Brandon Phillips, the silver slugging, gold gloving Cincinnati Reds second baseman spoke with John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer during an appearance he made with Meggie Zahneis, who won an essay contest this year about Breaking Barriers and will serve as MLB’s first youth reporter. While speaking with Fay, Phillips was asked about the contract situation and was quoted as making the following statement:
"Phillips on contract: I’ll leave that up to Walt and my agent… I want to be a Red for life. It’s all about the years, not the money. #reds"
Now, obviously it doesn’t mean what we all wish it did, namely give Phillips $40 million for 10 years and call it a deal. But does it mean there is some leeway to give him years in return for him giving up dollars, namely on a yearly basis? The price for Phillips service the next few years is rumored to be in the range of Rickie Weeks contract (4-yr/$38.5m) and Dan Uggla (5-yr/$62m). Meanwhile, Phillips latest option was valued at $12m for 2012 and taking a drastic pay cut probably isn’t on the table. So is it reasonable to assume a 4-yr/$50m deal is what the base of any deal would look like, obviously with the Reds wanting fewer dollars per year and Phillips’ camp wanting more years in total?
If so, would the Reds be willing to offer a deal of 5-yr/$52m for Phillips and if so, would Phillips be willing to accept? At $10m, Phillips’ contract, even during an eventual decline of skills, would still be manageable and more than likely, pliable, in the event they needed to shed payrolls. There does not appear to be any major league ready second baseman in the Reds farm system and if the window truly closes when Joey Votto’s phone starts ringing with offers, then Phillips is a vital cog to the team’s World Series chances.
The question becomes then, even if Phillips would agree to the contract, which isn’t a given, does it make sense for the Reds to make that move. Think of it this way, as Phillips decline occurs, the Reds could have lost Votto, Cueto, Bruce, Leake, and Chapman will all be coming due for raises or new contracts and any young talent like Cozart and Mesoraco, assuming their talent manifested itself into production, will be coming up on arbitration. More likely than not, with the Reds pay structure, their outlook will be to remain competitive while they rebuild. In that time frame, Phillips will just about be finished with his career and a replacement would have received proper time and grooming to step in. And then it’s up to whether or not you trust the Reds brass to come up with a replacement.
You have to think that either way, with Phillips saying he’s pleased with the progress his agent has reported and with Cincinnati Reds GM Walt Jocketty saying that, while a deal is not close, they have progressed, these negotiations are coming to a head and might be finishing up before long.
As an aside, in an effort to keep up his public standing as fan-friendly, Brandon Phillips has been confirmed to make at least a Friday appearance at Redsfest down at the Duke Energy Center. If you’ve never been, now’s as good a year as any to start the tradition.