Is It Time This Offseason for Phillies to Move on From Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera?

Cesar Hernandez has lost his job as the Phillies' everyday leadoff hitter.

Odubel Herrera has lost his job as the everyday centerfielder.

Will either player be back in 2019? Will both?

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Let's take a look, starting with Hernandez.

Cesar's contract

Hernandez made $5.1 million this season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining and based on how salaries rise as a player accrues more service time, he's likely looking at $7 million to $7.5 million next season.

Cesar's season

Hernandez ended Wednesday's game hitting .252/.360/.356 on the season. He and Joey Votto are the only everyday players in the majors this season with a higher on-base percentage than slugging percentage.

There are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, Hernandez has had a disappointing season, hitting more than 40 points lower than he did in 2016 and 2017. On the other hand, he has a .360 OBP in a down year.

Hernandez's value to an offense is his ability to get on base either out of the leadoff spot or eight-hole. He really doesn't fit well elsewhere in the Phillies' lineup because he lacks pop and hasn't hit for average as much as he has in the past.

Trade Hernandez?

It was a big topic the last two offseasons and will be again this winter. At this point, it seems more likely than not that the Phillies move on from Hernandez.

There are multiple reasons. 

There's the rising salary - do you really want to pay $7 million for a second baseman with one above-average skill? 

There's the 2B situation - do you really want to play Scott Kingery out of position again in 2019?

And there's the roster construction element - wouldn't you be better served trading Hernandez for a starting pitcher or reliever?

At this point, the Phillies won't be able to find great value for Hernandez. But they should be able to land a reliever coming off a good year from a team in need of a second baseman.

On to Odubel ...

Herrera's contract

The Phillies signed Herrera to a six-year, $30.5 million contract before the 2017 season. The deal is guaranteed through the end of 2021, with club options in 2022 and 2023.

Herrera will make $22 million combined over the next three years of the contract.

It's still a team-friendly price for an everyday outfielder. Herrera has a career-high 21 homers this season. He's driven in a career-high 65 runs. 

He's just been so much less reliable, offensively and defensively. 

Herrera's season

Over his last 200 plate appearances exactly, Herrera has hit .225/.275/.385. 

Combine that with defensive regression and a few head-shaking moments on the bases and you see why Roman Quinn has started 10 of the Phillies' last 15 games.

If the Phils do shop Herrera, other teams would be interested. They'd look at the growing power, the .282 career batting average, the contract and the age (26). 

Now, obviously, if you're Matt Klentak, you don't trade either Hernandez or Herrera for nothing. You do it only if it improves you elsewhere. If it doesn't, it makes more sense to go into 2019 with Hernandez and Herrera and ride the hot hands again.

Quinn's health

As exciting as Quinn is, he hasn't even reached 200 plate appearances in the bigs. You know all about his long track record of injuries. It would seem ... unwise to head into 2019 with Quinn as the everyday centerfielder and no insurance behind him.

But that could simply mean bringing in a veteran fourth outfielder who can play center.

The Bryce Harper effect

I maintain my belief that the Phillies will sign Bryce Harper this offseason. If they do, there will be an odd man out in the outfield.

If they get Harper, it would mean that either Herrera, Nick Williams or Carlos Santana would be the odd man out. With Santana, it would likely mean eating $15 million or so in order to trade him and, mercifully, moving Rhys Hoskins back to first. The Phils, in that scenario, should be able to find a team interested in Santana as a $12M-per-year player.

It's going to be a fascinating offseason. The Phillies can go in any number of directions, and I believe they will be creative after learning more this season about which players can and cannot contribute every day for a contending team.

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