Brandon Phillips was traded in the early hours Saturday, February 11th, 2017, and the city of Cincinnati and their Reds’ fans went bonkers; I both understand and don’t understand the reaction.
I spent many nights in my teenage years sitting in Great American Ballpark with my dad and brother… and little-known (actually, semi-well-known) fact, I’m a recovering autograph hound. Waiting in the autograph line long enough warranted at least one guarantee, the team’s 3x All Star, 4x Gold Glove, and 1x Silver Slugger awarded second baseman’s signature.
During his 10 years with Cincinnati, Brandon Phillips became the unequivocal face of Cincinnati Reds baseball; a majority of the fans dawned his #4 on their jerseys or player t-shirts, everyone had at least something marked with his signature, and he was the one guy on the team where if you asked three different people about him, you might get three different opinions.
His personality helped push the team to three playoff trips. His appearances on Baseball Tonight‘s WebGems and SportsCenter‘s Top 10 kept an otherwise quiet organization in the light of the national media. His social media presence was pretty much the lone off-the-field voice leaking from the Reds’ locker room.
That sounds like an obituary to a hell of a presence, right? Well, you could argue that, but it’s pretty clear that Brandon Phillips had overstayed his tenure in Cincinnati.
Since the 2015-2016 offseason, Phillips has been one of the figureheads of trade candidates surrounding the Cincinnati baseball youth movement. In December of 2015, USA Today reported that the Gold Glover had declined trades to both the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals, as he refused to wave his no-trade clause.
Even before the national media leaked those failed trades, there was a notion of finality at the Cincinnati Reds fan event, RedsFest, as Phillips appeared to be saying his goodbyes to members of the organization (I may have overheard Phillips mention he assumed he would be traded during the offseason to the team’s flight attendant).
Later, Phillips would go on to block a trade to his hometown Atlanta Braves in early January, but a month later, accepted a trade on similar bounds in route to Hotlanta.
Unlike most fans, I was happy to see Twitter’s @DatDudeBP head to Atlanta; it gives him a chance to compete for something. More substantive to my fandom, it gives the Reds’ prospects a chance to get Major League innings.
Cincinnati’s #2 prospect a season ago (he’s now played too much ball to still be considered a prospect), Jose Peraza, plays just about every position on the diamond, but has been developed primarily as a 2B/SS prospect.
While he doesn’t get the fan love of Phillips, Peraza is a more valuable player; Peraza had a .324/.352/.411 in 72 games with comparable defense to Phillips’s .291/.320/.416 in 141 games.
Plus, the Reds have a talented player headed up the majors, the second baseman Dilson Herrera, who was acquired as part of the 2016-Jay-Bruce-Deadline-Deal with the New York Mets. His numbers aren’t great, but he’s a plus defender with much more speed than Phillips.
What it ultimately comes down to with Phillips is age, which has tipped to the opposite of his favor. With a pair of 22-year-old second basemen, a lack of ability to compete for the present, and a need to develop other professionals, Phillips had become dead weight, which stinks.
There is a fine line between being a great team and just a team; that line is divided by wins and losses. The Cincinnati Reds no longer had the chance to be on the plus-side of that wins line while Phillips was taking up the innings at second.
BP, you were great, but it’s time we see other people.