Brandon Phillips Trade Rumors: 5 Potential Suitors for Reds' Star Second Baseman
Brandon Phillips will always be a flashy fielder and boisterous clubhouse leader, but his future as the second baseman of the Cincinnati Reds is clearly in doubt, according to John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Although the 32-year-old is signed through 2017, rumor has it that he's available via trade. There are bound to be suitors for someone with such durability and defensive talent.
An abrupt exit from the postseason for the third time in four years convinced the Reds to dismiss longtime manager Dusty Baker. However, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that the plan to shop Phillips was hatched in September, when the club was still a World Series contender.
There are four years and $50 million remaining on the All-Star's contract. Even so, perhaps an agreement can be reached between general manager Walt Jocketty and one of the following teams.
Kansas City Royals
During a Twitter conversation on Friday, Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star didn't seem on board with the idea of the Kansas City Royals pursuing Brandon Phillips.
That doesn't mean the team's front office will be as dismissive.
The Royals went 86-76 in 2013 for their best performance of the wild-card era. Expanding the payroll and trading for All-Star-caliber veterans the prior offseason had a lot to do with the turn-around.
With Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen headed for free agency, they might have enough room for the Brandon Phillips' contract (or at least a portion of it).
The need for an upgrade at second base is obvious. Six Kansas City players combined for a .243/.296/.304 batting line and only four home runs at the position, and their defense wasn't even on par with Phillips'. Speedster Emilio Bonifacio stopped the carousel late in the summer (.700 OPS in 42 games), but his value hinges on versatility and the ability to shift between the infield and outfield based on team need.
Zach Links of MLB Trade Rumors casually noted that Brandon Phillips might fit in the Baltimore Orioles' plans, and understandably so.
The disastrous $40 million contract extension they gave to Brian Roberts has mercifully expired. He seldom played from 2010-2013, and even during the brief stretches of good health, it was evident that the veteran baseman was far removed from his prime years.
Don't bet on Ryan Flaherty filling the void on a regular basis. The 27-year-old is only a .221/.279/.378 career hitter.
Besides, he'll likely be needed at the hot corner early in the season. Manny Machado underwent successful surgery on a torn ligament in his left knee, Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun reports, but he potentially faces six months of rehab. Opening Day 2014 wouldn't be a realistic return date in that scenario.
Moreover, trading for Brandon Phillips would block him from joining an AL East rival...
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees made an exception to their own policy this past summer and engaged in contract negotiations with Robinson Cano's representatives.
They never came close to agreeing to an extension, however, and the free-agent-to-be is eyeing a record-shattering commitment (by second base standards).
Cano turns 31 next week, so he's approximately 16 months younger than Brandon Phillips. His .314/.383/.516 batting line in 2013 obliterated Phillips' .261/.310/.396 production, and they're both recognized as above-average fielders.
Because of those differences, Cano has a legitimate shot of doubling his Cincinnati Reds counterpart in average annual salary. Moreover, the deal is also a lock to run beyond 2017.
With that said, ESPNNewYork.com reports that the Yankees might not mind splurging on Cano and other top-tier free agents to ensure a bounce-back season. Unless the price of re-signing their superstar becomes prohibitive, it's hard to imagine them surrendering young players for Phillips.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Bob Nightengale wants us to understand that Brandon Phillips' status as a trade candidate "has nothing to do" with his contract. The Cincinnati Reds won't simply dump him on the deep-pocketed Los Angeles Dodgers unless there's significant talent headed the other way.
Mark Ellis has been L.A.'s starter at second base since 2012, and the team can retain him for another summer by exercising a $5.75 million option ($1 million buyout). Not bad considering that he provides almost as much overall value as Phillips.
Then again, the 36-year-old has spent much more time on the disabled list in recent seasons. He also lacks Phillips' knack for producing with runners in scoring position (.338/.404/.469 last season). In fact, the Dodgers as a whole sorely need more guys with that drive-'em-in-however-I-can approach.
The NL West champs have made no secret of the fact that they're seeking a new second baseman. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Cuban free agent Alexander Guerrero is still one of their targets.
Unlike Guerrero, the Dodgers know what to expect from Phillips, and that could persuade them to participate in trade talks.
New York Mets
MetsBlog's Matthew Cerrone warned us a couple weeks ago that the New York Mets would be linked to Brandon Phillips if he were to be formally placed on the trading block.
It's a plausible fit.
Matt Harvey's Tommy John surgery leaves captain David Wright as the only player on the projected 2014 roster with any bit of national prominence. Phillips' showmanship and Twitter presence could help revive a fanbase that hasn't been motivated to visit Citi Field the past few years, according to ESPN.com.
Current Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy is actually superior to Phillips at the plate, so a trade wouldn't expel him from the starting lineup. Rather, Murphy seems like a candidate to switch positions. Perhaps he'll become an everyday option at first (if the organization has run out of patience with Ike Davis).
This team certainly possesses the kind of high-upside prospects—such as Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard—that the Cincinnati Reds dream of obtaining in exchange for Phillips.
Ely is a national MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a sportscaster for 90.5 WVUM in Miami. He’s hoping to deepen relationships with his fantastic online audience (that means you) via Twitter.