One day after the rival Atlanta Braves won the World Series with an outfield that they famously rebuilt on the fly at the trade deadline, the Phillies made unsurprising decisions that likely will result in the departures of two primary outfielders.
The Phillies declined club options on Andrew McCutchen and Odúbel Herrera, who were due to make $15 million and $11.5 million, respectively, next year. McCutchen will pocket a $3 million buyout and become a free agent. The Phillies will pay a $2.5 million buyout to Herrera, who remains under team control and will be eligible for salary arbitration.
Both moves were expected once the offseason got underway. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has identified a leadoff hitter and another middle-of-the-order bopper as two of the team’s biggest needs. Left field and center field are potential positions to make those upgrades.
The Phillies signed McCutchen to a three-year, $50 million contract as part of a 2018-19 offseason that was supposed to complete the organization’s rebuilding project. They considered free-agent outfielder Michael Brantley before opting for McCutchen because of his more reliable health history.
McCutchen, who turned 35 last month, tore a ligament in his left knee on a freak baserunning play two months into the 2019 season and had difficulty returning to form in the two years that followed. But the former National League MVP had his moments, homering in his first Phillies at-bat and hitting a walkoff three-run homer July 26 against the Washington Nationals, all while remaining a well-respected voice in the clubhouse.
In 260 games for the Phillies, McCutchen batted .237 with a .343 on-base percentage and slugged .444 with 47 home runs, 143 RBIs, a 109 OPS+, and 2.5 wins above replacement, as calculated by Fangraphs. This season, he produced against left-handed pitchers (.293/.405/.622, 15 homers) but struggled against righties (.186/.298/.352, 12 homers), extreme splits that may position him as a platoon outfielder.
(For the sake of comparison, Brantley, 34, slashed .310/.367/.474 with 35 homers, a 124 OPS+, and 7.5 WAR in 315 games for the Houston Astros over the last three seasons.)
The Phillies may be at a crossroads with Herrera.
Herrera, who will turn 30 next month, returned to the majors this year after a lengthy suspension related to his 2019 arrest on charges of domestic assault. He batted .260 with a .310 on-base percentage and slugged .416 in 124 games, including 63 in the leadoff spot.
But the enigmatic center fielder made $10.35 million this year and is projected to make $11.6 million through arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ estimates. Based on the decision to not pick up the option, it’s possible the Phillies could non-tender Herrera and make him a free agent. The previous front-office regime, led by former general manager Matt Klentak, signed Herrera to a five-year, $30.5 million extension after the 2016 season.
With the conclusion of the World Series, seven Phillies players became free agents, including longtime reliever Héctor Neris. He was joined by infielders Freddy Galvis and Brad Miller, lefty Matt Moore, and relievers Ian Kennedy, Archie Bradley, and Cam Bedrosian.