Future with Reds is foggy for Phillips
CINCINNATI -- Where do the Reds go now with Brandon Phillips? There are different options surrounding the four-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman, each with their own risks and rewards.
On Thursday, the Reds reportedly had a deal in place to trade Phillips to the Nationals, but it wasn't that simple. As a player with 10-and-5 rights -- 10 years in MLB, five with the same team -- he had full no-trade protection and could reject any deal. As of Monday, MLB.com confirmed via sources that Phillips has not waived those rights. While a deal now appears unlikely, it is not officially dead. Both teams will wait and see if Phillips changes his mind, but Washington, of course, can move on to look at second basemen either via free agents or other trades.
The Reds' policy is to not comment on trade discussions or negotiations. Neither they nor the Nationals ever confirmed that a trade for Phillips was agreed upon.
Phillips, 34, has two years and $27 million remaining on the six-year, $72.5 million contract he signed in 2012. According to another source, Phillips' side asked for a "significant benefit" in exchange for accepting the trade -- which could mean an extension, some sort of added money or both. But there have been no discussions, offers or progress on that front.
The Reds have made it clear they are rebuilding and looking to move veterans to acquire prospects as part of that rebuilding effort. Phillips, who will be 36 when his contract ends, won't be part of that future, even if he plays out his contract with Cincinnati.
With that in mind, the Reds seem to have three options regarding Phillips:
• The Reds could simply release Phillips and eat the $27 million altogether, but there really is no reason to go this route. Phillips is a player with value, who still plays well defensively and had a decent year at the plate, too. If the Reds were to agree to pay his entire remaining salary in order to deal him, they would get a decent return for him. And they'd still get a lesser return if the acquiring team takes on some of the money.
According to Fangraphs.com, Phillips was worth 2.6 wins above replacement last season as he batted .294/.328/.395 with 12 home runs and 70 RBIs. And the fact that they already reportedly had a deal in place for him supports the position that Phillips has value, so releasing him make little to no sense.
• They could decide to tell Phillips that it is imperative for the club to develop second base prospect Jose Peraza, and that Phillips is not assured everyday playing time at second base. This approach would apply pressure on Phillps to accept a trade -- to Washington or another club prior to Spring Training. The risk to this approach is that if no deal is reached, nor agreed to by Phillips, the club would have to deal with an unhappy Phillips when camp opens.
• Finally, the Reds could simply kick the can down the road, keeping Phillips at second base and hoping that a deal for him will develop at some later date. This approach, however, could impact the club's ability to develop Peraza, the key return from the Dodgers in the deal that sent third baseman Todd Frazier to the White Sox. Ranked the 24th-best prospect in baseball by MLBPipeline.com and first on the Reds' prospect list, Peraza batted .302/.342/.387 over five Minor League seasons and plays solid defense. Peraza, 21, may or may not be ready for the big leagues on Opening Day, but he will be at some point in 2016. When he's ready, having Phillips at second base will necessitate a decision at that point.
From Phillips' point of view, there's no doubt that he wants to play every day. If he is able to put together a few more good seasons, he could reach some lofty company with 2,000 hits, 200 home runs and 200 steals. The only four second basemen in history to reach those numbers -- Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, Craig Biggio and Roberto Alomar -- are all in the Hall of Fame. Phillips currently has 1,695 career hits, 183 homers and 184 steals as a second baseman.
There is no denying that Phillips is popular among Reds fans -- both on social media and in person. He is active in the Reds' charitable endeavors and has made his home in Cincinnati. To waive his no-trade clause and give all that up certainly wouldn't be easy. But sticking around for a rebuild could be even less appealing, especially if he is denied everyday at-bats on a team that is not expected to contend in 2016.