It’s been widely noted for a while now that both Phillips and the Reds are interested in working out a long-term extension. However, all the talk and so little action has got me wondering, does the organization really want to keep Phillips around beyond this year? Their moves lately have me seriously doubting their intentions.
Firstly, the club decided to pick up the 1yr/$12M option they held for the All-Star rather than re-negotiating a long-term deal – much to the chagrin of Phillips who hinted of the decision beforehand as a “slap in the face”. Secondly, they forked out money they claimed they didn’t have to multiple newcomers this winter -- the most notable being free agents Ryan Madson ($8.5M) and Ryan Ludwick ($2.5M), in addition to a $16.5M extension for Sean Marshall thru 2015. Of course, most of these moves were made possible by the departure of Francisco Cordero and his $12M salary, but both Ludwick and Madson hold hefty team options for 2013 – money that could’ve been delegated to Phillips’ new contract.
The third notion that the club would be hesitant to extend a long-term offer to Phillips concerns his age and rising prospect Billy Hamilton. The native Georgian will turn 31 this season – not old by any standards – but still on the downhill side of what many consider the “peak” of an athlete’s pro career (30). And with the speedy and highly-regarded Hamilton inching closer to being big league ready, it’s likely to put some pressure on the franchise to make a decision – Hamilton or Phillips?
Perhaps the most compelling reason for letting Phillips walk this offseason has to do with money. There’s no denying that the team won’t be able to afford all of its young stars eventually, so unfortunately they’ll have to decide who they want to try to keep around. Whether or not Phillips is one of those guys remains to be seen, but if they wish to retain Joey Votto past 2013 one of two things has to happen: either they find a way to generate more payroll, or they have to save cash by letting Phillips go.
All in all, I do expect the Reds to truly try and reach an agreement with their Gold Glove second basemen by season’s end. However, the business side of things cannot be ignored. If they can’t construct a contract that will fit into their future plans than so be it. But for the time being, Phillips remains in the Queen City for at least one more season – a season many in Reds country expects to be a special one – perhaps even leading to the franchise’s sixth World Series title.