Sunday, November 10, 2013

Brandon Phillips-Dexter Fowler trade labeled 'tempting'

Could the Reds and Rockies be doing business together this offseason?

According to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, Colorado has talked with All-Star Carlos Gonzalez about the possibility of moving from right to center field next season. Apparently, Gonzalez has already told the club he would be willing to do it, under the condition that it be his regular position. Of course, the mere fact that the Rockies are inquiring has been viewed by ESPN Insider AJ Mass as a subtle indication that the club may be open to moving center field incumbent Dexter Fowler.

Who might be interested in the services of the 27-year-old Fowler? Yeah, you guessed it, the Reds, who are faced with the difficult challenge of replacing Shin-Soo Choo in center field next year. And Cincinnati may have just the bargaining chip to wave at the Rockies in the personnel of defamed All-Star second basemen Brandon Phillips, whose remaining $50 million contract is a burden the Reds are (reportedly) impetuously trying to shed from the payroll.

From ESPN Insider:

A more tempting trading partner for the Rockies could be the Cincinnati Reds, who not only are set to lose Shin-Soo Choo to free agency, but also may be looking to send second baseman Brandon Phillips packing. Although DJ LeMahieu did finish the year hot, hitting safely in each of his last 21 starts, the power potential of Phillips might be too good to pass up, should these two squads come to the table.

Although the speedy Billy Hamilton provides a viable option to replace Choo, Fowler would definitely be seen as a safer bet, however, a more expensive one, too. The Atlanta native is set to earn as salary of $7.35 million in 2014. Meanwhile, Hamilton will make around the league minimum.

The good news with Fowler is that he will also be under team control through 2015, which means he cannot bolt for free agency like Choo has done, until the winter heading into the 2016 campaign. 

One concern with Fowler that may keep the Reds astray, aside from the price, is the effect that Coors Field has (or has not) had on Fowler's production. Fowler has spent his entire six-year career playing at home at Coors, which has culminated into a career slash line of .298/.395/.485, but just .241/.333/.361 on the road. Given those splits are based off of over 650 games and nearly 3,000 plate appearances, that is a pretty reliable sample size to go off of, which should be cause for at least some concern.

Of course, it should also be noted that Fowler, if indeed the Reds traded for him, would be moving from one hitter-friendly park to another. So, perhaps the thin air at Coors Field hasn't inflated his production as much as one might be led to believe. Plus, at just 27-years-old, and after having gained considerable experience in the majors, Fowler is entering the prime of his career, which could mean he is on the verge of some breakout seasons. But there is never any guarantee to something of that nature.

One final thing to consider if a trade did happen, and Phillips was one of the players included, the Reds would suddenly find themselves with a gaping hold at second base, with no real replacement options. So, this could ultimately stifle any chances of a such a deal taking place, which may not be the worst thing to happen for the Reds, because I am still not sold that sending Phillips packing is the best baseball move.

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