COMMENTARY | It's April 8, 2014, and fans hear the booming voice of public address announcer Casey Motter echoing throughout Turner Field:
"Batting fourth and playing second base for your Atlanta Braves, Bran-don Philllllippps!"
This may sound like a scenario only able to be played out by the nimble fingers of video game enthusiasts everywhere, but rumors have the Cincinnati Reds potentially looking to move their Gold Glove second baseman this offseason, and the Braves may already be one of the teams with designs on kicking his tires this winter.
Per reports, Atlanta is looking to send Dan Uggla up the Ohio River in exchange for Brandon Phillips. The Braves would have to package a couple of high-valued prospects to make the deal enticing, but if the Reds truly are interested in carting Phillips out of town on the first train smoking, the Braves would be fools not to toss their trading hat into the ring.
On the face of it, most fans would wonder why the Reds would ever consider trading for a player who is coming off a season in which he hit a career-worst. 179 while also tying his career high in strikeouts (171). But for a small-market team like the Reds, the opportunity to save $24 million while simultaneously restocking the farm system might be too good to pass up.
Uggla is still due $26 million over the next two seasons, but Phillips' contract will see $50 million entering his bank account over the next four seasons.
Surprisingly enough, Uggla may have impressed the Reds this season. While struggling against virtually every team the Braves faced, Uggla hit .259 with four home runs and five RBIs against Cincinnati. He also hit .417 in the three games Atlanta played at Great American Ball Park. With any luck, that will be the lasting memory the Reds have of Uggla when it comes time to head to the negotiating table.
For Phillips, his departure from Cincinnati was probably cemented when he publicly balked at the $225 million contract the team gave Joey Votto in 2012. In an interview with Cincinnati Magazine, Phillips admitted he was hurt when the Reds decided to focus on extending Votto even though Phillips was the one in the final year of his contract.
''Do I feel like they lied to me?'' Phillips said. ''If someone tells me they don't have no money and you find $200 million somewhere, what does that sound like? You tell me.
"For [Reds' CEO Bob Castellini] to do something like that and tell me they didn't have any more money, that's a lie. But what can I do? I just feel like it was a slap in my face."
Calling your boss a liar probably isn't the best indicator of future job security.
The Braves would not be breaking the bank with this deal, either. Even though it is more money in the long run, the four years Phillips has left on his deal would actually have a lower per-season average than Uggla's current contract.
Are the Reds Selling Before the Phillips Market Shifts?
Now I know Atlanta fans would be willing to give Uggla or B.J. Upton away for little more than a used ballpark hot dog and an itchy ill-fitting holiday sweater, so the idea of getting Phillips seems like Christmas come early, but there could be a "buyer beware" sticker attached to this deal.
Despite Phillips recording his first 100-RBI season of his career in 2013, his average (.261), OBP (.310), SLG (.396), and OPS (.706) were all the lowest they have been since he joined the Reds in 2006. Some Reds' officials believe Phillips has already reached the summit of his career mountain and will now see his production continuously free falling off the side of a cliff for the remainder of his contract.
Even if the skills of Phillips, 32, will soon start to diminish, his production is so far beyond what Atlanta got from Uggla last season that as long as Phillips doesn't suddenly break a hip and need a walker to get himself in position at second base, whatever he would give the Braves would be a welcomed addition.
His 103 RBIs would have ranked him No. 2 on the team behind only Freddie Freeman's 109. He would also have ranked No. 3 in hits and runs scored. And although his 98 strikeouts were a six-year high, he would have been the only everyday position player not named Andrelton Simmons to strikeout less than 100 times.
Why Phillips Fits in Atlanta
With Brian McCann likely finding an American League home next season, the Braves will need to account for the loss of production in the middle of the order. Phillips would be able to slide right into the cleanup role in the lineup and actually give the Braves a better run-producing threat then they had before.
And the one aspect that I haven't even mentioned is the fact that Phillips could be the best defensive second baseman in all of baseball. Teaming his glove with Simmons at short would give Atlanta a double-play combination worth the price of admission by itself. With these two flashing the leather, it would be shocking if Atlanta wasn't leading the Web-Gem countdown every night.
Projected Lineup With Brandon Phillips
1. Jason Heyward, RF
2. Justin Upton, LF
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Brandon Phillips, 2B
5. Evan Gattis, C
6. Chris Johnson, 3B
7. Andrelton Simmons, SS
8. B.J. Upton, CF
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter who has been following the Atlanta Braves for over 20 years. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
- Sports & Recreation
- Atlanta Braves
- Brandon Phillips
- Dan Uggla
- Cincinnati Reds