In the middle of the 2013 MLB season, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips criticized ownership for telling him they didn’t have the funds to extend his contract, only to turn around and give first baseman Joey Votto one of the largest contracts in the history of the game. He used some harsh words and called his boss, Bob Castellini, a liar on a public platform. The kicker is, all of this drama came out after Brandon got a six-year, $72.5 million extension. I would be complaining, too, right? Shortly after the World Series ended, the Reds front office, to no one’s surprise, declared Brandon Phillips would be shopped this offseason. Now, six weeks later, General Manager Walt Jocketty took a step back, telling MLB.com reporter Mark Sheldon this week that he is “not in any talks to trade him.” Many believe, myself included, that this is just Jocketty’s way to gain leverage in trade talks. While the jury is still out, here are a few reasons both for and against trading Brandon Phillips.
Why the Reds should keep Brandon Phillips:
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- The Reds are coming off a 90 win season and have been to the playoffs three out of four years. Brandon Phillips has been an integral part of this recent success and a major rostershakeup would seem unnecessary. The Reds’ core is getting older and more expensive every year, a problem for a mid-market team. The window for contention is closing for this group and Brandon is an asset in the short-term.
- Brandon Phillips is the arguably the best defensive second baseman in baseball. He won his fourth gold glove in 2013. The Reds pitching staff and their 3.38 ERA (4th best in all of baseball) will miss him greatly.
- Phillips provides pop at second base, having, unbelievably, hit exactly 18 homeruns for each ofthe past four seasons. When you play your home games in the band box that is Great American Ballpark, you need players that can take advantage of the short fences.
- He is coming off the worst season of his Reds’ career and yet he was able to produce 1.7 WAR (an all-encompassing statistic, WAR stands for Wins above Replacement Player), making him the 12th most valuable second baseman in the game. Not terrible for a down year.
- Since it was Phillips’ worst full season, Walt Jocketty would be trading low. He also sacrificed all leverage by letting everyone in baseball know exactly what the Reds’ intentions are. Lastly, Phillips has a no-trade clause that gives him the power to prevent a trade with 20 out of 30 teams. In summary, it would be difficult to get a full return on Phillips this offseason.
Why the Reds should trade Brandon Phillips:
- If you think Phillips’ feelings were hurt after Joey Votto got a contract extension, wait until he shows up for Spring Training after an off-season full of trade rumors. An unhappy clubhouse is no place to spend a long summer.
- Although it happens to the best of us, his skills are declining with age. The last three seasons his WAR has dropped from 4.7 to 3.5 to 1.7. If he continues to decline from last season’s already mediocre .310 On-Base-Percentage, he will lose value quickly. He also no longer adds value on the base paths, stealing a career-low 5 bases in 2013.
- Some Phillips supporters will point to his 103 RBIs last season, but this often overvalued stat can be attributed primarily to the hitters in front of him in the lineup. Joey Votto’s .435 OBP and Shin Soo Choo’s .423 OBP ranked them 2nd and 4th in MLB, respectively.
- Phillips is owed $50 million over the next 4 years, which is substantial for the mid-market Reds. His salary could be re-invested in the form of a lead-off hitter or clean-up hitter if he was traded.
- The prospects the Reds would net would add value to a depleted Reds farm system, as Louisville Bats fans can attest to. A healthy farm system is essential for sustained success in the mid-market game.
As many Reds fans do, I feel a certain attachment to the long-tenured Red. But I am more attached to winning. I won’t be disappointed with either outcome.