Phillips signs 1-year deal with Angels

January 10th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- The Angels have made it their mission to add quality depth this offseason, and they improved their outfield on Monday, signing Brett Phillips to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million. Right-hander Austin Warren was designated for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster.

Phillips is yet another veteran addition for the Angels this offseason and is regarded as an elite defender and a clubhouse leader.

He’s had trouble finding offensive consistency, but he has been working with private hitting coach Trent Woodward this offseason to retool his swing. Woodward is the same coach who helped Taylor Ward fix his mechanics en route to his breakout year in 2022.

“We think he can play, he’s a really impactful defender who can play all three outfield positions and can really throw,” general manager Perry Minasian said Tuesday. “And I think with the new rule changes, baserunning will be more important. He can run the bases and steal bases and win you games there. And then offensively, he’s done a lot this offseason to work on things and we think he’s going to drastically improve.”

Phillips, 28, struggled offensively in 2022, posting a .144/.217/.249 slash line with five homers and 15 RBIs in 83 games between the Rays and Orioles. He fared much better in ’21, when he slashed .206/.300/.427 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs in 119 games with Tampa Bay. He’s a career .188/.273/.348 hitter in six seasons with the Brewers, Royals, Rays and Orioles.

Phillips said he reached out to Woodward, his former teammate in the Minor Leagues with the Astros, after he was DFA’d by the Rays on Aug. 1. Phillips said he cold-called Woodward after losing touch over the years because he saw the impact he had on Ward. By coincidence, Phillips was moving to the same city in Texas that Woodward lived in, so the two were able to work together this offseason. Phillips’ home wasn’t quite ready yet, so he and his wife moved in with his in-laws, including his father-in-law Trey Hillman, who was a roving Minor League instructor for the Angels last year. 

Phillips' swing changes were enough for the Angels to offer him a Major League contract, and Phillips said they were the only club among the 10 to 15 interested to offer him an MLB deal. 

“Everybody sees the statistics from last year and thinks, 'Maybe Brett Phillips is undeserving of a Major League contract,' and at times, I believed that,” Phillips said. “But with a lot of hard work this offseason with Trent Woodward, who is Taylor Ward’s guy, a lot of swing revamp went on. The Angels saw something they believed could help them win baseball games, and I firmly believe that myself.” 

Phillips will be used as the club’s fourth outfielder and can give superstar Mike Trout a break in center field when needed. He could also come in late in games as a defensive replacement. He’s the second outfielder added to the roster this offseason, as the Angels also acquired Hunter Renfroe in a trade with the Brewers. Renfroe is expected to start in right field, with Trout in center and Ward in left.

The addition of Phillips means that outfielders Jo Adell and Mickey Moniak are likely to start the year at Triple-A Salt Lake. Adell and Moniak were highly regarded prospects who have struggled offensively in the Majors, so this gives them a chance to get more seasoning. There’s also a chance the Angels could decide to trade Adell, although Minasian likes the idea of having depth.  

“They both haven’t necessarily turned the corner yet, but they’ve been putting in a lot of work this offseason to do that,” Minasian said. “And I think we forget how young they are. So, as far as our roster, how things look today doesn’t mean that’s how it’ll look at the end of Spring Training.” 

Phillips is yet another veteran joining the Angels this offseason, as they also signed left-hander Tyler Anderson, infielder Brandon Drury and reliever Carlos Estévez to multiyear deals, while also trading for Renfroe and infielder Gio Urshela.

Phillips is also known for his personality, as he’s considered one of baseball’s funniest and most engaging players. He memorably notched the hit that led to the Rays' wild walk-off win in Game 4 of the 2020 World Series against the Dodgers and capped it with an airplane celebration in center field.