If Odubel Herrera is going to be the Phillies' everyday center fielder next season, he will have to report to spring training in better shape than he did this year.
Herrera received what amounts to a challenge from manager Gabe Kapler before the Phillies played their penultimate game of the season Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park. Kapler said he doesn't believe Herrera's conditioning has been at its optimal level for most of the season and vowed to spend considerable time in the offseason to help him reach that point.
"I will consider it a failure on my part if Odubel Herrera does not come into camp in his peak physical condition," Kapler said. "I intend to spend as much time and effort and energy on that as I do anything else this offseason."
Herrera lagged behind in early spring-training workouts, but Kapler gushed about his conditioning by saying he was "physically presenting beautifully" and characterizing him as being in "incredible athletic condition." Asked on Saturday if Herrera came to spring training in shape, 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," Kapler said. "I think he can be in incredible physical shape. We've seen it from him in the past. If you look back a couple of 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."
Assuming, of course, that Herrera is still with the Phillies by spring training.
Herrera had a season of extremes. Through May 19, he was batting .353 and slugging .558 with nine doubles, one triple, seven homers, a .420 on-base percentage and a .978 OPS in 156 at-bats. But since then, and entering play Saturday night, he was batting .219 and slugging .371 with 10 doubles, two triples, 15 homers, a .268 on-base percentage and a .639 OPS in 388 at bats. Recently, Herrera has been displaced in center field by rookie Roman Quinn. When Herrera plays, it has been mostly in right field.
But if the Phillies decide he doesn't fit into their plans beyond this season, Herrera might still have trade value by virtue of his team-friendly contract. He's signed for three more years at salaries of $5 million next year, $7 million in 2020 and $10 million in 2021 with club options for $11.5 million in 2022 and $12.5 million in 2023.
"If you analyze Odubel and go back, there are some wild swings of incredible performance and some sub-optimal performance," Kapler said. "Knowing that, we focus on the things that we absolutely can control, like physical and mental conditioning. Those are within our control."