Reds are apparently ready to trade second baseman Brandon Phillips Does he fit in Atlanta? Phot Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Phillips Rumors Stoking Braves Hot Stove

Word that the Reds are looking to trade Brandon Phillips this week kicked the damper open on the Braves hot stove season.

The David Price discussion started the fire in Braves hot stove talks but paired with fans disenchantment with Dan Uggla the Phillips rumor poured gasoline onto the fire. Alan provided insight into the trade this morning and  I understand why many want him but I also understand why it’s a bad idea.

Brandon Phillips ( @DatdudeBP Twitter)

BP is widely recognized at the best defensive second baseman in the NL – heck even UZR likes him – and has been for the last six years. In that time he’s never had an OBP under .310 and it usually resides at about .330.  Last year’s .706 OPS was the first time he’s posted a number lower that .750. Here are averages of his production since becoming a Red calculated from Fangraphs.

.277 .327 .439 .766 .162 .295 81 5 .332 100

Those numbers look really good to Braves fans and apparently the front office who watched Uggla decline for three years as David O’Brien tweeted this morning.



The Devil In The Details

There are however other numbers to be considered as well.

Season Age  Salary
2014 33 $11,000,000
2015 34 $12,000,000
2016 35 $13,000,000
2017 36 $14,000,000

Add the last sentence in O’Brien’s tweet to those numbers and that trade doesn’t look nearly as good as it does at first glance.

Simply he says that the Reds would take Uggla and his remaining $26M over two years the Braves would take BP’s $50M over four years. Oh yes and likely we’d have to give them a top prospect like Lucas Sims – they have a highly touted rookie in Devin Mesoraco behind the plate so likely not Christian Bethancourt – or Tommy La Stella as well.


After I posted this last night my feed produced a post by Hal McCoy, a Hall of Fame baseball writer who covered the Reds for 37 years. The post is titled ” ‘For Sale’ sign on Phillips neck”  and I encourage you to read it all for the details.  McCoy begins by saying that “a ‘Make Best Offer’ sign is dangling around Phillips neck” and that the his welcome mat is worn out at Great American Ballpark. He provides two reasons why they would want BP gone. The first is the obvious one, his contract is way to generous for an aging second base man. That said if the contract was the only thing they’d probably grin and bear it. The second and most damning reason according to McCoy is he’s not a good teammate.

. . .”they rid themselves of a troublesome personality in the clubhouse. . .Phillips became persona non grata and probably sealed his fate in August when he told Cincinnati Magazine that the front office lied to him,. . .”

McCoy calls BP “moody”  and said that although he’s a fan favorite ” he is not so popular in the clubhouse and is thought of as a self-promoter.” He sites a source  as telling him that Phillips is more concerned about his numbers and his performance than that of the team. “You can’t tell by Brandon’s face whether we won or lost, but you can tell if he went 0 for 4 or 2 for 4 no matter if we won or lost.”

He acknowledges the offensive and defensive abilities of the All Star second baseman but wonders why with Choo and Votto on ahead of him, he didn’t have more than 103 RBI.  Defensively he says ” Most players on other teams consider (Phillips) a hot dog and when asked once about it, Phillips smiles and said, “Tell ‘em to bring their own mustard.”  He questions whether the Reds can trade him at all. citing an unnamed NL scout as saying  late last year, “I wouldn’t have that guy on my team.”

McCoy says that “Most of the time Phillips is cooperative and incisive with the media. At other times he shuts down, refuses interviews.”  But on reading that piece a second time I felt a tinge of dislike towards the player personally. For example, McCoy says Phillips should have had more RBI but a look at his numbers shows his RBI total was second on the Reds only to Jay Bruce’s 109 and fourth in the league. (Bruce tied with Freddie Freeman for second) With RISP BP had a slash of .338/3404/.469/.873 and drove in 82 runs in 195 PA (160 AB). walking 20 times and striking out only 21.  He had 54 hits with RISP including four homers and nine doubles as well as producing nine runs with sac flies and laying down two sac bunts. He finished with an sOPS+ of 141. (A league average player would have an sOPS+ of 100.) His two out RISP slash  was lower – .271/.411/.356/.767 and his sOPS+ dropped to 124. His high leverage numbers were almost the same – .287/.331/.441/.772, sOPS+ 116- but still above league average.

