Saturday, November 16, 2013

Decision to trade Brandon Phillips more complicated than meets the eye

Oh, how things can change ever so quickly.

Brandon Phillips has gone from the player that every fan loves to adore to the player most fans love to abominate in less than a year. The dramatic transformation of circumstance is truly amazing to witness.

Of course, a lot of the scrutiny has been brought upon by the boisterous Phillips himself. In July, Phillips stirred up the pot when he told Cincinnati Magazine that he felt the way ownership handled his contract extension was "a slap in the face," among other scathing comments, which obviously didn't sit well with the Castellini family, nor the rest of the front office. Simply put, you don't bite the hand that feeds you, or in this case, the hand that pays you roughly $72.5 million spread over six seasons.

A month later, the Gold Glove second basemen found himself in off-the-field trouble once more, when he barged into Dusty Baker's office, interrupted an interview between his skipper and C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer, and proceeded to berate Rosecrans for a tweet the reporter had published about Phillips' career on-base percentage when hitting in the No. 2 hole. Unfortunately for Phillips, the entire fiasco was captured on video and immediately went viral on the web. If the spectacle isn't caught on camera, the situation is never heard about, but because it was, Phillips landed in hot water yet again.

Now, it appears his temporary lapses of judgement, coupled with his declining production at the plate, as well as the $50 million remaining on his contract has made him a prime candidate to be traded. Although still revered as a fan favorite among Reds Country, Phillips has certainly lost some support over the past few months, almost to the point where it seems ragging on his ability and character has become the popular thing for select media pundits and baseball fans alike to do, unfortunately.

In fairness, some of the criticism of Phillips is justified. The Georgia native has seen decreases in his batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and doubles each of the last three seasons. Plus, there has been more than one report that has suggested Phillips isn't exactly the most liked player in the clubhouse. Aside from being touted as a "self promoter," his nonchalant attitude undoubtedly rubs some people the wrong way at times, which over the course of a long MLB season has a tendency to ignite a few fuses every now and then. In a profession where grown men spend nearly nine months out of the year living in the same quarters of one another, chemistry is of the utmost premium, and teams cannot afford to have any bad apples, so to speak, choosing to go their own way.

Despite all of this, Phillips has still managed to win two Gold Glove Awards, one Silver Slugger Award, and garner two trips to the All-Star Game since 2011. His defensive prowess has earned him the reputation as one of the top fielding second basemen in the game and the 103 runs he batted in last season shouldn't go unnoticed either, although I believe it has.

So, as the Reds reportedly dangle their All-Star second basemen out on the trade market, it begs the question: Will the club really be better off without his services? In reality, the decision on whether to move Phillips is not as simple as that. Sure, ridding themselves of what some have referred to as a "burdensome contract" would be nice in the long run, but for a franchise that has built a roster to compete for championships, is it in the best interest to part ways with an established veteran who without question will help win games in 2014?

These are all things general manager Walt Jocketty has to factor in when deciding if he wants to pull the trigger on a trade or not. The Reds have no clear replacement at second base should Phillips be dealt, let alone a replacement that can provide the defense, and to some extent, the offense he offers. On the other hand, unloading Phillips and his contract would free up necessary payroll room if the Reds wanted to use that money to distribute elsewhere, namely on contract extensions or for free agents. Furthermore, removing Phillips from the clubhouse could be a classic case of addition by subtraction, if indeed the reports are true that he is viewed as more of a distraction and nuisance than a team player.

At the time of this writing, a poll question posed on Redlegs Review revealed that 56 percent of the 274 respondents said the Reds should not elect to trade Phillips. While this is admittedly a relatively small sample size, I think it's pretty indicative to the way Reds fans as a whole view the situation.

Whatever his fate may be, Phillips has been nothing short of outstanding in his eight seasons in a Reds uniform. If his playing days in Cincinnati are truly over, he will go down as one of the greatest middle infielders the storied franchise has ever had, and trails only Hall of Fame second basemen Joe Morgan as the best to play the position in the history of Reds baseball.

1 comment: said...

Greatest Reds second basemen in order (my opinion): Joe Morgan, Bid McPhee, Hughie Critz, Lonnie Frey, Brandon Phillips, Bret Boone, Miller Huggins, Tommy Helms, Johnny Temple, Ron Oester