It was a real concern for the Phillies in the middle of last season that Odubel Herrera seemed to become complacent once he was named to the All-Star Game.
His production dipped in the summer and manager Pete Mackanin wondered then if the accolades had made Herrera comfortable. So you can't blame the Phillies if they were a bit leery that the five-year contract they awarded Herrera on Thursday could have a similar effect.
Herrera is guaranteed to make $30.5 million, according to a source. He has financial security for the first time in his life and will likely spend the next two seasons on a team with a losing record.
The centerfielder has been the most productive Phillies player over the last two seasons, but his play can often be maddening. Herrera was benched in May for not running hard to first base, and in June he forgot how many outs there were in an inning.
But Mackanin and general manager Matt Klentak said they have no reason to worry.
"What it boils down to is a belief in the person," Klentak said. "We believe that what Odubel has demonstrated to us over the last couple years with his work ethic and his on-field abilities and energy level, this is a player that should not be affected by a contract like this. We strongly believe that. If we didn't believe that, we would not have done this."
Mackanin said Herrera works just as hard as any other player, if not harder. The manager loves the energy Herrera brings to the Phillies and he enjoys watching Herrera have fun on the field. Although Herrera can be prone to mental mistakes, it is hard to argue about his passion. He plays the game with flair and fervor. He flips his bat after home runs and slaps horned fingers to his helmet after key hits. There is no doubt that Herrera cares.
The only problem with Herrera, the manager said, is figuring out if the centerfielder should bat first, second, or third.
"Whether he was making the minimum or signing this brand new contract, he is who he is," Mackanin said. "It's the person that we're most excited about."
Herrera was batting .303 with a .390 on-base percentage on July 5 when he was told that he was headed to the All-Star Game. He batted .247 over the next 48 games with a .302 on-base percentage. His walk rate - which had been the catalyst for his first-half surge - had been cut in half and he was striking out more. He found himself benched for a stretch in August, less than a month after playing in the All-Star Game.
He recovered to hit .306 wotj a .370 on-base percentage in the season's final month as he ended the season looking like the player of the first half. But Mackanin said he wanted to see more consistency. The six-week stretch when Herrera struggled, Mackanin said then, was "not helpful to win games."
So there was Herrera on Friday, wearing a sharp gray suit with a fancy pocket square. He sat behind a podium and "felt like a boss." The contract, he said, would change his family's life "mucho."
His parents sat in the front row as Herrera discussed his contract. Herrera grew up poor on a farm in Venezuela. His humble roots and the work ethic instilled in him by his father should keep him grounded as he enters his newfound fortune.
"You never know when this opportunity is going to come again," Herrera said through an interpreter. "It was a good chance to sign a deal, and this opportunity only comes once. We decided to make the decision and sign the contract."
The contract - which is at a club-friendly rate - keeps Herrera under control until after the 2021 season. If the club options are honored the contract will be worth $54.5 million and keep Herrera in Philadelphia through 2023. He will then become a free agent at 32 years old. If he continues his production, this opportunity will certainly come again.
"I'm going to continue to play hard and do the things that could end up getting me another big contract in the future," Herrera said. "I'm going to work hard, play hard, and try to win for the organization and become the best player I can be, so hopefully I could get another big contract in future."