I’m really not sure what to make of McCoy’s piece. On one hand he is a Hall of Fame writer with 37 years covering the Reds so his quotes from sources are likely valid quotes.  He gets onto shakier ground when he questions BP’s offense and call his defense “hot dogging.” I had heard the BP mustard quote before but not in the negative context McCoy presented it. It also seems to me the players and managers would know about his club house persona and consider that when discussing a trade. One thing the piece does that Walt Jocketty will not be happy about is lower Phillips trade value. If true it would be hard  to convince a team to take him, his full contract AND give up a prospect.


This whole thing only slightly changes the equation for me. If the clubhouse issue is real I don’t want him near my team. if it’s an inability to get along with Dusty Baker, he wouldn’t be the first player to have that. If it’s managers in general I don;t want Fredi Gonzalez attention split between handling Phillips and running the team.   If BP was 29 I’d be on that so fast the Reds heads would spin. If the contract were front end loaded I’d consider it very strongly. But, he’ll BP will play at 33 years old next year and his contract is backend loaded. If he declines like most do as the years go on the Braves would be saddled with another high dollar contract and give up a power arm. His arrival would also block the aforementioned  La Stella who might make the team next year but certainly -unless something derails him – will be in Atlanta NLT 2015. This trade would also take resources needed for Price and leave us without the chance of a power arm in the rotation.  From what I’ve seen on the field an din interviews, I love BP but I’d have to decline this proposition.  I wouldn’t give up a prospect and take all of his contract for him alone even if they take Uggla. If not BP who?

That’s A Wrap

Ah yes, that is indeed the question.  This discussion is however just beginning and the McCoy piece raises new issues to be investigated. If we the Braves do as I expect trade and Uggla for a A ball  prospect and a bag of batting practice baseballs or simply cut him loose, they will have to find a replacement. I was going to expand on that a bit but as I wrote this it became clear that answer is far too much complex for a simple one shot post. So  this Phillips trade analysis is the opening volley is a series of three that I’ll use to review the internal and external options I see at second base.  Chris believes Uggla will still be with us next spring and will chip in with his view soon tell us why. I think that bridge has been burned and we’ll “go another direction” as they say. If the Price post is any indication there are lots of opinions out there so please jump in and – politely please – let us have yours.

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  • Chris Headrick

    I’m still on the fence about a post with my belief that Uggs stays, because the evidence does seem to be mounting that the Braves are looking to get rid of him. It’s hard for me to post because of that, and also because I (too) have called for Uggs departure all season.

    That said, you guys all know as well as I how rumors flow, and writers write, and then managers balk. I’m not convinced yet that the Braves have given up on Dan. Consider that while Dan always has moments of slumping in any season (usually 1st or 2nd half), this is the first year he’s slumped from start to finish. If he’s gone, I don’t think it’s that as much as his sour attitude pre-playoffs when he was being benched. He shut up and said little more, so he may have seen the proverbial writing on the wall. He also may have been told, shut up or it won’t be good for you Dan. I dunno, and neither does anyone else. Even reporters who think they have the scoop are often told only what throws them off the scent.

    BP makes me uneasy. I’ll put it that way. I’ve always liked him as a ball player, and there’s not a ton of “stuff” out there about other players not liking him; at least no more than the usual you hear. He can be a hotdog at times, but more and more players are, and it’s becoming more and more accepted. I’m not sure he’s a good fit for Atlanta, but I think the Braves players would rein him in. I dunno… this one I’m still pondering whether personally I like or not. It makes me juicy gossip though, which men claim they don’t do, but are the worst at in my experience. LOL

    • Sealift67

      I would rather see Tommy LaStella get the shot in ST. Go after
      an outfielder who can play CF, with a running game. This team
      is not that far off from moving up a notch. I would also like to
      see how Terdoslavich develops.

      Until we learn about the futures of O’Flahrety and Venters
      there is a need for a lefthanded late inning guy.

      • Chris Headrick

        Tommy has the potential to have as good a bat as BP if given the chance. He doesn’t hit well for power, but he can rake small ball well, which I think is what Atlanta really needs. He has some holes in his defense, which BP does not, and that is the only concern at 2B. With BP’s age, and the money, I’m inclined as you are to lean more toward giving LaStella a good shot in ST, and not making another mistake on a trade (Uggs, BJ, et al.) I think people get excited about the prospect of a big name for the Braves, and sometimes don’t look at the downside. It’s always a gamble, but not one I’d be willing to take for the 2B spot in 2014.

      • fireboss

        I’m for that as well simply because of that cost plus the sunken costs we already have.

