MLB Hot Stove: Brandon Phillips more open to a trade, but his value is diminished
The Reds second baseman only has one year left on his deal
Something we've been discussing for the past week-plus ad nauseam is that the free agent market is weak and there aren't many teams in "sell" mode this offseason. As such, we're left picking at the bones of the few sellers or teams that we think should be selling in trying to envision possible trade scenarios. One of the teams that is definitely in sell mode with a few of its pieces is the Cincinnati Reds.
Regarding former All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips, we have this:
Sources: Brandon Phillips is more willing to consider waiving no-trade clause this offseason than last, with only 1 year left on deal. @MLB— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 12, 2016
Remember, Phillips vetoed a trade to the Nationals last offseason. A bit off-topic: He should have been named Washington's team MVP for 2016, given that they signed MVP candidate Daniel Murphy after the Phillips deal didn't come to fruition.
Phillips is no MVP candidate, of course, and isn't even All-Star caliber anymore. In fact, he's coming off a season in which he was barely above replacement level.
So does he have value in a trade?
That depends on if you can find an old-school front office that is interested in a 36-year-old (he will be next season) second baseman that makes $14 million. Yes, his deal is up after next season, but I don't know how he's worth anything even close to his salary.
I mentioned an old-school front office, and I'm saying that because Phillips looks good in batting average. He looks decent in power and steals. He used to be awesome at defense, but new-school numbers show that he's long graduated from those days.
Phillips hit .291 last year with 34 doubles, 11 homers, 64 RBI and 14 steals. That probably sounds really good, so let's dive deeper as any GM worth his weight would.
It was an empty batting average, since he walked only 18 times and his .320 on-base percentage is below league average.
We also need to keep in mind how good of an offensive season second basemen collectively had in the majors in 2016. I covered the middle-infield power surge in late September and Phillips was a bit left behind.
For example, here's where Phillips ranked among second basemen in some popular counting stats:
Home runs: 26th
He better be awesome on defense in order to justify giving up something in a trade for his $14 million salary.
Again, Phillips used to be. It's just that he's not anymore.
Phillips committed 14 errors in 2016, the first time he hit double digits since 2006. We know that range matters more than errors, though, as you can't commit an error when you can't get to a ball. He's lost a ton of range in his mid-30s, too. Defensive Runs Saved is a personal preference in defensive metrics that have a range component and Phillips used to be exceptional, getting up into double digits three times in his career. He was even a plus-4 in 2015. In 2016, though, he was negative-7. Among players with over 1,000 innings at second, only Starlin Castro, Daniel Murphy and Rougned Odor were worse.
OK, but the 14 steals are nice!
Of course, Phillips was also caught stealing eight times. That's a 64 percent success rate when the league average was 71 percent. He was picked off three times (only 10 NL players were picked off more). He made seven outs on the bases, which doesn't include caught stealing or pickoffs -- that's two more than league average. He took the extra base (i.e. gets to third on a single instead of just second) 40 percent of the time, which is exactly league average.
So, yeah, pardon me for not calling Phillips a good baserunner.
The entire picture above manifests itself in Phillips 0.8 WAR. So he's barely better than replacement level. Judging on a team WAR basis, only the Phillies were worse at second than the Reds last season.
Given his $14 million salary, the Reds being in a rebuild and Phillips' declining performance as he works up into his late 30s, I 100 percent understand why the Reds would want to trade him. But an interested team will be expecting more from the past-his-prime second baseman if they're giving up anything of value for him.
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