PHILADELPHIA -- Two-thirds of the Phillies’ outfield could be completely new next season.
The team on Wednesday announced it declined 2022 club options for left fielder Andrew McCutchen and center fielder Odúbel Herrera. The Phillies exercised a $3 million buyout for McCutchen, rather than pay him $15 million. They exercised a $2.5 million buyout for Herrera, rather than pay him $11.5 million.
Neither decision came as a surprise.
McCutchen is now a free agent. The Phillies still retain the rights to Herrera, who is eligible for salary arbitration. They have until 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 2 to tender Herrera a contract for 2022, otherwise he will become a free agent.
It will be interesting to see how the Phillies handle it. On one hand, they can non-tender Herrera and move on. Or they can try to re-sign Herrera for less money, at least ensuring the Phillies will have another experienced outfielder on the 40-man roster, besides NL MVP candidate Bryce Harper.
McCutchen, 35, batted .222 with 27 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .778 OPS in 574 plate appearances this season. He had a 109 OPS+, meaning his production was 9 percent better than league average. McCutchen posted a 1.027 OPS against left-handers, but a .650 OPS against right-handers. Those splits make McCutchen an attractive platoon option, but there is no reason to think McCutchen will not try to continue his career as an everyday player. Regardless, $15 million was too much for the Phillies, who have many holes to fill on the roster.
Herrera, 29, batted .260 with 13 homers, 51 RBIs, a .726 OPS and a 95 OPS+ in 492 plate appearances.
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said last month that the team needs to find a better leadoff hitter and another middle-of-the-order bat. One or both of those issues could be solved by finding new outfielders. Free-agent candidates include Mark Canha, Kyle Schwarber (mutual option), Nick Castellanos, Starling Marte and Chris Taylor.
The Phillies could try to work a platoon in left or center with perhaps Vierling and a potent left-handed bat, like free agent Joc Pederson.
The organization will have to get creative to make it all work.