Minutes after the Philadelphia Phillies announced a five-year/$30.5 million extension with outfielder Odubel Herrera yesterday afternoon, a fellow Phillies writer texted me with the message "Matt Klentak saw what the White Sox just got for Adam Eaton."
Translation: Less than a week after a report suggested that the Phillies may be willing to trade Herrera for the right price, a surprise extension came for two reasons. On one hand, Herrera is undoubtedly one of the best young players on the Phillies and Klentak worked an extension that gave them potentially three more years with Herrera. On the other hand, Klentak worked a team-friendly extension with the soon-to-be 25-year-old outfielder that will amount to a bargain at the end of this decade, which could allow Klentak to cash in with an Eaton type return should they eventually move Herrera.
In the short-term, a trade of Herrera is, as it what before the extension, unlikely. Both general manager Matt Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin have praised Herrera's defense this offseason, and there's not a better option for the team in center field. Roman Quinn may become a great player, but it's possible that he opens the 2017 season in Triple A and he has yet to prove he can stay healthy over the course of a season. Aaron Altherr has yet to prove that he's an everyday player at the major league level, let alone better than Herrera.
Certainly a scenario exists where the Phillies eventually decide that Herrera is more valuable as a trade piece. Quinn and Altherr are already at the major league level, while Nick Williams, a key piece in the Cole Hamels deal, figures to make his Major League Debut this year. Dylan Cozens, who led all of the minor leagues in home runs in 2015, will start at Triple A in 2017. After the 2018 season, Bryce Harper is among the outfielders in what may be the greatest free-agent class ever. And later in the decade, first round picks Cornelius Randolph and Mikey Moniak, joined by international signee Jhailyn Ortiz, could help the Phillies create a surplus of outfielding talent.
There's worse problems to have than having too much talent. The Phillies had too much outfielding talent after 2007, so they used Michael Bourn, a future All-Star, to acquire Brad Lidge, who was a key cog in their 2008 World Series title.
Herrera's team-friendly extension makes him more attractive to potential buyers, should the Phillies ever shop him. Plus the extra years of control mean that the Phillies could move someone like Williams or Randolph as part of a major trade, knowing that they will have Herrera under control at what will amount to a very low price through 2023.
What Klentak has done with this extension is give Herrera what amounts to a pay raise next season, in exchange for an extra three years of team control. If Herrera ends up becoming a franchise cornerstone, the Phillies can now have him through the age of 32. If the Phillies had allowed Herrera to go through the arbitration system, he would have become more expensive at the end of the decade and could have become a free-agent after 2020. Now, unless the Phillies decline his options, he can't become a free-agent until 2023, which gives the Phillies so much flexibility.