The Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a pair of one-year contracts on Monday. The first was with former center fielder Odubel Herrera. The latter was with former Washington left-handed reliever Brad Hand.
NBCS Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury was first with the Herrera signing while the Athletic’s Matt Gelb was first with the terms.
Phillies work out at 1 pm today. Team is in agreement with Odubel Herrera, pending physical.— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyNBCS) March 14, 2022
When finalized, Odúbel Herrera’s contract with the Phillies will be for $1.75 million with $750k in incentive bonuses.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) March 14, 2022
ESPN’s Jeff Passan was first with the agreement with Hand.
Left-handed reliever Brad Hand and the Philadelphia Phillies are in agreement on a one-year, $6 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 14, 2022
Breakdown of Odubel Herrera
Most Phillies fans are familiar with Herrera at this point. However, it comes as a surprise that Philadelphia elected to re-sign him after declining his $12M option earlier in the offseason. The former rule five draft selection had an up and down 2021, finishing with a .260/.310/.416 batting line with 13 home runs in 124 games. Herrera ultimately reclaimed his job in CF despite missing all of the 2020 season after being designated for assignment in January of 2020. He had played in just 39 games in 2019 following an arrest on domestic violence charges and subsequent suspension from MLB.
Breakdown of Brad Hand
Hand is a 31-year-old left-handed reliever who split time between three teams in 2021. The lefty signed a one-year, $10M contract with the Nationals before last season. He posted a 3.59 ERA across 41 appearances with Washington before being traded to Toronto at the trade deadline. Hand’s stint with the Blue Jays was disastrous, as he gave up 10 total runs in just 8.2 innings. He was quickly designated for assignment by Toronto and claimed by the Mets. Hand rebounded a bit in New York, posting a 2.70 ERA across 16 appearances.
The Herrera signing is confusing on multiple fronts. The Phillies realized that something needed to be done about their dreadful center field situation from 2021. Phillies center fielders totaled just 1.3 WAR, fifth worst in the majors. So, to fix it they re-signed the man who played the majority of games there. Herrera bottomed out in July (.487 OPS) but had a torrid August (1.043 OPS). Ultimately, he hit .259 in September and October with a .623 OPS and 18 strikeouts to just three walks. Herrera is an incredibly streaky player who does not provide any consistent offense and makes his fair share of brainless plays on the basepaths and in the field.
Herrera’s presence on the roster is also a bit of a redundancy. The Phillies plan to have a left-handed hitter platoon with Matt Vierling in centerfield. The addition of Herrera now gives them four left-handed hitting centerfielders on their 40-man roster. The others are Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak, and Simon Muzzioti. There’s no clear reasoning for running to sign Herrera this early into the new free agency period. This is especially true when you factor in the domestic violence incident in his past.
Since Memorial Day of 2018, Odubel Herrera has a .679 OPS and 80 wRC+ in 1,026 plate appearances.— Joe Edinger (@Joe_Edinger) March 13, 2022
There is no baseball reason for him to return to the Phillies without even factoring in his off-field past.
Hand is the third bounce-back relief candidate the Phillies have signed this offseason. He joins Corey Knebel and Jeurys Familia as new additions to the Phillies bullpen. His contract total makes more sense than Familia’s, but he still is not a clear upgrade over what the Phillies had last year. It is true that the Phillies needed another left-handed late inning relief option after Jose Alvarado. But Hand has not been consistent since leaving Cleveland after 2020. He was among the worst in the league at getting swings and misses as well as getting hitters to chase outside the zone in 2021. His FIP of 4.58 suggests Hand relied heavily on his defense, which does not bode well for the Phillies and their poor infield defense.
However, one good note is that Hand’s max velocity on his fastball was up nearly two MPH to a hair under 93 which was more in line with his career averages. His average velocity dipped to 91 MPH in 2020 despite being perfect in save opportunities and posting a 2.05 ERA.
It remains to be seen if Hand and the other two new back-end relievers will be any form of upgrade over or on par with Hector Neris, Ian Kennedy, and Archie Bradley from 2021. It’s fair to question if the Phillies would’ve been better off giving $15M of the allotted $22M of the new trio’s contracts to closer Kenley Jansen on a multi-year contract and then choosing one of the three. But as they have shown to do in recent years, the Phillies and president Dave Dombrowski elected to go quantity over quality. They will once again hope that something breaks right to repair their beleaguered bullpen.