Phillies Winter Meetings: Could an Odubel Herrera Trade Happen?

The first winter meetings start next week, and the Phillies have been no slouches at the last few. The Phillies brass could wind up trading outfielder Odubel Herrera.

As fans are prone to do when there is no Phillies baseball to follow, they speculate. This speculation centers around the winter meetings, and the first meetings start Monday. The general managers from each team will head to Scottsdale, Arizona “to cover various off-the-field matters around the league” as Mike Axisa of CBS Sports put it. However, some trades still occur at these meetings, like last year’s Andrelton Simmons trade.

Even if the Phillies don’t make a trade at these meetings, there are still plenty of opportunities for a trade down the line, including the official winter meetings in early December. Axisa called these meetings “chaos” with “non-stop 24-hour hot stove action.”

Rumors have swirled around a trade involving Phillies pitcher Vince Velasquez, with Todd Zolecki of MLB.com saying the team would be “open-minded” about a trade. I’ve already elaborated why I think the team should keep Velasquez considering he has the potential to be a frontline starter.

Another Phillie who may wind up being traded is center fielder Odubel Herrera. Kevin Cooney of the Burlington County Times said Herrera “could be an interesting trade chip for Phillies.”

Herrera has been the best player on the Phillies the past two seasons. He led the team in wins above replacement in both 2015 and 2016. This year he earned All-Star honors and is nominated for a Gold Glove.

Herrera finished the year with 4.2 rWAR as well as a .286/.361/.420 line, 15 home runs, and 25 stolen bases. From what Herrera has done since his selection in the Rule 5 draft, he has solidified himself as a starting-caliber outfielder.

Teams would be willing to pay for a four-win center fielder. Just five qualified center fielders finished ahead of Herrera in fWAR this season. A four-win player borders from a “good player” to an All-Star according to Fangraphs. Nearly every team would benefit from having Herrera on their roster.

On the other hand, it would take a tall order to strip Herrera from the Phillies. A four-win player like Herrera would be considered a 65-grade prospect on the 20-80 scale. Taking a glance at MLB.com’s Top 100 prospect list, just five prospects have an overall value of 65. Good luck getting any of those teams to part with that tier of prospects. Even if we scale it to back to 60-grade prospects, just 12 are at that level or higher. It would still be hard to pry any of those prospects from their respective teams as well. The Phillies would need an impact player back in a trade for Herrera, and it’s hard to see any team putting together a package sweet enough for the front office to bite on.

Thanks to his performance this year, Herrera was worth $30.8 million according to Fangraphs. Compared to his salary of just $528,000, the Phillies got a ridiculous amount of surplus value from Herrera. This kind of production would cost the club a significant part of their salary cap on the free agent market.

On player value alone it’s hard to part ways with Herrera. That only gets harder to do when you consider how long the Phillies will have Herrera under their control. According to Baseball Reference, Herrera is arbitration eligible after the 2017 season and is a free agent after 2020. That’s four more years of team control.

Also, there isn’t another player in-house waiting in the wings that will be able to match Herrera’s production. Nick Williams really struggled at Triple-A this year and may not even be able to stay in center long-term.

Aaron Altherr struggled this year as well coming off of a wrist injury, and most evaluators never saw him as more than a corner or fourth outfielder. I feel more confident about Roman Quinn given the strong start to his major-league career, but his injury history is still a major concern.

I’m sure some teams will ask Matt Klentak about Herrera, but it would take a major deal to trade Herrera. He has provided major value for the Phillies so far in his career and they better not give it up easily if they do at all. I would much rather see the Phillies hold onto Herrera, and he will be the starting center fielder for years to come if he stays.

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