PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies plan to make significant changes to their roster and processes before 2019.
Maybe they could make a change in center field.
Roman Quinn has handled himself well since joining the Phillies in late July. He entered Saturday's game against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park hitting .272 with two home runs, 12 RBIs, nine stolen bases and a .758 OPS in 135 plate appearances. His sprint speed (30.1 feet per second) ranks third in baseball, according to Statcast™. He has played so well defensively that Odubel Herrera has moved to right field.
Meanwhile, Herrera's season has been a disappointment. He's hit a career-high 22 home runs, but he has a career-low .738 OPS. He has hit just .219 with a .639 OPS since his 45-game on-base streak ended May 19. His OPS in that time is the third-lowest in baseball. Herrera also is slower and less effective defensively than last season. His sprint speed dropped from 27.3 ft/sec in 2017 to 26.7 ft/sec. He ranked ninth among outfielders with 11 Outs Above Average last season, according to Statcast™ (minimum 100 opportunities). He has zero OAA this season, which ranks 62nd.
Herrera is finishing the second season of a five-year contract, which pays him $5 million in 2019, $7 million in '20 and $10 million in '21. There are club options in '22 and '23. It is a club-friendly contract, so it will be difficult to trade a player as talented as Herrera, especially because they will be selling low.
But sometimes addition by subtraction can be an effective means of improvement.
"It is my intention to tell both Odubel and Roman Quinn to come back ready to play center field every day next year," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Saturday. "It is my intention to help and support Odubel Herrera so that when he comes into camp in 2019, he is in the best physical condition. I will consider it a failure on my part if Odubel Herrera does not come into camp in his peak physical condition and I intend to spend as much time and effort and energy on that as I do anything else this offseason."
Kapler said early in Spring Training that Herrera is "physically presenting beautifully right now. … He is in incredible athletic condition. You can tell he has put a lot of work in and we're excited about what's to come for Odubel."
But Kapler said Saturday that Herrera is not in his best physical condition. Asked if Herrera came to Spring Training in shape -- Herrera missed time early in camp because he did not appear to be ready to compete -- Kapler said, "I think he can come into camp in better shape in 2019 than he came in 2018. … This is something that he and I have discussed and will continue to discuss. I think he can be in incredible physical shape. We've seen it from him in the past. If you look back a couple years you see a version of him that is fast, athletic, explosive and I think that's in there and I'm excited about helping him and supporting him to bring that out."
Quinn's health history will give the Phillies serious pause in any attempt to trade Herrera. Quinn has been unable to stay healthy an entire season. If the Phillies traded Herrera they almost certainly would need to have a player that is capable of playing center field for an extended period of time in the event Quinn gets hurt. Aaron Altherr could fill that role, if they believe 2018 was an anomaly.
But Kapler said the Phillies can find a way to keep Quinn on the field next year.
"I think that requires a pretty deep dive into habits, history, how can we get him to make so many good choices that he gives himelf and us the best chance to play 120, 130 or 140 games next year," Kapler said. "I don't think it's necessarily he's got to play 162. It doesn't have to be Carlos Santana or Cesar Hernandez. It might just be, if we get 110 out of Roman Quinn we are doing something really good. I think those are kind of the goals we're thinking about right now."