The Value of Brandon Phillips

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If you read the final installment of the Reds Round Table, you also read where I asked the panel about Brandon Phillips and the possibility of offering him a contract extension. In that post, I had Tina from from Rockin’ Redlegs and Chad from Redleg Nation and their responses. Well, something happened along the way…

You see, I was going to do a “best of” and draw responses from everyone’s submissions for a special post. Then, I got to thinking especially have tirelessly watching the video of BP’s walk-off from Friday night: how valuable is BP to this team?

I didn’t have to go too far in order to find the answer, but I will also bring back Tina and Chad along with the others for this.

Just to review, here were Tina’s and Chad’s responses.

If Walt does not sign Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati will take it very personally. He is one of the greatest baseball players of his time. He’s on the verge of his third gold glove, which is demonstrated on a near-daily basis with his constant Web Gem-worthy plays at Second Base. He’s one of our most consistent hitters – he’s batting .290 and can literally hit anywhere in the batting order. He’s one of the top three players on the team overall, and it’s not like Brandon is asking for anything excessive – he just wants to be paid fairly, on par with Votto and Bruce (who are the other two in the top three), and that’s not too much to ask. Brandon wants to play for us, but I know that there are many other teams out there that are interested in him. If Walt doesn’t extend Brandon’s contract, and soon, he will be snatched up quicker than his barehanded throws to first, and the Reds will have a mutiny on their hands.

My answer last year was no, because he’d be too expensive and he had too much of a tendency to hot dog and be lazy on the field. My opinion of BP has changed. Phillips might still be too expensive, but I think the Reds need to try to do everything they can to sign BP to an extension in the neighborhood of three years. The problems with lack of hustle have disappeared as his production has increased, and there isn’t a player on the Reds who enjoys being a Cincinnati Red more than BP.

Of course, his profile is rising around the country, and it may be difficult to convince Phillips to sign a reasonable contract. I think the Reds have to try, however.

Something that struck me when reading Tina’s response is what got my thinker thinking…spot in the batting order. Upon review, Phillips has been only in two different spots: 2nd and cleanup. Dig just a little and you will notice something pretty scary…

So I looked at the “2-hole”. BP has started in that spot 55 times this season. Here’s the breakdown:

Reds: .254/.316/.369, 9 HR, 40 RBI
BP: .292/.336/.405, 5 HR, 25 RBI
Others: .200/.289/.291, 4 HR, 15 RBI

The biggest “culprit” in those games when BP is in his other lineup “home” of cleanup is Edgar Renteria. He slash is downright ugly: .167/.295/.197, 0 HR, 5 RBI. This is not another rant about Renteria. The numbers speak for themselves on this. There’s no need for a rant when these numbers are staring you in the face and saying “I can’t hit second”. I only hope Dusty sees (and is aware) of these crappy numbers.

But it doesn’t stop there. I referred to the other spot in the lineup for Phillips: cleanup. BP has recently moved back there and once you ponder the numbers, you will see that this guy could well be the Reds MVP so far in 2011.

Reds: .243/.313/.372, 9 HR, 54 RBI
BP: .276/.333/.418, 4 HR, 26 RBI
Others: .224/.302/.346, 5 HR, 28 RBI

Two players that predominantly contribute to the “others” are Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce. Their contribution (or as you’ll see, lack of) is as follows:

Rolen: .203/.245/.308, 2 HR, 15 RBI
Bruce: .225/.329/.324, 1 HR, 6 RBI

You might consider Bruce, as Kerry puts it, a small sample as it is only 20 games. But it is telling. It is telling me what I had feared when fans were screaming for Bruce to be inserted into the cleanup spot, he’s too streaky for that spot in the order. Plus, when Jay hits a slump, he really hits a slump! You need more consistency from your cleanup guy. That’s one of many reasons that the Reds were successful last season. Rolen was that anchor hitting cleanup.

We all know of BP and his defense, as in many view him as maybe the best defensive second sacker in baseball. But it’s the intangibles that Phillips can now bring to the table. Let the panel take it away…

Kerry of BRM:

The Phillips extension would depend on the asking price. If he can be re-signed in the ballpark of a 4-year, $40 million deal, I’d do it. It’s worth trying to get creative to make it happen. BP isn’t the offensive player he was 3 years ago, but he’s solid and versatile. His defense is beyond amazing. He also brings added value due to his “fan friendly,” marketable demeanor.

Ronnie of Big Red Redemption:

BP is an absolute must sign. He puts butts in the seats; he’s great with national media and the fans. Plus he brings swagger to this team. I foresee a 3 yr $36mil contract in his future.

The trio from Red Reporter. First, BK:

I do it, for a few reasons. I think you could get him something fair and not overpay. He’s a franchise player in every sense of the word, has a great rapport with fans (especially since Twitter came along), and provides value on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball. Sure, no telling what you’re getting from the locker room, but he stays out of trouble off the field and is a born motivator. I’m sold on the guy.

Then RijoSaboCaseyWKRP:

I’d be open to extending him, but probably not for as long as he’ll be asking. I’d balk anything more than two years beyond the option. I’d try to get him for no more than 3/$34 ($12M option, $11M, $11M). If you think he has about a 4 WAR ceiling and will regress as he ages (and might take also take a slight discount) I think that’s reasonable.

Chase Utley’s getting $15/yr for his age 31-33 seasons. He’s probably good for at, minimum, 1 win above Phillips over that span. Also, Henry Rodriguez may be ready by ’13 or ’14 at the latest.

And, fianally, JinAZ:

I love Brandon Phillips. Good bad, good fielding, important position. So yes, I’d be interested in extending him. But the question is the price tag, right?

Without doing anything rigorous, I’d project Phillips to be something like a 3 WAR player next year in his age-31 season. If we do a five year contract extension, and apply a “standard” 0.5 WAR/yr aging curve, and include inflation, Phillips would be worth somewhere in the vicinity of five years/$60 M. That’s a big chunk of change, but he’s probably worth that price. Assuming there’s room in the Reds’ budget for it…

That’s pretty similar to Dan Uggla‘s 5 yr/$62 M deal, of course. I’m sure that deal will be front and center in Phillips’ negotiations, and so far, that’s not going very well for the Braves (which might be good for the Reds). But Phillips is a very different kind of player than Uggla: Phillips has some power, but is also very athletic and gets a lot of value from his fielding. Hopefully he won’t drop off a cliff like Uggla apparently has.

So we see that BP is extremely valuable to the team offensively, defensively, and in marketability. He’s turned it around a bit from last season. One thing I do not want to see is Dusty move him to leadoff. Got that, Mr. Baker?!?!

Reds MVP To me, it’s easy. It’s Brandon Phillips.