Brandon Phillips is one of the most polarizing players in MLB. He has a tendency to be flashy when flashiness is not necessary, particularly on defense. Along with being flashy, Phillips also tends to be, to put it nicely, outspoken. Phillips once accused Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher Jared Hughes of using a racial slur towards him. Hughes and the Pirates’ front office denied that he had said anything that could have been racially offensive.
I’m not a fan of Phillips; let’s just get that out of the way. But then again, I’m not a Cincinnati Reds fan. Phillips is the kind of player that fans love to hate if he isn’t on their team, and I am one of them. Even though I don’t particularly like Phillips’ act on the baseball field, that doesn’t mean I can’t look at his numbers objectively and see that any team willing to take on his salary in a trade would be foolish.
Phillips, 32, has seen his performance decline significantly since 2011. His 2011 season was outstanding, with a .300/.353/.457 slash line and a 5.6 fWAR. In 2012, Phillips’ line dipped to .281/.321/.429 and his fWAR dropped to 3.7. His biggest drop in performance came in 2013, with a .261/.310/.396 line and a 91 wRC+ and a 2.6 fWAR. His 91 wRC+ is well below the MLB average of 100. Many folks seemed to think that Phillips’ 2013 season was great because of his 103 RBIs, but he hit behind Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo all season, leaving him several RBI opportunities.
Phillips doesn’t like to walk; his career walk percentage of just 5.8 is not good at all. The fact that he didn’t even slug over .400 in 2013 in the great hitters’ park that is Great American Ballpark is a very bad sign. Luckily for Phillips, he plays good defense and he plays a position with very few impact players. Even with his declining performance, he remains a top-10 second baseman.
Along with his declining performance, Phillips is owed $50 million over the next four seasons. The Reds, if they could get anything valuable in return, would be very smart to move him now before his performance gets even worse as he ages. Two obvious teams that could take on his salary and that have potential needs at second base are the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, but even they might not take on his salary.
It will be interesting to see what happens to Phillips. It is always possible that a team will trade for Phillips because he is a “big name” player with potential to be very good, but any smart team will likely pass on him unless the Reds offer to pay a decent portion of his remaining salary.