The Tigers And Brandon Phillips


Let me get this out right at the beginning here. No, I haven’t heard anything rumor wise about Brandon Phillips and the Tigers. I am not trying to start one either as I have no desire to become some sort of rumor mongering, blog writing version of a high school girl. I can’t help but notice things going on around the world of baseball though, and the Cincinnati Reds and Brandon Phillips have yet to come to an agreement on a contract extension.

The two sides have been working since the end of the season to make Brandon Phillips a Cincinnati Red for presumably four more years after his contract ends in 2012. Phillips, who is still just 30 years old is in the prime of a pretty good career right now, and is looking for some cold hard cash. Some would say he has earned that, and with extensions for other Reds like Jay Bruce staring him in the face, Phillips was wondering why not him?

I’m wondering, why not him? He appears to have a tremendous amount of value to the Reds, but that value may not extend in the trade market.

Phillips put up arguably his best season overall in 2011, silver slugging his way to an OPS north of .800 for the 2nd time in his career. The two time All Star, and three time Gold Glover, hit .300 while pounding out 18 homers and 82 RBI. His season was helped along by a career best .322 BABIP, but that isn’t enormously high, and even with a drop off in that department, he is still considered a plus offensive 2nd baseman. One thing is for certain with Phillips, he continuously posts better than average UZR numbers, so he brings the glove with him every day.

But enough about what a good player Phillips is. I think most of us who follow baseball are able to discern that he would be a good addition to just about any franchise. Guys that post a WAR of over 5 in several years shouldn’t lack suitors. However, what is the likelihood of adding Phillips to the Tigers?

In all honesty, it’s probably not very good, but hey, when there is a chance…..

As each day passes, and the Cincinnati Reds and Phillips can’t come to an agreement over a contract extension, the likelihood that he becomes available gets better. These things have a way of becoming contentious before you know it. Phillips has been pretty vocal about the want for some security, and I can’t imagine him being happy if this drags on past January. I don’t doubt for a second that Reds GM Walt Jockety understands Phillips’ value, he is a good baseball man, but the Reds are somewhat in the drivers seat here. One, if the Reds are loaded at any position in the minors, it is with guys who can man the 2B position. Todd Frazier can handle it. They also have Henry Rodriguez and Billy Hamilton further down the road as well.

The second point is, but not necessarily putting Jockety in the driver’s seat, rather kind of tying his hands, is that the Reds aren’t exactly the Yankees when it comes to being able to afford players. As much as the Reds might like Phillips, he might just be out of their price range. In 2012, Phillips is on track to make himself a tidy sum at 12M dollars. An extension that puts him at 35 years of age by the time it’s done, could have an adverse affect on the payroll at around that price tag, and I am sure that is what is holding the Reds back. It would make any franchise apprehensive.

So there you are, some reasons that Phillips may become available in the spring. The question is, do the Tigers bite?

There is clearly a need for the Tigers to upgrade the 2nd base position. Heck, we have spent numerous posts on looking for a younger, major league version that the Tigers could hold onto for 2012 and future seasons. There is a good argument that this indeed is the type of 2nd baseman the Tigers should be looking for. However, if the Tigers are looking for a very productive player, who could potentially help in a playoff run for the next couple of years, Phillips fits that bill.

The pitfalls of dealing for Phillips should he fail to sign an extension with the Reds are numerous as well. First and foremost, the Tigers would have to trade for him, and the return would probably have to pretty good for the Reds to deal him in the first place. The asking price could fade though depending on how contentious the situation gets, and also because Phillips would still be a free agent after 2012.  Secondly, the dollar amount for Phillips is pretty substantial for the Tigers to take on as well.

12M dollars is nothing to sneeze at for the Tigers, just like it isn’t for the Reds. Owner Mike Ilitch has shown the willingness to add some payroll for the right player, but I’m not sure that Phillips is that. If the Tigers make a deal for Phillips without having him signed beyond 2012, it would be a pretty big gamble. They could make some moves to alleviate some of the salary concerns for 2012, like moving Delmon Young‘s salary off the books, as well as one of the younger pitchers like Scherzer in the trade. Raburn could move to LF in a platoon with Andy Dirks, and Phillips taking over at 2B would easily provide that Tiger lineup with more production.

The main concern about Phillips’ play comes from his lack of patience at the dish. Phillips consistently posts BB rates in the 6.5% range, and for a team like the Tigers looking for OBP, that is a definite drawback. He has consistently hit at the top of the Reds order however, and in 2011 posted his best OBP ever at .353. I don’t think this OBP is something you can count on regularly going forward though.

I would be apprehensive about acquiring Phillips, and if he doesn’t sign an extension with the Reds this off-season, he might be better suited as a trade deadline pickup, considering at that point the price tag may have come down.