Wow. Bursting on to the scene is news of the Phillies recent extension of 2014’s Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera. The Phillies have bought out the remaining controllable years and then some on Herrera for the bargain basement price of $30 million.

This is undeniably a ridiculously team friendly contract for the Phillies, and Herrera should re-consider his representation going forward.

Not many people saw this coming. If you searched Odubel Herrera in recent weeks you’d be bombarded with trade rumors.

First off, let’s break down the terms of Herrera’s freshly-signed contract.

Buying out Odubel Herrera’s arbitration-eligible seasons

The first thing they accomplished with this contract is buying out the remainder of his financially controllable years. Without going into too much detail about it, a major league player beginning his career will serve three “pre-arb” years where they make the league minimum of approximately $500K, and then go through three arbitration eligible years where their performance somewhat dictates their salary.

Odubel currently has two years of service time, meaning he’d have one more year of $500K salary, and then three years where he’d have to earn/fight for what he’s worth.

Those four years have now been determined, and the Phillies have purchased his first year where he would have been a free agent as well as having team options on the second and third years of free agency, each determined at season’s end.

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Essentially the Phillies will be able to gauge how it’s going with Odubel when the contract is up and decide if they accurately judged his value before deciding to go forward for another year and then they can repeat that step following the next season.

The real value in this deal is in fact in those last three years, two of which are options. The first of those years is actually what would have been Odubel’s first year of free agency, and if he plays anywhere near like he has to this point the Phillies could have been looking at paying free agent-like prices.

The two option years, priced at $11.5 million and $12.5 million for 2022 and 2023 respectively, could end up being similarly great value.

The beauty there is that the Phillies have all the power once Herrera’s five guaranteed years come up. It’s a sweet deal for the team…as long as Odubel performs.

Comparing Herrera’s contract to similar players

So let’s look at the money, how it compares to other current contracts, and what he’ll have to do to make it the aforementioned sweet deal.

We know the total value is $30.5 million for an average annual value of $6.1 million over the next five years. For apples to apples purposes we’ll compare his deal against some other’s based on that AAV.

Yoennis Cespedes got a four-year/$110 million contract with an annual average value (AAV) of $27.5 million. Dexter Fowler signed a five-year/$82.5 million pact that will net him an average of $16.5 million annually.

Jon Jay and Carlos Gomez signed one year “prove it” deals in an attempt to re-establish their value after injury and a few down years respectively. Jay is making $8 million this year and Gomez is getting $11.5 million.

All four are making significantly more money than Herrera will average. Cespedes is making more than $20 million more on average, and Fowler is making $10 million more. But neither has been that much better, neither has been even close to three or four times better than Herrera, as they’re getting paid.

According to Fangraphs, over the last two years Cespedes has put up 9.9 WAR and Fowler has put up 8.0 WAR. Meanwhile, Herrera has managed to be right there with them over that span, putting up 7.8 WAR.

Jay and Gomez aren’t even close as their last two seasons combined, four seasons worth of WAR total, doesn’t come anywhere near Herrera at 5.0.

This deal is really a drop-dead steal for the Phillies. But, before we go feeling like the team ripped Odubel off, let’s remember that Odubel wasn’t a free agent available to the highest bidder. And even if he was I’m not so sure he’d get what these other guys have gotten right now. His track record is considerably smaller, and he could still nosedive in terms of performance.

Jul 22, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera (37) reacts after hitting a double against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 22, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera (37) reacts after hitting a double against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Recent deals with players who were in the same situation that Odubel was in.

The other aspect to remember is that Odubel was definitely only getting half a million this year, and he would have had to go to arbitration and deal with whatever that outcome was for the next three years.

Adam Eaton

The first one to come to mind is Adam Eaton, whom the White Sox signed to a $23.5 million five year extension in 2015. With regards to service time, Eaton was in exactly the same situation that Herrera was in.

Similar to Philadelphia, Chicago also included options on Eaton’s first two free agent years. Only, Eaton was guaranteed about $2 million less for those years.

In Eaton’s case, he played 211 games leading up to his deal and put up a combined 3.2 fWAR in those contests; Herrera has played in 306 games and managed a combined 7.8 fWAR. Eaton hit .281/.350/.390 for an .740 OPS in that span while Herrera has put up a much more impressive .291/.353/.419 for an OPS of .773 and he’s played a much better defense.

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As a side note and perhaps an indicator of the value that associated with players like Eaton or Herrera under very team friendly contracts like this, the White Sox recently traded Eaton to the Nationals for a ridiculous prospect haul that included two of baseball’s top pitching prospects, and a first round draft pick from last year.

Starling Marte

The Pirates struck a deal similar to Herrera’s when they extended Starling Marte in 2014. Marte had one year less service time than Herrera does now, and his deal included an extra year to cover that. In the end, the Pirates bought out all of his controllable years and add two option years, just like Herrera.

For his services over that six-year span, Marte received a contract which included $31 million in guaranteed money, and the two option years are similarly priced to Herrera’s at about a million less per year.

Marte had only one full year at the time of his extension, but it was a solid one where he posted a 4.8 fWAR. He’s since proved to be well worth his contract putting up similar numbers in the three years since he signed it.

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Sep 23, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera (37) looks on from the dugout during the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. The Marlins won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Herrera MUST take the next step for this deal to be worth it for the Phillies

For Odubel’s part he won’t have to do much to justify the $6 million annually. If he comes anywhere near the production he’s put up in his first two years for the next five, this deal will be well worth it.

The expectations are that he’ll get better though, just as he had from 2015 to 2016 where he nearly doubled his home runs, more than doubled his walks, and significantly improved both his strike out rate and efficiency on the base-pads.

Herrera’s defense took a step back but those of us that watched the game could clearly see that the errors were of the “bonehead” variety, and aren’t indicative of any flaw in his game.

Despite those mental miscues, Herrera was one of three finalists for the National League center field Gold Glove award.

Next: Phillies Rumor: Executive Confirms Club is Looking for Lefty Bat

This is an excellent move for the Phillies, and it gives them not only flexibility going forward, but also stability in their payroll for perhaps the next seven years.

Being that this is just Matt Klentak’s first long-term signing as the Phillies general manager, this has to be a huge win.

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