        Joey T is a corner outfielder/first baseman. with no job in ATL in the foreseeable future. He’s not been good off the bench and he’s already done enough in Gwinnett so I don’t see how he can develop. It’s possible I suppose that they’ll move Mejia and slip him in there. But his current best use is as part of a deal.

        The Braves aren’t likely to sign another center fielder with $15M a year guaranteed to BJ and no one will take him at that price.I expect the Braves to retain Schafer as their backup plan and spend a lot of time with Jobu this winter asking for help with BJ.

        • Sealift67

          I agree and I like Schafer yet still still see an
          OF with speed as a good investment. Otherwise
          we are looking at a journeyman pick-up and/or Constanza,
          Todd Cunningham etc. Joey T looks like the type
          of player who would go on to have a solid career
          elsewhere with fans wondering why we didn’t hold
          on to him. Braves had excellent 1B when they
          shipped off Andre Thornton, Tom Paceorik(sp),
          and # of corner OF’s Milt Thompson, Bill Robinson
          etc. I’m likely wrong yet would like to see what Joey
          can do.

  • aRunning_Maniac

    If it means we have to part with Sims or Graham, then it’s an authoritative “No, thank you”. But given the amount Phillips is owed, and the fact that Phillips’ 10/5 rights kick in during the 2014 season, I think the Reds would be willing to trade him for something less. If that were the case, I would go for it.

    Phillips is still a good defender, and if he were to perform at least decently with the bat for a year or two, the Braves could potentially net something of value later down the road via another trade. It’s a little risky, but besides this, I don’t see any other way one could maximize the return in an Uggla trade.

    • fireboss

      A straight swap wouldn’t be awful. I could see an eventual move of BP to third if La Stella forces his way up. The only question would be his arm and his attitude toward a move. I’m of the view that CJ will return to his baseball card this year or next (not because of sabermetrics but because his K rate and other numbers are essentially unchanged from before.
      The only issue really is the 13.5M AAV over the last two years of his contract..

    • carpengui

      Darn good point on the 10/5 rule: for Cincy, it’s clearly, then, a now or never proposition.

  • Lee Trocinski

    Phillips should be about an average player over the next 4 years, about 7 WAR, which is below market value, even for free agents. Let’s call it about a $15M deficit, using the standard $5M per win value. Uggla will be lucky to be replacement level, so he’s basically a $30M deficit. There’s also a bit of value in getting those extra wins, no matter the price, so let’s say the Braves need to add another $20M of value to this trade.

    La Stella is the logical piece, so he would need to be around that $20M surplus value in his first six cost-controlled seasons. That is only 4 wins, but he’s no sure thing at 2B, and he won’t get walked as much at the major league level without showing decent power. He’s also going to be 25 next year, so further development is limited compared to normal minor leaguers. That being said, this seems like it’s around the right number for this deal.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of BP, especially after his C Trent rant. I’d rather not have the Braves do this deal, but I can’t blame them if they did. I’d rather dump Uggla and pay for most of his salary, and signing someone like Kelly Johnson or Brian Roberts to a 1-year deal with the savings, then having La Stella come in 2015, or middle of next year if necessary.

    • fireboss

      If any of McCoy’s piece has legs I don’t want him near the team. I know personalities aren’t measurable but it does have an effect. AFAIK everyone on the team now is committed to the team though I have questions about a couple.

      Thanks for Roberts I forgot he was a FA I’ll add him to my external options. Cincy has an urgency to move him as aRunning_Maniac noted below, next year he’s 10/5 and can simply refuse the trade. The Royals may well look at him as they’ve been casting about for a 2B.

  • adw25

    I dunno. Maybe BP has never felt comfortable in the Cincy clubhouse. perhaps being around more African American players like J-Hey and the Uptons’, guys that probably share his culture might do him some good. and maybe a change of scenery might help Dan because in spite of the hate he gets from fans Uggla is well liked by his teammates so maybe Cincy might be better off having Dan than BP in theirs and it could have a positive impact on his production.

    • fireboss

      He left Cleveland in a hurry too. Just saying that if it happens once with a great player it’s not fitting in. If it happens more than that there’s something else going on.

      • Lee Trocinski

        His departure from Cleveland was performance-based. He was about to get DFA’d after an average-hitting season in AAA at age 24 and no major league success.

        • fireboss

          I was relying on McCoy’s reports and others that hinted at unspecified other issues. Frankly his my $50m offer is a slap in the face comment is I think indicative that the self promotion idea is more than gossip. No one made him sign it and while Canoe and Pedroia will make more both are younger, one is a top of the line hitter and the other a superb all around player.

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