Word that the Reds are looking to trade Brandon Phillips this week kicked the damper open on the Braves hot stove season.
— Eye on Baseball (@EyeOnBaseball) October 18, 2013
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.
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.
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) October 19, 2013
The Devil In The Details
There are however other numbers to be considered as well.
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.