The deal was done. It was nearly etched in stone and almost single-handedly changed the complexion of the Reds immediate future and it may go unnoticed.
Brandon Phillips had not wanted out of Cincinnati; in fact, he still claims that he loves the fan support he gets while being a member of the Reds. In all honesty, a little bit of jealous more than likely kicked in.
Phillips is slated to make precisely $60 million over these next five seasons, which will put him at the age of 36. Barring a miraculous resurgence on the down side of what has been an above average career, he will more than likely not be receiving one last heroic contract.
He watched teammate and right side of the infield partner, Joey Votto; ink a 10-year, $240 million deal shortly after management told him that money was tight. Understandably, Phillips was probably more taken aback than anything else.
Eventually, he got his deal. The Reds reciprocated the Gold Glove second baseman that had his career rejuvenated as a member of the club and probably paid fair market value for him in their eyes. Unfortunately, as many contract disputes go, the player did not see that as so.
Stuck between the rock and the hard place of not wanting to upset the Reds brass, but also wanting to get his peak dollar amount, Phillips has had a tumultuous few seasons. When a mid-market club, like the Reds, invests double digit millions of dollars into a player, they expect an output worthy of their price tag. While his play has stayed consistent, Phillips has not broken through the glass ceiling so many expected when he showed signs of becoming one of the game’s elite.
Organizations like the Yankees can afford to make mistakes on players like Phillips because they have the bank account to cover it up. Much to the dismay of Phillips, he found out that they were not willing to open their pockets to everyone.
Brett Gardner was going to become a Cincinnati Red and Brandon Phillips was slated to be a New York Yankee. The team had lost Robinson Cano to the Pacific Northwest and did not hope to catch lightning in a bottle with broken-down infielder Brian Roberts manning second base. They were going to ship away a fan favorite, yes, but a surplus good. With Ichiro Suzuki, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran already taking care of the outfield slots, the deal made a ton of sense on the part of the Yankees.
Then, something unusual happened. As curious as it was to watch the Grinch’s heart grow on the night before he almost stole Christmas, the Yankees pockets did a reverse of just that, by shrinking well below the size they had before. Phillips was thrilled to become a Yankee and enjoy the spotlight that New York provides, he just wanted some more cash incentive that he felt he unfairly missed out on the last time around.
The Yankees told Phillips no. His asking price was too high for the almighty Yankees. At that point, Gardner was returned to the Yankees, and Phillips to the Reds. Some argue over whether the trade would have been beneficial or not. Let’s take a look at what the lineup would have looked like had the deal gone through:
CF – Brett Gardner
SS – Zack Cozart
1B – Joey Votto
RF – Jay Bruce
LF – Ryan Ludwick
3B – Todd Frazier
C – Devin Mesoraco
2B – Skip Schumaker
Glaringly sticking out like a sore thumb of that order would be the Reds newfound utilityman, Skip Schumaker.
Much was speculated about how if the deal had taken place, it would open room for Billy Hamilton to waltz into the second base position. It is easy to forget that Hamilton was being groomed as a shortstop for the majority of his young career with the Reds until it became glaringly obvious that the position had a mainstay in Zack Cozart. Appropriately, he was shifted to centerfield, which suites his elite speed and allows him to utilize his greatest weapon.
Asking him to return to second base with no less than a month or so before the team headed to Arizona would be a deftly unfair request from a team that has all but guaranteed him as their Opening Day centerfielder.
In 2010, Hamilton did appear at second base for 55 games while playing for the Billings Mustangs at rookie ball. On the surface, that would qualify as experience. When in actuality, it was four years ago, and it was indeed rookie ball.
Talk was also made of how dynamic an outfield of Hamilton and Gardner could be come 2015 if Ryan Ludwick decides to move on. The speed would have been exhilarating to watch, but only if they reached base. Having one player who relies solely on his speed at the top of the order is daring enough, let alone two.
Alas, this once almost dream has turned into fairy dust. Brett Gardner inked himself a 4-year/52-million dollar deal to stay a member of the New York Yankees just a few short months after they agreed to ship him off to the Midwest. They now have five capable outfielders all making a sizeable sum of money, which is their problem to figure out, and ours to be envious of.
Brandon Phillips will be the Reds second baseman on Opening Day and now must focus on his future, which is more than likely going to involve him wearing red.