The Phillies returned Odubel Herrera to their active roster Thursday, but it remains unclear if the outfielder will play again for the team after being suspended 85 games last season because of his arrest after a domestic violence incident in Atlantic City.
Activating Herrera was a procedural move; his suspension ran through the end of the season. He now counts against the team’s 40-man roster, which must be trimmed by Monday from 43 to 40. The Phillies could try to trade Herrera this offseason, but the Phillies likely would have to pay most of his salary because it’s difficult to see another team taking on Herrera’s remaining $21 million.
Herrera was charged with assault on Memorial Day after his girlfriend sought out security at the Golden Nugget casino and said she had been attacked in their hotel room. The police report said “handprint markings” were found on her neck, in addition to scratches. In July, she declined to press charges and the judge dismissed the case but said that decision was contingent upon Herrera’s completing counseling. He was suspended two days later by Major League Baseball and said in a statement that he “acted in an unacceptable manner and am terribly disappointed in myself.”
The Phillies could simply release Herrera, but the league’s collective bargaining agreement states that the transaction must be done for baseball reasons and not because of his suspension. The Phillies could point to the .216 batting average and .632 OPS Herrera posted in 539 plate appearances over his final calendar year, before his suspension, as a baseball reason. Before being suspended, Herrera already had played himself out of a starting role.
“He comes to spring training and we’ll see where his talents and abilities take him from there,” president Andy MacPhail said in July. “We’ll see what he’s stacked up against. Right now, we have [Andrew] McCutchen and [Jay] Bruce. We have [Adam] Haseley. We have [Roman] Quinn. We have [Bryce] Harper. It’s a crowded outfield. So we’ll have to see how he performs on the field.”
Eight players — Sean Rodriguez, Tommy Hunter, Logan Morrison, Juan Nicasio, Brad Miller, Nick Vincent, Corey Dickerson, and Drew Smyly — elected free agency Thursday, which brought the 40-man roster down to 44 players after relief pitcher Robert Stock was claimed off waivers from San Diego. It lowered to 43 players Friday when Jose Pirela, who will play in Japan, was released.
The Phillies will decline Pat Neshek’s $7 million option for 2020, but they have yet to announce their plans on the options for Jason Vargas ($8 million) and Jared Hughes ($3 million). Declining all three options would bring the Phillies to 40 players.
The heavier lifting will come Dec. 2, the deadline for the Phillies to decide if they will tender contracts to players such as Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez as they set their 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft.